In March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemned the House Democrats’ voting-rights legislation – the “For the People Act” (H.R. 1) – as a “half-baked socialist proposal.” That didn’t make any sense, since there’s nothing socialistic about ideas such as ending partisan gerrymandering and creating a system of automatic voter registration, but the GOP leader didn’t much care.
A few days ago, McConnell appeared on Fox News and made a similar pitch on a similar issue to Laura Ingraham.
“They plan to make the District of Columbia a state, that’d give them two new Democratic senators. Puerto Rico a state, that’d give them two more new Democratic senators. And as a former Supreme Court clerk yourself, you’ve surely noticed that they plan to expand the Supreme Court.
“So this is full-bore socialism on the march in the House.”
Look, I realize some on the right have gotten a little lazy when it comes to crafting political insults. In much the same as “judicial activism” has become a conservative shorthand for “court rulings we don’t like,” the word “socialism” is starting to become synonymous with “policy reforms Republicans oppose.”
But the laziness isn’t helping anyone. For one thing, if giving Americans a voice in the U.S. Senate is “socialism,” McConnell is necessarily going to make socialism more popular.
For another, if Democrats or others on the left start pushing ideas that might actually deserve the “socialist” label, the word will have been stripped of any potency through constant dilution.
As we discussed in March, if Republicans want to condemn Medicare or public libraries as “socialism,” we could at least have a credible conversation about the proper role of the public sector. But giving Americans representation in Congress is not part of a subtle campaign to empower the federal government to control the means of production.