J. Pharoah Doss: Are two ‘isms’ ruining American political discourse?


Linguist John McWhorter argued in 2019 that the terms liberalism and socialism were ruining American political discourse.

The initial liberal ideals are now known as “classical liberalism.” This means advocating for unrestrained free markets and civil liberties. Today’s libertarians endorse “classical liberalism.” Conservatives claim they want to preserve liberalism, but they’re referring to traditional institutions. Liberalism is usually associated with the left, but these two schools of thought are on the right.

During the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal initiatives started a new age of “social liberalism” that is championed by the left today. This type of liberalism was not concerned with free markets but rather with the government’s role in alleviating poverty and discrimination.

McWhorter stated that the general public no longer has any understanding of what the term “liberal” means and that, in an era of intense political polarization, the term should be dropped to avoid unneeded confusion.

As far as socialism goes, McWhorter claims that the term has been redefined so many times that its meaning is impossible to grasp. Originally, socialism meant the government owning the means of production and distribution in order to provide for the basic needs of all its citizens.

Republicans who opposed FDR’s New Deal termed it socialism, yet the New Deal did not control the means of production; rather, it established social programs. Because the New Deal’s goals were identical to those of socialists, Republicans associated government social programs with socialism, linked socialism to the Soviet Union, and labeled socialism un-American.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, the right did a good job convincing Americans that socialism was a failure, but the left found a way to clean up socialism by pointing out the success of “democratic socialism” implemented in Scandinavian countries.

Scandinavian countries levy high taxes in order to create a massive social safety net for their residents, and they provide public services that Americans envy, such as universal healthcare and free university education. During the 2016 presidential election, Democratic contender Bernie Sanders and a slew of other progressive Democrats championed democratic socialism as a cure for capitalism’s ills.

The problem is that the Scandinavian countries do not adhere to the definition of socialism that says the state controls the means of production, nor do they embrace “democratic socialism.” In 2015, Denmark’s Prime Minister addressed this misconception at Harvard, telling the audience, “I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore, I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”

To make matters worse, Professor Richard Wolff, America’s leading proponent of socialism, dismissed government ownership of the means of production and portrayed socialism in the twenty-first century as democratizing the workplace through worker-directed enterprises.

Liberalism and socialism are only confusing because the right and left utilize different vocabularies. Once that’s understood, the terms become more manageable. McWhorter, on the other hand, feels that these terms should no longer be used since America is more polarized than it has ever been, and this terminological confusion contributes to further division.

Liberalism and socialism, however perplexing, are both harmless. Fascism is a word that should be banned from political discourse.

Unlike liberalism and socialism, fascism’s original meaning is empty. One historian compared attempting to define fascism to nailing jelly to a wall. The right and left generally define the same phrase differently, yet when it comes to fascism, they use the same definition against one another.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fascism is a political theory that exalts nations and often races over individuals and advocates for an autocratic government led by a dictatorial leader.

A CNN correspondent said just before Donald Trump was elected president, “Trump displays many traits of a proto-fascist, and he is part of a wave of right-wing nationalist movements.” After Trump’s presidency, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that MAGA Republicans were fascists because they attacked democracy.

After President Biden took office, The American Spectator ran an article titled Joe Biden: American Fascist: He accuses his opponents of doing what he does. The author emphasized that fascism exalts race over the individual. Then he wrote, “What, pray tell, have identity politics, critical race theory, and more far-left racism … been about if not to exalt race above the individual? Biden himself exemplifies this aspect of fascism by demanding that his appointees be selected not by qualification but by race.”

Both sides used the same definition in the most dangerous and divisive ways possible. It’s not liberalism or socialism that must be removed from our political discourse; it’s fascism. 








About Post Author


From the Web

Skip to content