Obama is NOT a socialist
Obama a Socialist? Many Scoff, But Claim Persists
AP National Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- When President Barack Obama's re-election campaign unveiled its new slogan, some conservative critics were quick to pounce.
"Forward," they asserted, is a word long associated with Europe's radical left. Its choice reaffirmed their contention that Obama is, to some degree or other, a socialist - a claim that surfaced early in the 2008 campaign and has persisted ever since, fueling a lively industry of bumper stickers and books..
"New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism," read a headline in The Washington Times. A column by Russian immigrant Svetlana Kunin, for Investor's Business Daily, said Obama seeks to move America forward to "total government involvement in people's lives."
This is far from a new phenomenon - the use of "socialist" as a political epithet in the U.S. dates back to pre-Civil War days when abolitionist newspaper editor Horace Greeley was branded a socialist by some pro-slavery adversaries. In the 20th century, many elements of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal - including Social Security - were denounced as socialist. So was Medicare when it was created in the 1960s.
But to many historians and political scientists - and to actual socialists as well - the persistent claim that Obama is a socialist lacks credence.
He's widely seen as a pragmatist within the Democratic Party mainstream who's had ample success raising campaign funds from wealthy Wall Street capitalists. Even some of his strongest critics acknowledge that his administration hasn't sought one of the classic forms of socialism - government control of the nation's means of production.
Terence Ball, a political scientist at Arizona State University, said "socialist' has gained currency as an anti-Obama slur because "the `L' word (liberal) has lost it shock value."
"I grow weary of Obama and the Democrats being called socialist," said Ball, who has written about ideologies. "If you talk to any real socialist, they disown them very, very quickly."
Full-fledged U.S. socialists are relatively scarce these days - three socialist-oriented presidential candidates received about 21,000 votes among them in 2008. And current socialist leaders don't share the right-wing view that Obama is a fellow traveler.
"It makes absolutely no sense," said Greg Pason, national secretary of the Socialist Party USA. Obama's health care overhaul "is anything but socialist. It's bailing out for-profit companies."
Yet Pason has been pleased by the "socialist" rhetoric.
"We've had an opportunity to talk to people, and that's been a blessing," he said. "People have actually researched socialist organizations."
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