The author seems to imply that these accusations and insinuations are basically just designed to associate Obama with other “dangerous” blacks. Because aren’t “communist” and “socialist” just shorthand for “you should be afraid of him?” One thinks the author would have made more of that point. He didn’t, however, because it’s not really valid. “Communist” and “socialist” used to be shorthand for “you should be afraid of that person.” But today, “Communist” is shorthand for nothing.

There are a number of interesting things one can say about how the right attempts to portray Obama, particularly in light of its historical treatment of other black politicians. Indeed, his opponents are throwing plenty of nasty and potentially damaging rumors at Obama during this campaign. But rumors of communist leanings are not primary among these. It’s like accusing Obama of being an Anti-Federalist or a Roundhead. And it’s not something about which Americans need to worry much.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Daniel Luzer is web editor of the Washington Monthly.