On Wednesday morning, Christine Hallquist, the transgender Democratic nominee for governor in Vermont who won the primary Tuesday, admitted ignorance on the issue of what defines socialism and capitalism. When asked whether or not Hallquist supports socialism and capitalism, the candidate dodged the question, attacking the idea of “labels.”
CNN’s John Berman mentioned a Gallup poll published Monday, which found that Democrats and young people have a more favorable view of socialism than they have of capitalism. He then asked Hallquist whether or not the candidate supports socialism.
Now, Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has endorsed Hallquist, which should be all Americans need to know to understand just how pro-socialist this transgender candidate is.
Congratulations to @christineforvt for her Democratic primary win for Governor of Vermont tonight. Let's continue making history and win this November!
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 15, 2018
Even so, Hallquist refused to state support for socialism.
“Well, you know, I’m not a person that’s big on labels, because labels are used to separate people,” the transgender candidate responded. Instead of relying on established labels, however, the candidate used a different label, redefining socialist goals as a “civilized society.”
“I look at the platform of a living wage and health care for all — that’s called civilized society,” Hallquist said. “You know, I don’t even know how that became socialism, or Republican or Democrat. Let’s be a civilized society.”
This one quip was packed with meaning — while Hallquist claims not to like “labels,” the candidate used a label to redefine the terms of debate. If the amorphous ideas of a “living wage” — which usually means an increase in the minimum wage, which damages economic growth and cuts the availability of jobs for the poor — and “health care for all” — another amorphous idea that translates into single-payer health care, which analysts predict would cost $33 trillion in the first ten years — are redefined as “civilized society,” then their opponents are conveniently labeled as uncivilized.
Berman did not challenge this loaded response, merely asking Hallquist if the candidate supports capitalism. The transgender candidate’s response to that question proved quite telling as well.
“Obviously the long history of measuring ourselves by increasing of gross domestic product is a flawed measure because that just encourages consumption, and we can see what consumption is doing to our world,” Hallquist said.
This was, of course, a dodge. Even so, it revealed the candidate’s suspicions about how economic growth is measured. If Americans did not measure GDP, then they would not know that liberal policies like a minimum wage increase or higher taxes were bad for the economy.
Perhaps more importantly, Hallquist’s attack on consumption was quite interesting. Democratic socialists demand that items would be produced not based on consumer demand, but based on the majority will of the workers. They seem not to realize, as The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf pointed out, that this new system would harm minorities.
If items were produced based on popular vote as opposed to consumer demand, then various niche products like vegan meat or milk substitutes would probably not be produced, since vegans are a mere 3 percent of the U.S. population.
While consumption can and does go overboard, it also forms an essential role in the economy, allowing producers to know what consumers want and empowering them to meet demand.
CNN’s John Berman again did not delve into Hallquist’s response, but returned to the major question the transgender candidate was attempting to dodge. “Again I know you don’t like labels,” Berman began. Even so, he suggested, “it does sound like you look more favorably on the ideas behind socialism.”
To this, the transgender candidate could only respond with a “Yes.” But Hallquist did not end there.
“Yes, and I’m not sure I even know what socialism is,” the candidate said. “So I just don’t have the background to answer that question.”
This bumbling answer seems ironically rather cunning. Hallquist has redefined what Americans consider to be socialism as a “civilized society.” Then, by refusing to define socialism, the candidate suggests that socialism is a fringe ideology that has nothing to do with a “living wage” or “health care for all.”
The candidate looks like a bumbling fool who doesn’t know what socialism is. But by conceding this, Hallquist has redefined the terms of debate to silence any opponents of socialism. In a time when Venezuela’s big government programs have sent that country into crisis and destabilized its neighbors in Latin America, and when Venezuela’s president even endorsed Bernie Sanders, this move was rather smart.