Large numbers of voters make very important political decisions on the basis of non-specific, vague and confusing labels.
Thus the side that is able to successfully label and define their opponents has a clear advantage.
There is a long history of the far right trying to brand moderates and even mild conservatives as "socialists." In 1950, conservative Republicans lead by the powerful Ohio Sen. Robert Taft wanted to adopt a campaign slogan for the congressional elections that would be "Liberty Against Socialism." They alleged that President Harry Truman's Fair Deal was "dictated by a small but powerful group of persons who have no concept of the true foundation of American progress, and whose proposals are wholly out of accord with the true interests of and real wishes of workers, farmers and businessmen."
Later, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and Martin Luther King were all labeled as communists by people with a far right or John Birch Society mentality. In the John Birch Society's four volume biographical dictionary of the left, there is a 1,000-word biographical sketch of George Romney, the father of Mitt Romney.
What did George Romney do to be considered a leftist? He had been a "marcher for civil rights," indicating he favored civil rights for racial minorities, and so he was labeled an "integrationist." Regarding Vietnam, the book claimed "he was on the left with the peaceniks" because he wanted to end the war.
Today, the absurdity of labeling the above men as leftists or socialists is clear. Yet now, many on the far right are so desperate to label our president anything that they throw mutually exclusive labels such as Muslim, Nazi, and communist at him and hope that one sticks.
Of course, the left regards claims that the president is a socialist as preposterous. In fact, they demonstrate that he is not even a hard-core liberal. Consider:
* On the protecting the environment, both Al Gore and former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt claim he has been timid and weak. Environmentalists are highly critical of Obama's offshore drilling position.
* Regarding gun control, groups concerned with curbing gun violence have been very disappointed with the president's record.
* On defense, he has largely followed the self-described "compassionate conservative" George W. Bush. He kept Gates as defense secretary. He disappointed the left by not immediately withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and slashing military spending.
* On health care, he refused to push for a single-payer system and instead signed a bill which incorporates the 1990s ideas of free market think tanks and Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, such as requiring individuals to purchase health care.
* His economic stimulus was less than half of what many economists said was needed to restore the economy. (Recall Reagan's massive deficits did not prevent him from being considered a conservative.) Notwithstanding our deficit problem, he has refused to argue for a tax on speculation and derivatives (credit default swaps, etc.) which is a key proposal of liberal economists. A small tax on derivatives could raise hundreds of billions with minimal impact on production.
It would be very easy to collect -- just adopt a policy that unless the tax has been paid on a derivative, one can't use the U.S. legal system or courts to help collect on it.
In area after area, Obama has shown himself to be prudent, pragmatic and non-ideological. He constantly tries to take a middle-of-the-road approach even when that means finding the middle point between the hard right and the centrists.
There is profound truth in Jesus' words, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1) The truth is, when you label others, you situate yourself on the political spectrum. Those who called Presidents Truman or Obama "socialist," or Utah's former senator, Bob Bennett, "liberal" have placed themselves on the far right of the political spectrum.
Those who say President Obama is so conservative that he is indistinguishable from George W. Bush have placed themselves on the far left of the political spectrum.
Unfortunately, moneyed interests (such as the Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch) have been perpetuating an imbalanced, one-sided, and far-right perspective in a population where many fail to see the big picture.
Jones lives in West Haven.