The portent of Russian meddling in the upcoming presidential election is again with us—and, contra the President’s tone with Vladimir Putin, it demands to be taken seriously. But it is also worth reflecting on the residue of long-ago meddling in American political debate—not by Russia but by its predecessor, the Soviet Union. As the Democrats move sharply left, many of what are now considered mainstream positions were, not that long ago, criticisms and proposals mounted, for propaganda purposes, by the old, hard Left and that have seeped into contemporary liberalism.
As the recent Democratic candidate debate made clear, government-run health care, a major expansion publicly subsidized housing, criticism of business as essentially problematic, and the view that inequality, per se, is an unwelcome feature of a market economy, are mainstream talking points.
Yet these were recurring themes in the American Communist Party press, as a review of the back pages of The Daily World—a party organ published between 1968 and 1990 and the successor to the better-known title, the Daily Worker—shows.
“Equality” was a standing column title in the paper; so, too was “Housing.” The Daily World, in its April 30, 1979 issue, urged government to begin “rebuilding the ghetto, [to fill] the desperate need for housing black and poor families” and, in the process, provide for “new jobs, new careers and new lives for the black and poor.” The campaign language of Elizabeth Warren is similar: Her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, is to be “a bold and comprehensive affordable housing bill designed to end homelessness and housing poverty in America … through … the first new program in a generation that invests in the production, preservation, and operation of affordable homes for the lowest income people in America.” That private markets must inevitably fail those of modest means is a given. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in her own campaign platform, wrote that she “believes that housing is a right, and that Congress must tip the balance away from housing as a gambling chip for Wall Street banks and fight for accessible housing that’s actually within working families’ reach.”
Howard Husock is vice president for policy research and publications at the Manhattan Institute.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images