Of all the common logical fallacies that get trotted out in mendacious political rhetoric, such as ad hominem attacks or the “slippery slope”, AL Rep. Mo Brooks loves to hate, but really loves, the straw man of Socialism. Recently, he was given a “not-worth-the-paper-it’s-printed-on” honor from an affiliate of the Heritage Foundation that bestowed upon him a “perfect” scorecard for his Congressional record on “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” With the best faux humility he could muster, Brooks cast himself as a champion of the free enterprise against the dark, ominous forces of Socialism, which he believes is synonymous with the Democratic Party.

Let’s be clear- Democrats are not Socialists. Socialism encompasses an extremely wide diversity of political theories based on the idea, to varying degrees, that the means of production, distribution, and exchange of goods or services should be owned or regulated by the people. It’s an ambiguous label that has applied to governments from the Soviet Union, Venezuela, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Canada. Brooks wants to affix the label of Socialism to Democrats because it’s a cheap political ploy that says, “they’re anti-American and not one of us.” Of course, inconveniently and according to the definition, the U.S. military would qualify as one of the largest Socialist organizations in the world.

This fixation on Socialism began when presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders proclaimed that he was a Democratic Socialist. Like most Democrats, I must admit that I wasn’t exactly thrilled with his choice of words because I foresaw the political circus that would ensue. Nevertheless, Sanders defined his ideology as promoting a government and public policy that wasn’t rigged to favor the wealthiest or huge, powerful corporations. Conservatives quickly seized on his controversial word choice and tried to say that ALL Democrats wanted to turn America into Venezuela or the U.S.S.R., which was truly complete horse hockey.

Brooks also says that ALL Democrats want open borders, which is another lie he spews to keep his base riled up. Democrats have always advocated for strong borders, but they know the immigration system desperately needs reform. Brooks has built his whole career on creating straw men that he haphazardly associates with his opposition in defiance of facts and logic. It’s rather ironic considering his initial platform was to hysterically clutch his pearls over the national debt, yet he voted for Trump’s tax giveaway to the rich which has led to a historically unprecedented explosion in the national debt and deficit. If the Heritage Foundation believes “traditional American values” are synonymous with Social Darwinism, xenophobia, or Machiavellian preservation of oligarchs, then they may have just chosen the right extremist conservative mouthpiece for their worthless award.

Saying that all Democrats are Socialists is akin to saying that all White Supremacists are Republicans. Neither ridiculous statement is true. Political parties, by design, represent a spectrum of ideas and it’s disingenuous to claim that outlying ideologies or extreme beliefs represent the whole. Now, it may be true that some Socialists align with Democrats the same way that some white supremacists align with Republicans, but neither are majority views. Instead of fabricating straw men, Rep. Brooks should work on looking for solutions to help our nation, rather than embrace extreme partisanship.

Sadly, Brooks has already written his legacy of cringeworthy historical footnotes. Between “nothing short of shooting them” when referring to illegal immigrants and his hypocrisy on the national debt, Alabama knows that he’s done nothing but promote division, unnecessary controversy, and embarrassed our state with regular outrageous comments.

If you think Brooks is doing a great job in Alabama, ask some folks at Redstone Arsenal, or a soybean farmer in his district, and I’ll bet they’ll give you an earful. Remember, this is the guy who has a great government healthcare plan who thinks that people “who live good lives” should pay less for healthcare.

Enter the Straw Man…

Clete Wetli
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.