USA politics is rediscovering what has occurred on the Delaware conservative blogosphere for years: viz., if you want to nuke progressives instead of dealing with their arguments, then red-bait them....
Given that the USA requires New Deal like solutions to its quasi-Great Depression like problems, it's not particularly surprising to see the use of the S-word [socialism] by contemporary Hooverites....
In short, it's an old ploy used by a party and political ideology that has even run out of new material for attacking its opponents. It's a cliché used by hackneyed thinkers. The ad hominem is what is being conserved by conservatism. Let them have at it if that is the best they can do.
From long blogosphere acquaintance, I take Dana at his word that he does not equate differing on arguments and policies in and of itself as red-baiting.
But, part of the problem, I think, is that (a) some thoughtful people are asking whether current policies will carry us over from managerial capitalism into a more socialist state, and that (b) some of those on the left--giddy with the first control of both the executive and legislative branches they've had since the mid-1970s--are unleashing their imaginations on redistributive fantasies that are, well, about as far from capitalist as you can find.
Exhibit A: from Coyote, who is a thoughtful economic critic from a libertarian/capitalist perspective:
I am starting to wonder if Barack Obama crossed the thin red line between traditional American liberalism and socialism yesterday. Traditionally, liberals in the US have taken pains to generally argue that the rich need to pay for their programs because they are most able to pay. This differs a bit from socialists, who would argue that the rich should pay because they are guilty. For a libertarian like myself, it tends to be a pretty subtle difference, but I think it is important — are taxes on the rich enforced charity, or are they reparations?
I woke up this morning profoundly depressed, which is unusual for me. I have a good friend who is having some personal problems, so it is hard for me to separate effects in my mind, but I really feel like Obama stepped over a line yesterday. TARP pissed me off, but we have bailed out companies before (though not for this much). The stimulus bill absolutely offended me, but we have seen stupid pork spending insanities before (though not for this much). But Obama’s plan to remake tax law and the budget began with this paragraph:This crisis is neither the result of a normal turn of the business cycle nor an accident of history, we arrived at this point as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions from some of our largest companies’ executive suites to the seats of power in Washington, D.C.
From the rest of the rhetoric in this document, and that of Obama and his supporters, the overriding message is that “the rich are being taxed more because they have sinned. This is pennance.” This is all the more amazing to me because Obama (and to be fair, his predecesors in the Bush administration) have gone out of their way to interrupt the normal market processes that punish failed behavior. Normally, if you take out a mortgage you can’t afford, you default and lose your home, and are hopefully wiser the next time. If you lend to someone who can’t pay, you lose your principal. If you make products no one wants to buy, you go bankrupt.
Is this red-baiting? I don't think so. You may not agree with him, but what Coyote is doing is raising a philosophical argument about policy.
Exhibit B: A recent series of comments over at Delawareliberal:
Geezer: We’re not talking politics here, Art Downs. We’re going to actually take their money from them. T’ain’t envy, it’s economy. Taking money from rich people has never brought economic ruin to a nation.
jason: If history tells us anything it is that when the wealthy are allowed to keep too much of their wealth out of circulation - it is a sure fire way to bring on economic calamity. Art - think Csarists Russia, France in the 1780’s or Hati under any one of their bloated strongmen.
Unstable Isotope: We definitely need more economic justice, that is clear but trouble can also ensue from radical redistribution. I think of the Chinese cultural revolution, Pol Pot in Cambodia and Mugabe in Zimbabwe. To me, what these all have in common is anti-intellectualism. So I think we need to have a more just economic system while still encouraging education, science and the arts.
Now let's stop and think about what's occurring in this set of comments:
We've going to actually take their money from them....
Comparing the social and wealth structure of the United States today to (a) Czarist Russia wherein the serfs were sold as part of the deed to the property and redistribution led to one of the most genocidal totalitarian states in world history; (b) to pre-Revolutionary France wherein the Church was the largest landowner and the Revolution produced a Reign of Terror that not only confiscated wealth, but killed the wealthy and led to a Bonapartist counter-revolution that embroiled Europe in continental war for two decades; and (c) Haiti wherein no democratic process existed because a single dictatorial family murdered the political opposition for decades, and which required an external military invasion to overthrow....
These are the best comparative examples to the current situation in the United States?
And what about the idea that what was wrong with the Great Leap Forward, Pol Pot's killing fields, and Mugabe's genocidal rule was not radical redistribution per se, but the fact that the leaders of said redistribution were anti-intellectual. Yeah: trouble can also ensue from radical redistribution....
The sheer intellectual, historical, and economic vacuity of this sort of pseudo-intellectual fantasizing about remaking society is, I think, exactly what fuels not only the propensity for red-baiting but also serves to give it credibility in the eyes of many middle-class Americans.
Lord Acton's principle applies here.
And, strangely enough, I do blame the GOP of the last eight years for the excesses of the new administration, not just for squandering prosperty, but for damaging the political process to the point that there no longer seems to be any middle ground left. That was not true under Reagan, not true under Bush 41, and not true under Clinton. All three of those administrations had to deal with people from the other parties and make meaningful compromises with them. We didn't get into real trouble until we had a prolonged period of one-party rule in both the executive and legislative.
There is now a conservative definition and a liberal definition of what America means, or of what being a good American means, or what American values mean, or what being un-American means, and the parties are doing their dead-level best to draw those definitions with such ideological purity that nobody from the other camp can find anything with which to agree. That certainly serves narrow political ends on both sides of the spectrum, but does it serve American interests?