There was a time when “socialism” was an ugly word, one with which no sane American would want to be affiliated. The term conjured stark images of gulags, food lines, and the brutal oppression typically associated with Soviet Russia and Cuba under the Castro regime. But it appears that times have changed, and not for the better.

Recent polls have revealed that a disturbing percentage of Americans prefer socialism over capitalism. In particular, Gallup found that 51% of adults aged 18-29 approve of socialism. A YouGov study conducted in November 2018 found that kids between the ages of 14 and 17 were split evenly on whether capitalism or socialism is the better system.

Americans who favor the free market must ask: Why is this happening, and what can be done to stop it?

 

Socialism Is Becoming More Attractive

Socialism has become fashionable for several reasons. One of the most significant is related to the age group of those who support the destructive ideology. Far-left policies have gained support among younger adults, which indicates that American universities are likely the primary culprit. No surprise there. After all, a college professor extolling the virtues of the free market is about as hard to find as a libertarian in Canada.

Many academic institutions in the United States have been transformed from places where students can learn about a multitude of ideas to bastions of leftist indoctrination. College students are bombarded routinely with messages that promote Marxism, intersectionality, and other pernicious facets of progressivism.

Conservative viewpoints are minimized — if presented at all — and, in many cases, those who espouse right-leaning ideas are treated as ideological heretics. Indeed, the indoctrination machine is so potent, these young adults embrace socialism without truly knowing what it is. For Americans who favor capitalism, this is a troubling trend, but are conservatives doing enough to put a stop to it?

 

Conservatives Are Focused on Attacking Socialism

When it comes to attacking the socialist ideas being made famous by the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), conservative media have been vigilant. Right-leaning outlets have become quite adept at debunking their arguments and exposing the inability of the democratic socialist crowd to explain adequately how they would make their ideas a reality.

Moreover, conservative pundits and politicians have painted a devastatingly accurate picture of what happens when a country embraces socialism. Pointing out the dire situation facing the people of Venezuela provided the public with a concrete example of how socialist policies destroy nations. If the prospect of eating zoo animals to survive can’t turn someone away from socialism, what can?

Going on the offensive is always an effective tactic, and there’s a good chance this is why more Americans have not accepted socialism. But if conservatives wish to convince these individuals to burn their Che Guevara shirts, they must do more than just attack; they must also sell the alternative.

 

GOP Needs to Focus on Selling The Free Market

Given the fact that young adults are most supportive of socialism, it is critical that conservatives educate these individuals on the merits of the free market. Remember, the university has fed most of these folks a steady diet of Marx and Engels with a side of Lenin, and it is unlikely that they have been presented a favorable view of capitalist thought.

It might be necessary for the right to launch a pro-capitalist movement to counter the far left pro-socialist movement. Conservative politicians, pundits, and leaders should accompany their attacks on socialism with compelling sales pitches for the free market. When Ocasio-Cortez lambastes billionaires for having too much money, conservatives should explain in detail how the existence of billionaires makes it possible for more Americans to have jobs and avoid poverty.

When Sanders prattles on about state-run health care, conservatives must show the public why a free market system results in higher quality medical care at more affordable cost. When the progressive left promotes more government control, conservatives must present freedom as the more desirable alternative.

While socialism gains traction in the culture, it’s worth pointing out a survey that revealed 76% of Americans say they would never vote for a socialist candidate. This means conservatives still have an opportunity to remind the nation that free markets make for a better society than the state could ever hope to provide. If conservatives want to stop the rising popularity of socialism, they must communicate what they are for and not only what they are against. In the end, putting forth the benefits of capitalism will be far more persuasive than relying solely on an aggressive offense.

 

This article originally appeared on Liberty Nation.