IBD/TIPP: How dare you use the S word? they gasped in 2008 when we ran a series about Barack Obama titled "The Audacity Of Socialism." But now, more Americans than not think that's how our future is spelled.
Our 21-part series began in late August and continued into October, a period when then-candidate Obama was "edging to the center," as many observers put it. Moderates and Independents had already broken his way and a new term — "ObamaCons" — had surfaced to describe conservatives who were warming to this supposedly centrist Democrat.
Our series, however, focused not just on Obama's political posturing at the time, but the positions he had taken and the people he had associated with for years. And the bottom line was that the young senator from Illinois was anything but a moderate. In fact, we thought the series confirmed that Obama openly favored change based on principles that could only be called socialistic.
We know socialism comes in many forms. "People speak of socialism," Michael Harrington, movement leader and author of "The Other America," wrote in a later volume. "We should speak of socialisms."
But redistributing wealth and taking control of key industries are tenets in most definitions. And the Obama administration has seemed to be actively pursuing both over the last 15 months.
Back in 2008, however, relatively few Americans believed this was a direction their country would take.
In early August 2008, just before our series kicked off, the IBD/TIPP Poll asked Americans if they agreed or disagreed with the statement: "The U.S. is evolving into a socialist state." Only 25% agreed, while 42% disagreed (see chart). Democrats shrugged off the possibility 46% to 20% and Independents by 39% to 23%.
Even Republicans disagreed (39%) more than they agreed (35%).
By the following March, however, after the new administration had settled in and the government was taking an ownership stake in the U.S. auto industry, more Americans (39%) suddenly agreed than disagreed (36%) that socialism was on the march.
Republicans had swung 63% to 21% and Independents 47% to 29% into the "agree" column. Interestingly, Democrats disagreed more (53% to 13%) than they did when asked seven months earlier. A month later, Americans were split.
IBD/TIPP asked the question again this month, and those who agree the U.S. is evolving into a socialist state have again opened up a three-point lead (41% to 38%).
This is a statistic worth watching. Why? Because our poll also found that Americans oppose government control of key industries by a 59% to 20% margin and government redistribution of wealth and income by an even more overwhelming 61% to 19%.