That's Socialism!

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It seems that "socialist" has supplanted "liberal" as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as "Clinton" was in the 1990s and "Pelosi" is today.

"Earlier this week, we heard the world's best salesman of socialism address the nation," Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said on Friday, referring, naturally, to a certain socialist in chief.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas decried the creation of "socialist republics" in the United States. "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff," Mr. Huckabee said, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference here over the weekend, a kind of Woodstock for young conservatives.

"Socialism is something new for us to hit Obama over the head with," said Joshua Bolin of Augusta, Ga., who founded a Web site, "Reagan.org," which he calls a conservative analog to the liberal MoveOn.org.

Right. Something new. Because no one called Obama a socialist during the general election. And had they, the GOP clearly would have won.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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