(Visions of the Fear Card: Priceless)
Historically, one would imagine every time any kind of reform is contemplated, the right wing quickly jumps in and pulls out the fear card. Socialism being the new paranoia. In 1949 as now, Socialism is lumped in with Fascism, Communism, Nazism, the entire spectrum - a whole stew of extremes geared solely to generate fear, paranoia and hate.
In this particular debate, part of the "Americas Town Meeting" series on December 4, 1949, the question "Are we slipping into Socialism" is asked of Republican Congressman Clarence J. Brown of Ohio and real-life Socialist Norman Thomas.
Typical of their exchange:
Brown: “ You can call any one of a dozen things, it all comes out of the same bottle. Socialism, communism, fascism, nazism, whatever it may be. It’s where the state becomes all powerful and the individual no longer counts”
Thomas: “I think, to be very . . . brutally frank, this sort of talk in itself is very dangerous. We’re not going to manage our very complicated civilization when you talk about fascism, socialism and communism being the same. When you talk about a movement like socialism, which has proved recently in New Zealand where it allowed itself very peacefully to be voted out of office, where you’ve got a movement that cares primarily for the individual and his rights, and you then equate it with a movement of that false renegade Mussolini, or with the communists and their tyranny, you’re mixing things up for the confusion of issues and the glorification of those who have power and property and don’t want to meet the challenges of democracy.”
Repeatedly during the exchange, Brown skirts the issues and solutions, instead throwing distractions around. It's typical of what's going on now - creating fear and hysteria in order to confuse. Thomas isn't exactly a saint either and his solutions aren't exactly concise.
But the fact is, whenever anyone tries to bring about some dialogue towards solution to a real problem, the Republicans have had a long track record for sand bagging and sleight of hand.
In 1949 we were knee-deep in the Cold War. It was very easy to play the fear card to gather support - the looming presence of the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear war was very real, at least in the minds of most people. But in many ways, playing that card created an opportunity for many in the right wing to exploit the fear to their own advantage. And many have created huge fortunes and massive presences by scaring the shit out of you.
It was the same in 1949 and it's the same 60 years later.
If the fear ain't broke, why fix it?