BY JAMES PETHOKOUKIS
If President Trump wanted the Cuban community in Florida to worry that the Biden Democrats were soft on socialism, it seems to have worked. Cuban-Americans helped the president defy the polls and win the state. And Team Biden may have seen it coming. As the Financial Times notes:
In the final weeks before the November 3 election, Joe Biden’s campaign realised it had a problem in Florida: socialism. As campaign staffers descended on the Sunshine State, they saw that Donald Trump had succeeded in using his hardline foreign policy positions to broaden his support among Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American voters who had fled autocratic regimes before settling in Florida
Democrats think such charges are wildly unfair, as is the perception that the party has a problem with the s-word. After all, the party’s standard-bearer is no socialist by any reasonable definition of the term. If the party really wanted to march hard in a socialist direction, it could have chosen runner-up Bernie Sanders — whom Biden defeated — as its nominee.
Then again, Bernie almost was the nominee. And two of the party’s biggest stars, Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, describe themselves as socialists. To an outsider, it might reasonably seem like the party is a bit soft on socialism. Which is bad. Look, Democrats almost chose as their nominee someone who in 2019 told a Burlington, Iowa audience that while Soviet-style socialism was “not my thing.” Hardly a strong rebuke of the Evil Empire. Is it really that hard to tear into the abomination to human freedom that was the USSR?
Then there’s this: Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who is up by about a point in her race in Virginia, angrily told fellow Democrats in a conference call: “Don’t say socialism ever again.” Clearly, she thinks there’s a problem there. Indeed, when people over 45 hear that word, they are probably more likely to think of the soul-crushing brutality of the Soviet Union and Cuba than the $15 minimum wage and paid leave, as AOC might want them to.
Of course, there is a problem with market skepticism on the left and right these days. Advocacy of state-directed trade and greater government interference in the private sector is hardly three or even two cheers for market capitalism. (As George Will has put it: “Protectionism — government coercion supplanting the voluntary transactions of markets in the allocation of wealth and opportunity — is socialism for the well connected.”) Folks on the right would have a stronger case to criticize socialists and even progressives if that weren’t the case.
Learn more: Why Democrats have trouble attacking the democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders | Has Bernie Sanders learned anything over the past 50 years? | Yes, a $15 minimum wage everywhere in America really is a risky idea
James Pethokoukis is the Editor of AEIdeas and the DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.