Personally, I have two complementary theories about why this is not only silly but counterproductive for the Republicans.
Theory one is based around this fact: I am 35 years old. When the Berlin wall fell, I was a freshman in High School. So I've been a voting citizen for 5 presidential elections now and for my entire voting life, and for the four formative years before that the Soviet Union was over.
And yet, it seems to me like the Right uses the word "Socialism" in exactly the same way that it was used during the Cold War - that is, not only as a description of an economic system but as a shorthand way of saying "the enemies of America". But even though I was raised a cold war kid, I just don't see it that way. "Socialism" is no longer synonymous for me with just doesn't mean much of anything at all to me in terms of modern day threats, or even like a relevant argument to be having. No major force in the US is advocating Socialism right now, nor have they ever, nor is there an external force that goes by that name that sets me quaking in my boots.
So the whole thing seems antiquated to me, like the echoes of an old argument. If I feel that way, I'm guessing that most folks younger than me feel even more baffled by this argument - like some old codger jumping up and shouting "Gold standard! Gold standard!" The old All Hail Capitalism, Down With Socialism debate is done.
But on the other hand, maybe not.
Because theory two is based upon the fact that the Republicans appear to be inadvertantly mainstreaming the socialist terminology. It turns out, all the young folks know about socialism these days is that the Right Wing Looneys really hate it. And that makes it... rather appealing.
The young may now disdain Wall Street -- but what do they know of socialism, past and present? Who even speaks of socialism in America today? The answer, of course, is the demagogic right. According to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and their ilk, Obama is taking America down the Socialist Road. As Benjamin Sarlin has noted on the Web site the Daily Beast, the talkmeisters of the right have linked a doctrine that never commanded much support in America to a president whose approval rating hovers around 60 percent and much higher than that among the young.
Rush and his boys are doing what Gene Debs and his comrades never really could. In tandem with Wall Street, they are building socialism in America.
One must take a moment to admire the irony.
Of course, I'm sure lots of my Labour party readers will pop up to say that Socialism never was such a bad thing anyway. Fair enough. But that's the funny thing - I was never a Socialist. Apart from Bernie Sanders (bless his little cotton socks) none of us were in my lifetime. But now, the rhetoric of the right has actually perversely caused an entire generation to give the term (if not the ideology) a second look.
Personally, I still say it's a dead debate - classical laissez faire economics is dead, has been for generations, and pure Socialism has likewise snuffed it, expired, shuffled off this mortal coil.