Do you know what ticks me off the most about people calling Barack Obama a socialist? What it does to the political spectrum.
See, realistically, without the blare of Rupert Murdoch's media empire or the misinformation spread by idealogues on the wings (right or left), Obama is a moderate, centrist Democrat. You can reasonably argue he's more to the right than Bill Clinton. He has repeatedly praised Reagan (ew!) and has supported some of the biggest cuts in government spending ever. In addition, he backed away pretty quickly from single-payer on healthcare. Wall Street is booming under his watch. There is nothing socialist about the man.
But when so many people attach that label to him and his presidency, it has the effect of moving the definition of socialism to the center of the political spectrum, thereby reinventing everyone to the LEFT of Obama as completely off the playing field.
Actual socialists have existed in the United States since 1901. They have fielded candidates for the presidency in every election. I imagine they're pretty ticked off that they have been redefined by the empty suits on Fox News.
The other disastrous consequence of our national ignorance is that what was once considered ridiculously ultra-conservative, has become re-branded as center-right. There is nothing centrist about poverty wages or blaming teachers for failing schools, but Chris Christie, the re-elected governor of New Jersey has been repeatedly described as such all while campaigning against a minimum wage increase and berating the state's teachers for the failing schools. Even George W. Bush raised the minimum wage twice.
This wholesale shift in the playing field of politics bodes ill for America, because it is legitimizing the wings of the right while removing the left wing as a counterbalance. The fulcrum has moved.