Recently the Pew Poll Research Center performed a ‘Political Rhetoric Test’ to discover that young Americans have an increasingly positive response to ‘socialism’ and a declining one to ‘capitalism.’ I am interested in why y’all may think this is the case. It’s important to note that a political rhetoric test has nothing to do with the respondent actually having any clue what ‘socialism,’ capitalism,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘conservative’ or ‘progressive’ actually mean. It is simply a way of gauging how one responds to the word when used so I wouldn’t make near as big of a deal of this as Alexander Eichler at the Huffington Post who titled his post “Young People More Likely To Favor Socialism Than Capitalism,” but the stats are the stats.
“The poll, published Wednesday, found that while Americans overall tend to oppose socialism by a strong margin — 60 percent say they have a negative view of it, versus just 31 percent who say they have a positive view — socialism has more fans than opponents among the 18-29 crowd. Forty-nine percent of people in that age bracket say they have a positive view of socialism; only 43 percent say they have a negative view.”
So ‘socialism’ being popular among young Americans doesn’t mean they have any clue what it means. Surely some do but I think it may be the fact that for most young Americans we know our lives – regardless of our hard work – will not as a whole be as good or better than our parents. So if ‘socialism’ is the word for a different way of organizing our economic relationships as a country why not say ‘positive’ when asked because ‘capitalism’ has broken the promise of the American dream.
Perhaps another reason ‘socialism’ is growing in popularity is thanks to our growing outlandish political Right in the country. I thought of this when a high school student told me he was a socialist and I said “What? Do you have any idea what that means or would mean for your family?” He said, “Yeah, you want college to be affordable, healthcare available to all, and to go back to Clinton era taxes. I mean that’s why everyone is upset at Obama and he’s a socialist.” What if our hyper-polarizing rhetoric in America and in particular the socialist name calling on the Right is actually making an audience for the very idea they abhor?
Two theological asides.
1) If you look at just the poor and non-white stats our country is significantly critical of capitalism. Should those on the underside of our system get a hearing from the church about the effects of our system on their lives and family?
2) ‘Progressive‘ is way more popular than ‘Liberal.’
Public reactions to the word progressive are far more favorable than to the word liberal; two-thirds have a positive reaction to the former compared with just half for the latter. There is very little difference among Democrats – who view both terms favorably. The largest difference is among Republicans most (55%) of whom have a positive reaction to the word progressive, and a negative (70%) reaction to the word liberal. (link)
Does that mean liberal Christians should use progressive? And why didn’t they ask about ‘Incarnational Christians?’