Politicalprof answered a question in a post earlier today to which I wanted to add two thoughts. The questioner asked why it is that Americans are “so anti-anything-remotely-resembling-socialism.” I liked politicalprof’s reply, that Americans are quite comfortable with some socialism, but they dislike some things about socialism.
This reminded me of two things.
First, the answer reminded me of an article by Williamson, Skocpol and Coggin on the tea party in which they argue:
The anger of grassroots Tea Partiers about new federal social programs such as the Affordable Care Act coexists with considerable acceptance, even warmth, toward long-standing federal social programs like Social Security and Medicare, to which Tea Partiers feel legitimately entitled. Opposition is concentrated on resentment of perceived federal government “handouts” to “undeserving” groups, the deﬁnition of which seems heavily inﬂuenced by racial and ethnic stereotypes.
The article is from Perspectives on Politics. The researchers collected data through surveys and interviews with tea party activists. I recommend checking it out.
Second, the question reminded me of a quote from Alice Hamilton in a letter she wrote to Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1959.
“Why are we the only western country that lives in terror of native Communists. All the European countries have open and above-board political Communist parties some even have members of Parliament or whatever, and they do not have Un-Dutch Activities Committee. Look at the contrast between the English treatment of Klaus Fuchs and our treatment of the Rosenbergs. Fuchs is a scientist (which Rosenberg was not) he gave valuable atomic secrets to the Russians (Urey testified that Rosenberg did not know enough to do that) he confessed (the Rosenbergs refused to, though offered their lives as reward) Fuchs acted during the war, the Rosenbergs during peace.”
Politicalprof’s question was about socialism, not communism, but I think the question is still the same. Why is America so afraid of the idea of having a legitimately established communist or socialist party? On top of that I would also ask, even though these movements have very little real impact on our politics, why is there, from some, such a vehement response against them and a false impression that these groups hold power or are a major threat?