If this weekend’s big Tea Party rally in DC was any indication, a lot of Americans believe that Democrats trying to reform health care are secretly plotting a socialist revolution. According to Bloomberg, though, this is nothing new. Health care reform opponents have been stoking fears of socialism during health care debates since at least Franklin Roosevelt’s day. The story even digs up a 1961 quote from Ronald Reagan invoking the term—long before he went into politics.
“From here, it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism,” Reagan, then an actor, warned in a 1961 record sponsored by the American Medical Association after President John F. Kennedy created a commission that laid the foundation for Medicare.
There’s a reason reform opponents like to throw around charges of socialism: it works. Bloomberg says:
Once the public associates the word “socialism” with a plan, it’s hard to change the impression… In 1945, when Truman addressed Congress about a national insurance plan, 75 percent of Americans supported the proposal. By 1949, after it was targeted by opponents, only 21 percent did, according to a book by former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.”
Sadly, history seems to be repeating itself. According to a recent poll, since Republicans and others have been invoking socialism to defeat Democratic reform bills, 52 percent of Americans now disapprove of President Obama’s handling of health care, up from 28 percent in April.