Yesterday, presidential candidate – and old man – John McCain rolled out that great Republican campaign chestnut...."my opponent is a socialist." McCain raised the issue with the nice little statement, "I don't know if Obama is a socialist," and then proceeded to talk about his opinion that Obama's voting record was "to the left" of liberal Senator Bernie Sanders.
Traditionally, this “boogie man” charge has been a tried and true scare tactic to push everyday Americans to vote against Democrats and, in doing so, voting against their own interests (better healthcare, more affordable education, more jobs, clean environment, etc.) in favor of Republican candidates who serve the interests of corporations and the wealthy. There’s a great book on this subject called What’s The Matter With Kansas? A short read, it’s worth checking out.
Ever since the Russian Revolution in 1917, conservatives and the wealthy in this country have recognized the treat of even a whiff of socialism represents to their established control over the economy and wealth. So, they have aggressively used “Red baiting” in campaigns through the decades. And really, it’s been quite successful. Only when the economy completely collapsed in 1929 and The Great Depression ensued did the public call the conservative bluff and vote into office leaders (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Democratic Congress) willing to actually create programs for the common good (Social Security, Medicare, the SEC and FDIC are great examples), as well as public works projects to get the country back to work. At the time, FDR was indeed called a communist by conservatives for doing so. Thank goodness he persevered and was not assassinated like another high profile so-called “socialist” Democrat – Huey P. Long of Louisiana.
Ironically, once in office, Republicans are the ones who act as “socialists” by using the public’s collective revenue (your taxes) to deliver spectacular tax breaks, loopholes,, investments, subsidies and trade policy to authorize, aid and abet corporations and the wealthy in their goal of maximum private profit in the shortest period of time.
Given his advanced age, perhaps McCain is so old that the Red baiting worldview is the one he relates to best and, through instinct and default, goes to this Cold War campaign tactic.