DEAN: Registered Independent
I’m a registered Independent. My politics are informed by a carefully-considered, decidedly-progressive view of scripture, so I lean left, religiously, politically, socially, but I believe the dialogue is essential, and out of that conviction I deliberately vote both sides of the aisle on election days. (Which makes me a lot less partisan than most of the folks who call me one!)
And, I’m a capitalist. Every dime to my name is tied to the market. Yes, I’m often critical of capitalism, and other aspects in this country – but only in the same way that I’m a critic of my family and my church, my ball team and my own self. As Socrates knew a long time ago, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” “Critic” and “hater” are not synonymous. True patriots (and good parents and pastors and alumni) are always critics.
So, now that you understand me, let me share a recent conversation.
Following a summer worship which included “Sermon Talk Back” afterward, a church member and friend, a lifelong Republican, took issue with something I’d said. We dialogued politely as church members and friends do, and after the Talk Back we continued the conversation.
He allowed that he didn’t care for the President, hadn’t voted for him, would love a better option next year, but, he said, “But I won’t be able to vote for a Socialist like Bernie!” (He almost spat the word out.) I replied, “Bernie isn’t a Socialist.” “Yes he is,” my friend snorted, “or he’s on the way to it!” “Yes,” I said (and listen closely, because this is the point, not partisanship or ideology), “He is ‘on the way’ to Socialism – in exactly the same way that Trump is ‘on the way’ to Totalitarianism. If Democrats believe in ‘more government,’ and if that leads ultimately to Socialism, then less government, supported by Republicans, leads ultimately to Totalitarianism, fascism, dictatorship.” That logic should be clear, based on our political spectrum.
“Well, you’ve got a good point,” he said.
Listen to the words you hear, friends. Language matters. Study. Read. Ask questions. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid – think for yourself. Socialism is: “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods” (Merriam-Webster).
You may not support Medicare for All, but it’s only “socialism” if there’s no private ownership involved – the government would have to own all the hospitals and medical offices, the research facilities, the labs, all the pharmaceutical production facilities, and all the doctors and medical staff in the country would have to be collecting government paychecks. I know of no candidate, of any party, advocating this.
I told my friend that the issue, as I see it, does hinge on how much government involvement we want in our lives, and in what areas – but if we are honest about this, Republicans, Democrats, Independents all believe in “big government” – we each just want it big where we want it big! Social services and public education are not all that could be deemed “big government.” We spend more on defense than the next eight nations combined. That’s HUGE government! An old buddy of mine likes to say, “It’s all just a matter of where you draw your lines, Dino!”
I’m apparently willing to draw my lines farther down the way than my friend is and to allow our government (which is us, “we, the people”) to help us include more, hopefully, ultimately all people, in healthcare. Out of my Christian conviction (or Bernie’s Jewish heritage, or just a secular, humanitarian concern) I can believe everyone living in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known deserves and can be afforded adequate healthcare.
So, let’s be honest about the language we use. Specific words mean specific things -- and nothing about a conviction to care for more and more people makes me, or anyone else, a Socialist.
(Dr. Russ Dean is a graduate of Clinton High School. He and his wife, Rev. Amy Jacks Dean, also a CHS graduate, are co-pastors of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte.)