It’s unclear whether Serwer actually believes that tossing around the word “socialism” will actually lead to violence against Obama. This idea of Obama as a top assassination target is a media obsession lately, but the potential for violence is always a problem for presidential candidates. There’s no legitimate reason to think violence is any more likely this time around. “What else is a patriot to do when freedom is threatened?” Well, vote for the other candidate. That’s the point of all of this rhetoric—just to get people to vote for McCain.

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.

Daniel Luzer is web editor of the Washington Monthly.