President Trump claims to abhor socialism. Electing a Democrat in 2020, to hear him tell it, would put us on a slippery slope to communes, death panels and rationed borscht.
So why is Trump trying to bring actual socialists into the United States?
That’s the inescapable conclusion from Trump’s reported interest in buying Greenland. It’s an idea we’re all required to have a good laugh about, but historically it hasn’t been such a punchline. The United States actually sought to purchase Greenland back in 1946 for the cool price of $100 million (about $1.3 billion in today’s dollars). It was so seriously considered that Gallup even polled what people thought of the idea, finding a mixed bag. Later, during the Cold War, Greenland was considered such a strategic location that the United States established an air base there. Fast-forward to now, and Trump isn’t the only one interested in acquiring the world’s largest island; so is China.
But what would be done with Greenland, politically speaking? Completing the purchase would require clearing high (and apparently insurmountable, judging by the response) hurdles. It is a self-governing country in the kingdom of Denmark, and we’d have to pay the Danes and get the Greenlanders themselves to sign off.
We don’t know much about what Trump would do with Greenland, but given its veto power, it would probably want some deal-sweeteners. Would the proud Greenlanders settle for status as a mere U.S. territory with no votes in Congress or for president? That seems unlikely. So let’s assume for the moment that it would need to be the 51st state. (How can you make the world’s largest island anything but, after all?)
Despite this being Trump’s idea, that’s something Democrats could probably get behind. That’s because the island is full of socialists who would probably elect left-leaning U.S. senators.
Greenland has a political system with multiple parties, which all fight over 31 seats in the parliament. If no party has a majority, a coalition government must be formed. The top two parties are the Siumut and the Inuit Ataqatigiit, which account for a majority of the 31 seats and until recently formed a coalition. Both parties advocate Greenland’s sovereignty — a key issue in the country’s politics — and both also advocate varying degrees of socialism. The Siumut (which means “forward”) is the party of Greenland’s premier and is the more moderate of the two, while the IA is the more left-leaning socialist party. Even the third-ranking party, the centrist Demokraatit (or Democrats), is left-leaning by U.S. political standards.
As the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer writes, socialism permeates Greenland’s way of life:
How socialist? Well, private land ownership does not exist in Greenland: All the land is controlled by one of five local kommunes, a word that looks a lot like “commune” but is usually translated into English as the more innocuous “municipality.” Greenlanders neither own nor pay rent for the land they live on. In 2017, a sheep farmer in southern Greenland told me how he had recently built a new pasture: After deciding that he wanted to expand, he told the local kommune, which posted a sign advertising the change publicly. When no one protested, he went ahead and did it.
And forget opposing Medicare for All: In Greenland, the entire health-care industry is nationalized. Both medical care and prescription drugs are free. When I toured a Greenlandic hospital, I was struck by how much it felt like an American public school or library, with well-lit hallways decorated with local art, warm and serious professional staff, and an ambient sense of shared ownership. ...
The ethic of common ownership extends to just about every enterprise in Greenland. The country’s largest fishing company is state-owned. Its largest retailer is state-owned. Its only seal tannery is state-owned. Air Greenland, its flagship carrier, is jointly owned by Greenland, Denmark, and the SAS Group, a semiprivate conglomerate that is itself partially owned by the Danish and Swedish governments.
One potential stumbling block in making Greenland the 51st state is its size. Despite being the world’s largest island and having a landmass bigger than Mexico, its population is just 56,000. That makes it roughly one-tenth the size of the current smallest state in terms of population, Wyoming.
That said, while Democrats have complained about the relative voice that rural states like Wyoming have in the Senate, it seems unlikely they’d complain about bringing Greenland into the fold. Perhaps this is a deal everyone can get on board with — provided the price is right, of course.