You may have heard that the Republican party has come up with a new 219-point plan to convince Americans that the GOP is more than simply a bunch of hateful old southern white men. So what happens next? One of the hateful southern white guys in charge of coming up with the plan calls President Obama a “socialist” repeatedly, then sticks to his claim and refuses to repudiate it.
Keep in mind that in America generally, and especially in Republican politics, the word “socialist” means “communist.” And the word “communist” means “Soviet.” So, in America, when you call someone a socialist, you’re actually calling them the equivalent of Stalin.
Of course, it’s worse than that. Labeling people communists has a long, sad history in America. A lot of lives were destroyed by Republican Senator Joe McCarthy, who went on an anti-communist witch hunt in the early part of the 1950s. But since no one wants to be tarred with McCarthyism, they use the word “socialist” instead of “communist,” expressly because they know it offers them plausible deniability (I didn’t call him a communist) while most Americans think they’re the same thing anyway.
So when you call someone a “socialist” in America, all of that baggage comes with it.
And that’s why it’s so offensive that so many Republicans have embraced this new McCarthyism over the past few years. It’s particularly bad vis-a-vis President Obama, but the cries of “socialist” came out of GOP lips even back in 2004, when then segregationist-fan and Republican Senator Trent Lott called Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry a “socialist” because Kerry spoke French.
In 2008, a lot of McCain supporter were calling President Obama a “socialist.”
But one need not look back that far. In 2009, GOP party chair Michael Steele accused President Obama of pushing “socialism.” Steele did it again a few months later when he called health care reform “socialism.” Then in 2010, there was the secret RNC fundraising plan depicting President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi as socialists. As you can see, the RNC has a long proud of McCarthyism.
But the RNC isn’t alone. In 2009, the banksters also accused President Obama of socialism. (They were upset that anyone would dare question why an industry that just got saved from bankruptcy should be paying massive bonuses.)
And the GOP party head in Florida accused President Obama of “socialism” because he sat down with a bunch of school kids and talked about the value of hard work.
2009 was also the year Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote an article tying health care reform to “socialism.” He later changed his mind and said that Obamacare was actually “fascism.” But again, to Americans, it’s all kind of the same thing.
In 2010, Newt Gingrich accused religious leaders who supported health care reform of being socialists.
In 2011, now-Senator Elizabeth Warren was called a “socialist” by a Tea Party heckler.
Then there’s 2012 presidential race and Mitt Romney. Romney suggested that both Israel and California were both socialist, though Romney tended to say it in dog-whistle code that the far right was sure to understand. Romney supporters were also happy to throw the socialism charge against President Obama, though they couldn’t quite explain what it meant.
And even after the election, the Republican base, typified by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, labeled all latinos “socialists.”
Then there’s Sarah Palin. Palin was one of the first to call President Obama a “socialist,” and did it early and often during the 2008 presidential campaign. Being foul-mouthed and uneducated, the charge came easily from her lips. Palin warned Hannity a few years back that America was on the road to socialism (Hannity should have asked her to spell it.) She also urged Mitt Romney to call President Obama a socialist. Palin pushed the socialist bandwagon again this past November. And then again with Hannity, of course, just this past December.
Of course my favorite was when Fox News insinuated a few years back that Mr. Rogers was teaching kids that they were entitled to things without doing any work. Smells like socialism to me.