How about a little perspective? We are not in the midst of a battle between Conservatism and Democratic Socialism. We are in a battle between authoritarianism and democracy. What makes other western democracies work so well is they have struck a healthy balance between government run institutions (education, healthcare, public safety, etc) and private enterprise (capitalism).  

The thing both communism and fascism have in common is a disdain for the democratic process. But they are flawed because they are authoritarian; power is centralized and dictated downward to the people. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s communism or fascism; it’s still a dictatorship. Both ultimately depend on making the democratic process itself the “enemy of the people. ” This POTUS is demonizing the media, immigrants, unions and his political opponents. The reason people are being made to fear socialism is that centralizing the functions of government puts too much power in the hands of government. The reason people fear capitalism is because it puts too much power in the hands of private enterprise. We need to be careful about both extremes. But let’s be clear, Capitalism has nothing to do with Fascism. Just as Socialism has nothing to do with Communism. Characterizing  communism and fascism as opposite ends of the political spectrum, arguing that communism is the extreme end of liberalism and fascism is the extreme end of conservatism, is exactly the wrong conversation to be having; It’s a total red herring. That’s why political conversations always fall apart.

The real conversation needs to be about authoritarianism vs democracy. When the systems of democracy are attacked as the “enemy of the people,” then we are moving toward authoritarianism; whether it is espoused by a conservative or a liberal is immaterial. Authoritarianism of any color is the enemy of democracy.  

A functioning democracy requires free speech, an independent media, a vibrant multiparty system. True democracy requires multiple political parties who must work to build effective coalitions and actually govern.  Power must never become consolidated into one or two parties. Democracy also requires a fair system of justice, with laws and regulations balancing the interests of the public against private enterprise. It requires strong labor unions to balance the workers interests against corporate greed. 

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The opposite of democracy is authoritarianism. Whether it is communism or fascism is immaterial. Authoritarianism happens when the systems and mechanisms of democracy are systematically attacked, when democracy and democratic ideals are derided and turned into empty slogans or even become themselves, “the enemy of the people.” Democracy is a fragile thing. It takes years to build and only a few months to destroy. It may feel expedient for conservatives to give up our democratic institutions because they like the idea of holding power. But in the end, authoritarianism will hurt everyone, because it is not sustainable. When the institutions of democracy are being mocked and systematically dismantled, as they are right now, it’s only a matter of time before democracy collapses. 

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