Last week, I was sensing an emerging meme, journalists arguing that opponents of big government should not talk about fascism — or as Jon Stewart put it: "drop the F-bomb." I saw CNN making a big deal about it in several stories. If this meme were being spread by the White House or by Journolist (and perhaps even if it weren't), I expected to see a lot more about it in the mainstream press this week.
As if on cue, the New York Times today published a fairly low-key online column by CNBC's John Harwood (who has been very sympathetic to the Obama agenda) on the dangers of the right using the term fascist:
"Rhetorically, Republicans are having a very hard time finding something that raises the consciousness of the average voter," said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who recently lost a bid to became national party chairman.
Workaday labels like "big spender" and "liberal" have lost their punch, and last fall, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska gained little traction during the presidential campaign by linking Mr. Obama's agenda to socialism.
So Mr. Anuzis has turned to provocation with a purpose. He calls the president's domestic agenda "economic fascism."
"We've so overused the word 'socialism' that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago," Mr. Anuzis said. "Fascism — everybody still thinks that's a bad thing."
Whether fellow Republicans think that is factually appropriate or strategically wise is another question.
Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg evaluates the Treasury Department's efforts to control the banks without actually nationalizing them: "It's not socialism. It's corporatism."
It is interesting that Harwood depicts the choice to use the word fascist as a strategic choice to pump up the volume, which it may be for some. For other commentators, such as perhaps Larry Kudlow, they might be straining not to deem as "fascist" proposals that they would call fascist if that term were not so politically charged.