Mark Leibovich of The New York Times has discovered the latest phenomenon:
It seems that “socialist” has supplanted “liberal” as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as “Clinton” was in the 1990s and “Pelosi” is today.
I hate to burst Mr. Leibovich’s bubble, but Republicans calling anything that Herbert Hoover wouldn’t have approved of “socialist” is something they’ve never stopped harping on. Leibovich says “the socialist bogey-mantra has made a full-scale return after a long stretch of relative dormancy,” but as it was in full flare during the 2004 election, with people like then-Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) decrying billionaire-by-marriage Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as “advocating socialism within the United States and appeasement overseas” during a Bush/Cheney campaign press phone call (according to The Los Angeles Times), the reality is it never really went away. If Kerry had won, you can be sure the charge that he and the rest of the Democrats were socialists (I wish!) would have continued. Consider, for instance, this little gem from Tom Nugent at National Review Online, published just after Bush beat Kerry:
Capitalism Beats Socialism, Once Again
Here comes the bull market.
When Jackie Gleason played the character of Joe the Bartender, one of his famous lines was, Mmmmmmm, how sweet it is! For Republicans, the outcome of the 2004 national election couldnt be any sweeter. Same for investors. The bull market in stocks is now likely to resume, and it should sustain for some time to come.
Why? Once again, capitalism triumphed over socialism.
The socialist crowd in America never gets it and never will: Tax-rate cuts are good for all Americans. The godfather of tax-rate cuts — Arthur Laffer — will tell you that tax-rate cuts are not meant for rich people; they are meant to increase the incentive for everyone to produce, invest, and save. Such an incentive applies to all human beings, including those who are not rich but want to be rich.
Seriously, just Google “‘John Kerry’ socialist”, and between articles in socialist publications discussing the 2004 election (and usually with some unkind words about Kerry), you’ll find much along the same line, including criticisms of Kerry for singing Woody Guthrie’s (socialist) anthem “This Land Is Your Land” and denunciations of Kerry for his support from the Socialist Prime Minister of Spain Jose Luis Zapatero.
It’s been there all along. Just because people like Mr. Leibovich haven’t noticed it before doesn’t make it new.
Of course, there are plenty of Democrats who quake at the thought of socialists under their beds, too.