The GOP may be fighting intense policy battles such as border security after losing control of the House in the midterms. However, it needs to be more vigilant about battling the long-term cultural war, the growing acceptance in America to the allure of socialism over capitalism and free markets. This has emboldened many Democrats to identify as socialists, because they know that they are successfully re-branding and re-marketing socialism as ‘Democratic –Socialism’ into a movement to make it a more politically palatable vehicle to expand and increase government control or redistribution of capital.
While there is an abundance of conservative intellectual capacities to propose policies and to offer rebuttals with examples written and on screen everyday about the failures of socialism, probably the GOP’s best asset to counter this socialist tide eludes it. Recognizing, connecting and energizing its untapped base of advocates for conservatism who can help justify why founding principles are still relevant today while debunking the mis-characterization in the media of what conservatism really is.These include people who are not normally recognized as being apart of the demographic of being conservatives or Republicans such as members of the growing Walkaway Movement of people leaving the Democrat party, and conservative immigrants who resonate with conservative values. Especially those from socialist and communist countries who often make the best arguments against socialism and the ideological infatuations that promote it in America.
During the Obama era, Democrats went at great lengths to disavow that their policies to expand government and its control of capital were socialist in nature. Today in the Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Democrat Party, it has become a litmus test to prove how socialist candidates are who seek to represent that Party. Many Americans too young to remember the Cold War against communism are inundated in our educational system and social media about the allures of socialism.
Ironically, this Democrat-Socialist movement is happening at a time when GOP free market policies of low taxes and less government regulation have unleashed strong economic growth levels and low unemployment rates which Obama era Democrat policies promised but failed to do. It also is at a time when current polices are elevating the income levels and economic mobility of the poor and middle class of very demographic at rates not seen in decades. More so, it is also happening under the backdrop of the imploding socialist disaster in Venezuela, once Latin America’s richest country before the socialist model that was lauded by the Bernie Sanders type Democrats brought the country to ruin. It is no coincidence that the implications to the region of Venezuela’s downfall especially to bordering countries gets so little American media coverage, because many of the stars of ‘Democratic-Socialism’ have become media darlings. Conservatives may be winning on policies but are in many ways losing in making the argument against socialism.
There have been many studies such as from the Kauffman Foundation’s Annual Index of Startup Activity and the Partnership for a New American Economy, which show that immigrants start new businesses in the U.S. at almost twice the rate of native-born Americans. These findings have also complimented a correlation in my own research into ‘Why America?’
Conversations with immigrant entrepreneurs from socialist countries who I do business with everyday have something in common with some popular immigrant speakers I listened to at local Tea Party rallies a few years ago. That movement which was the last large scale galvanizing grassroots effort in expanding the Republican base. The party needs a new one for these times. Conservative immigrants like myself are appalled that it is becoming fashionable in America to court the idea of socialism. Some of conservative immigrants who have experienced socialism first hand often make the most passionate and eloquent arguments against it developing in the U.S. The most vocal against socialism I have experienced and who also exhibit high levels of entrepreneurship are Cubans, Albanians, Kosovaars and other Eastern Europeans who left socialism and communism often risking their lives.
These immigrants have become very successful entrepreneurs despite incredible odds and failures, they also ambitiously and aggressively take risks to pursue opportunities to start and keep business prospects alive that the average person may avoid. What do they often attribute this drive to? They have known what it is like to not have the economic freedom to succeed, and not having the property rights and law and order to keep it. They also know that an expanded government control of capital results in contraction of individual opportunity and leads to institutionalized corruption. They detest the politics of envy and shaming of wealth perpetuated by progressives and instead support a culture of emulating and aspiring success to have wealth.
While many prominent conservatives can recite the constitution and outline what the founders intended when they enacted certain principles 200 years ago, conservative immigrants with their self acquired understanding and appreciated knowledge of these principles can strongly advocate why we should still hold these truths in 2019 and beyond. The conservative movement will not win against the cultural war with socialism without the testimonials and advocacy of this untapped base.
Many immigrants from socialist countries are apt to notice that Democrats pander to immigrants with a socialist message to transform immigration culture into the mold of the Left and to gain the votes of immigrants. Many resent the goal to make big government accepted as the primary means of getting ahead and playing a dominant role in people's lives via entitlements, state mandated redistribution, stoking identity grievances, class warfare and undermining the rule of law in the name of actions of compassion. Thus, redefining the culture of the American dream from one of personal responsibility and free market driven economic prosperity, to one that is highly government regulated and managed.
Immigration is a major front in the culture war but the GOP has not competed enough in these immigrant communities. Most importantly, the GOP and conservative movement has missed the opportunity to grow their base from these communities with people who resonate with conservative values. If a political ideology such as socialism influences culture gradually and long term, it will eventually gain and maintain political power.
Understanding perceptions and the vital role they play in winning the argument on this topic is also essential. Too often the conversation about immigration by some conservatives is only discussed in the context of illegal immigration and terrorism, rather than arguing how they believe immigration is actually good for America when it is done legally and adhere to the principles of free markets and rule of law.This miss-step heightens the false perception that the GOP is anti-immigration overall. That perception in turn further deafens the ears of those who might be receptive to the conservative message, and some who are already living lives based on conservative principles.
Brandon Straka an openly gay former liberal is leading the Walkaway Movement of many people who previously identified as liberals but now resonate with conservative or Republican policies. He is bringing awareness to many people who normally identify as Democrats that the Democrat Party in many ways has not delivered outcomes to serve their interests of these supporters. Mr. Straka is also succeeding at something most Republicans can never do, making the case why the Republican Party is not the racist, bigoted intolerant caricature of the political Party that many Democrats and their media allies often succeed in mischaracterizing. This is because Mr. Straka does not fit the profile of the typically perceived Republican. The party and conservative movement needs more advocates to resist and counter the perception that conservatives only fit certain profiles. While there may be social issues factions of the Republican Party who may not support gay marriage there are many gay Americans who agree with 80 or more percent of what Republicans stand for. The same goes for many minority groups who are often made to believe that the Democrat party is best at serving their interests but find out otherwise such as when Democrats in NYC fight against school choice, (which is proven to help poor and minority children succeed) only to support failing schools because the unions that run them pay large donations to the Democrat Party. The conservative movement must show more effort to follow the Reagan tenet that someone who agrees with you 80% of the time is 80% your friend not 20% your opponent.
The Walkaway Movement and the efforts of conservative immigrants who advocate for economic freedom to counter socialism exposes the main reason why liberals so fervently support and depend on identity politics to win political power. Their policies have failed these identities so often and so much that the only way to keep getting their votes is to make them fear any alternative.
The transformation of American culture towards socialism is a major challenge that the GOP must effectively respond to. For every policy fight, there is an underlying influence of a culture war that has overwhelming bearing on the political outcomes of policy decisions. Mark Steyn once told told Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade that, “ the left controls society.” He also said, "Election Day is one day a year, and the culture is the other 364 days a year. So, if you're not in there competing in the schools, competing in the pop culture, competing in the media, competing in the main-line churches, then the air that we breathe becomes liberal.” While the GOP may gear up to win on election dates, liberals of the Democratic Party have strategically focused on winning the culture war everyday though out the year. The GOP and conservative movement has a lot of work to do.