In an interview with Time, Governor Perry offers the following:
No, I still believe [officials in the Obama administration] are socialist. Their policies prove that almost daily. Look, when all the answers emanate from Washington D.C., one size fits all, whether it’s education policy or whether it’s healthcare policy, that is, on its face, socialism.
The problem here may not be immediately obvious. Over the past three years, we’ve heard the term “socialism” bandied about with such frequency that it’s probably lost all meaning. But in case you’ve forgotten, “socialism” has a defined meaning:
(1) Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
Centralized authority may suggest socialism — when it collapses into centralized ownership of industry — but the two are not identical. What Perry is actually criticizing could, at most, be described as a potential imbalance in the federal system, or disrespect for states’ rights, or (to the constitutionally ignorant, to wit, the tea party) a violation of the Tenth Amendment.
Now here’s the question. Did Perry misspeak, or does he know what he’s doing? With apologies to my Aggie readers, it’s not clear to me that Perry does actually know better, although he certainly should. Still, we should confront the possibility that the Republican frontrunner and likely nominee (see, e.g., this) has chosen to frame his recidivist, anti-federalist views in terms of America’s struggle with Communism, imbuing a battle as old as the republic with the moral force of that rivalry. And comparing something as blasé as the centralization of education policy to a conflict that almost brought the world to a nuclear end both does violence to language, and suggests violence in fact. Does the country actually benefit, when we elevate every political debate to the eschatalogical level, making it an issue of life or death? I expect not — but it increasingly sounds like we should prepare ourselves for that kind of campaign.