By Rep. DAVID MEUSE, D-Portsmouth
For sheer political mayhem, few sights have matched the debacle of the Executive Council’s 4-1 decision to reject $27 million in federal vaccination funding. But a side drama worth noting was the spectacle of a Republican governor accusing a Republican executive councilor of “supporting socialism” and then adding, in an evident attempt to raise the ghost of Joe McCarthy, “That’s not even socialism. That is pure communism!”
While it’s been apparent for a while that calling someone a “socialist” has devolved into more of a playground insult than a statement of a person’s actual political philosophy, it’s surprising how many people in both parties can be now be framed as socialists under Gov. Sununu’s newly framed definition.
So what exactly is a socialist? In the academic world, a socialist is defined as a person who advocates or practices a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that all or part of the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
But in Sununu-world, a socialist is now apparently anyone inside or outside of government who tries to tell a business what to do. That includes imposing vaccine mandates on businesses as well as imposing sanctions on businesses that impose their own mandates.
In GOP circles, the “S”-word is just about the worst thing you can call another human being. It has broadened to a point where it now includes any type of government action that might put what’s good for the community as a whole over what’s good for an individual. In other words, whenever the government functions in the public interest as the framers intended, “that’s socialism.”
Also fanning the flames is the relatively new notion that corporations should have the same rights as individuals, including “natural rights” against “government intrusion”. As a result of a series of legal rulings, corporations increasingly share many of the same legal rights and protections once granted exclusively to Iiving, breathing people.
All of this has combined to put people who hate the idea of socialism but love their communities in a tough spot.
— Want to stop companies from putting toxic PFAS in your drinking water? Surprise! You’re probably a socialist.
— Think out-of-state businesses should take some of NH’s tax burden off local property taxpayers? Good news! Your Socialist Party card is in the mail.
— Support public education, fair pay for teachers, and subsidies for child care? Uh-oh. Forget socialism. Call the FBI and turn yourself in. You may be a communist!
Placing value on the things that make our communities stronger isn’t socialism. It’s good citizenship. Most business owners will be the first to tell you they can be very innovative when it comes to finding ways to make money, but they can’t turn bad schools into good ones or create affordable housing where none exists. These things, which are critical to helping businesses attract and retain good employees, are up to the community as a whole and to the people we elect to represent us.
What’s really going on here in New Hampshire’s isn’t a good-faith debate about the perils of socialism. Instead, what we’re seeing is a concerted effort to use old-style political demonizing and ad hominem mudslinging to shift the focus away from solving longstanding problems that continue to hold our state back.
— Want to end a complex policy debate quickly in a way that gets (at least some) people on your side? Call your opponent a “socialist”.
— Want to shift attention away from your own culpability for allowing a longstanding problem to fester on your watch? Shift the blame to others you label as “socialists”.
— Want to kick a problem down the road to future governors and legislators? Frame all possible efforts to deal with it as socialism.
See how easy it is?
What’s far more difficult is making the tough leadership calls that will increase New Hampshire’s vaccination rates, alleviate our housing and public education crises, and create transportation infrastructure worthy of the 21st century.
Find yourself nodding in agreement?
Careful! Someone out there may be getting ready to call you a socialist.
Rep. David Meuse, Portsmouth