"Social Darwinism" is not an evil phrase

Barack Obama, speaking to Floridian Democrats over the weekend, wagged his finger at Republicans for practicing "social darwinism" within government, especially when it comes to disasters like Katrina. Some folks around the Left have used this term before, in the same finger-wagging fashion... the problem with it? Many conservatives agree, and some are even proud of it.

I've got a number of conservatives around me to banter with, and one conversation in particular struck me a couple of years ago. The conservative (the libertarian kind, not the fundamentalist kind) of that discussion flat out told me that having no social net was Darwinism in action, and that everyone was forced to be responsible for the choices they made. I chose, for example, to leave my cushy corporate job with health insurance, so it was my problem to figure out what to do about doctor visits. Likewise, poor people have a choice on whether they're going to stay poor or not.

No, really, he said that. (For those keeping score at home, it's not my dad. He's a little softer when it comes to the social net.) This particular conservative also got a T-shirt that read "Heartless Libertarian" as a gift and thought it was genius. So, calling a conservative a "social Darwinist" is like a lot calling a progressive a "person who gives a shit." They'll look at you and answer, "So... what's the problem?"

We need to be calling Republicans who let their own citizens suffer and die what they are: monsters and hypocrites, ruthless elitists who walk on the broken backs of the American people. But it doesn't stop at name-calling. As we face a Republican-controlled Congress that's about to approve another $70 billion in tax breaks while people are still living in cars in the Gulf Coast, we need to be framing our own agenda as the solution: offering the hope and resources for everyone to be successful, and overcoming crises to save the people who need it most.


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