This Is Almost Certainly the Worst Argument Against Socialism in History

Frank Luntz
Frank Luntz, disliker of stairs. Donald Bowers/Getty Images

There are good arguments against socialism (lots of them). There are bad arguments against socialism (maybe even more of them). But today we may have found the worst possible argument against socialism, courtesy of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who appears to believe the red menace is responsible for forcing him to take the stairs.

The Hotel Imperial is a five-star luxury hotel operated by Marriott, a publicly traded, U.S.-based multinational corporation.* As its Wikipedia page explains, the building “was planned as the city palace (Stadtpalais) and residence of Duke Philipp of Württemberg (1838–1917) and his wife Maria Theresa (1845–1927), née Archduchess of Austria.” Over the years, it has regularly hosted guests such as Queen Elizabeth II and the emperor of Japan—the sort of thing you might expect of a hotel called the Imperial. You can currently nab a room on for $320 a night in July, though prices certainly go higher.

Anyway, this is all a bit like blaming Karl Marx when your Rolex stops working.

Is Luntz’s tweet idiotic? Mostly, yes, it would seem so. (Maybe there is some Austria-specific regulation that makes elevator repair a bureaucratic morass, though so far I haven’t been able to find one.) But there’s probably some logic at work here, too. As a pollster, Luntz is famous for advising Republicans to describe things using “emotional” language. He’s the guy who told the GOP to call the estate tax the “death tax,” for instance. Right now, he’s advising the Trump administration on its messaging and has been making the rounds talking about how Bernie Sanders is the most likely Democratic nominee. My guess is Luntz is advising the GOP to talk about socialism as much as possible (and it has been), and to use the word as an all-purpose synonym for things that are bad, foreign, and dysfunctional. In practical terms, that means pinning anything that goes wrong in a vaguely left-leaning country on the S-word. Venezuela gets hyperinflation? Blame socialism. Your luxury hotel elevator stops working in Austria, a country that until recently had a right-wing government but also has a decent welfare state and happens to be in Europe? Blame socialism. This is Luntz committing to a messaging theme in mind and body, going method, as far as pollsters can. And it’s just a small taste of the kind of quality discourse we can probably expect through November 2020.

Correction, June 25, 2019: This article originally misstated that the Hotel Imperial was owned by Marriott. It is owned by Al Habtoor Investment, the international investment arm of the Al Habtoor Group in the United Arab Emirates. It operates under the Marriott brand. The author believes that all of this rather underscores his original point.