Bernie Sanders looks increasingly likely to be the first self-declared socialist to head a major party in the history of the United States, especially after romping through Nevada on Saturday. The reasons for the socialist revival are clear. Inequalities are shocking, student debt levels are staggering, and living standards have been stagnant or declining for all but the 1 percent since the 1970s. Sanders’ brand of democratic socialism, which really differs little from New Deal liberalism, seeks to address these inequities.
But there also exists a latent, darker impulse that has persisted throughout American history: panic about socialism. Anti-socialist hysteria was not exclusive to the 1950s Cold War. It has recurred in various forms in the United States for more than 150 years.
If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, his ascendancy, combined with extensive paranoia about immigration, Muslims, and the decline of the white majority, means America is due for another Red Scare. And what might this Red Scare look like?