The late Sen. Jesse Helms would be right at home amid the recent swirl of charges of socialism.
Helms saw the advance of socialism everywhere -- from Social Security, the pension program for the elderly, to Medicare, the health-care program for senior citizens.
"The destruction of this country can be pinpointed in terms of its beginning to the time that our political leadership turned to socialism," Helms said back in the '60s when he was an editorialist on WRAL-TV. "They didn't call it socialism, of course. It was given deceptive names and adorned with fancy slogans. We heard about New Deals and Fair Deals and the New Frontiers and the Great Society."
The major voice of conservatism in North Carolina in the 1930s was U.S. Sen. Josiah Bailey of Raleigh, who helped write the Conservative Manifesto in opposition to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and what he called "the socialist trend" in the country.
"We do not have a government in Washington," Bailey complained in the 1930s. "It is a gift enterprise and the gifts are at the expense of those who work and earn and save."
He was worried that the country was headed toward a "dictatorship" under Roosevelt.
During the rough 1950 Democratic Senate primary, conservative Raleigh lawyer Willis Smith portrayed liberal Democratic Sen. Frank Porter Graham as socialism's friend.
Campaigning in Wake County, Smith said, "I am opposing with all the strength I have any effort to crucify our country on the cross of socialism."
Graham replied that some people complained that rural free delivery was socialism.
There is no precise definition of socialism. Generally, people employ it as an all-purpose insult or as a way to describe more government than they want.
The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought says socialism is "a concept with many meanings, but generally understood as a social system based on common ownership of the means of production and distribution."
This year, critics of President Barack Obama have labeled everything from the General Motors government bailout to the proposed health-care overhaul as socialist.
But if you believe Josiah Bailey and Jesse Helms, you have to go back to the 1920s to find a time when the United States was not knee-deep in "socialism."
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