Conservatives are going bananas over the fact that President Obama permitted himself to be photographed in Cuba in front of a mural of Che Guevara. According to an article in The Atlantic, the “photo op in Havana pushed them into full-on apoplexy.”
The conservative reaction is based on the notion that no self-respecting American, much less a president, would ever permit himself to be associated with a self-avowed communist/socialist like Che Guevara, even indirectly.
Come on. Conservatives are only fooling themselves. They’re certainly not fooling us libertarians. The fact is that conservatives believe in and embrace the entire socialist economic program that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara brought to Cuba.
Let’s start with the two socialist programs that Fidel is most proud of: nationalized healthcare and free education all the way through college.
Sure, we all know that Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and American leftists would love that type of healthcare system for the United States. But I ask you: What American conservative doesn’t believe in Medicare and Medicaid?
While that isn’t free healthcare for everyone, as Castro and Che have done in Cuba, the fact is that Medicare and Medicaid provide free or highly government-subsidized healthcare for millions of people. In principle, there is no difference between the two systems.
Moreover, no one can deny that Americans are just as addicted to Medicare and Medicaid as the Cuban people are to their nationalized healthcare system. Just look at the reaction of people who are dependent on these two socialized programs. They’ll scream like banshees, in both countries, whenever a libertarian calls for their termination.
“We could never survive without our government healthcare system,” both Cubans and Americans cry. And conservatives are among the first to assure Americans that they would never let that happen, just as their socialist counterparts in Cuba assure Cubans of the same thing.
And let’s face it: Everyone knows that with Medicare, Medicaid, regulation, and Obamacare sending America’s healthcare situation into ever-deeper levels of crisis, the end of the road is a fully nationalized healthcare system, just like in Cuba. When that day comes, have no doubts about it: conservatives will make peace with it, just as they did with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, both of which were based on socialist principles.
Consider public schooling, the other pride and joy of Fidel and Che. Here in the United States, it’s also “free,” at least through high school. In Cuba, it’s free through college. But the two systems are essentially the same, differing only in the indoctrination to which students are subjected. For example, in Cuba the teachers teach students that the U.S. national-security establishment has done horrific things to Cuba, including assassination, invasion, terrorism, embargo, and sabotage. In the United States, the teachers teach students that all those things were necessary to keep America safe and secure from the communists.
But the fact is that the public-school systems in both countries inculcate the same mindset among the children, a mindset that oftentimes lasts until a person dies: a mindset of deference to authority (of either the Cuban government or the U.S. government), subservience, obedience to orders, and “patriotic” support of whatever the government does, especially to protect “national security.”
Social Security? Another socialist program that Castro and Che have always fervently believed in — just as fervently as American conservatives.
Drug laws? Castro, Che, and American conservatives are on the same page: Put people into jail for ingesting substances that the government doesn’t approve of.
A central bank? American conservatives embrace the Federal Reserve as much as Castro and Che embraced their central bank.
Military-industrial complex, CIA, and NSA? Castro and Che believed in the same militarized national-security state apparatus that American conservatives have embraced since 1945 — that is, an enormous standing army, a secret intelligence force, and secret governmental surveillance schemes on the citizenry. The only difference is that Cuban officials have a national-security establishment to protect “the revolution.” U.S. officials also have a national-security establishment–to protect our “freedom.”
Income taxation. American conservatives believe in this plank of the Communist Manifesto, as much as Cuban officials do.
Government regulation of private economic activity. It’s a core element in both countries.
Nationalization of properties. Castro nationalized homes and businesses. FDR nationalized the gold-holdings of the American people and even made it illegal for Americans to own gold. Conservatives object to Castro’s and Che’s nationalizations but support FDR’s.
Trade restrictions, travel controls, and immigration controls? Conservatives love them all. So does Castro. So did Che.
In fact, when I visited Cuba many years ago, travelers on the highway would encounter highway checkpoints where they were required to show their papers, just like the highway checkpoints that the U.S. government maintains on highways in the American Southwest.
Moreover, let’s not forget that the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which conservatives have long supported, is nothing more than a set of government infringements on the economic liberty and private-property rights of Americans, no different in principle from the economic controls imposed on the Cuban people by Castro and his comrades as part of their socialist economic system.
Cuba’s judicial system? It is virtually a mirror image of the judicial system that the Pentagon and the CIA run on their side of Cuba.
Given the devotion to socialism, interventionism, and militarism that U.S. conservatives share with Castro and shared with Che, it’s difficult to understand why they’re making such a big deal about President Obama’s having his picture taken under a mural of Che. Their objections have to be personal in nature. They’re certainly not based on any ideological or philosophical differences.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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