At the Trump faithfuls annual get-together, there was fresh fearmongering about Democrats in general and Bernie Sanders in particular
It came from abroad and infected America. It can spread from person to person and is potentially fatal. When symptoms emerge, it may already be too late.
The virus of socialism has broken out again, the biggest annual gathering of US conservatives was told this week, and it puts everything they hold dear at risk.
The leftwing ideology poses a bigger threat to the economy than the rampant coronavirus, Larry Kudlow, the economic adviser to Donald Trump, told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The virus is not going to sink the American economy, he said at the National Harbor near Washington. What is, or could, sink the American economy is the socialism coming from our friends on the other side of the aisle. Thats the biggest fear that I have today.
Claiming that the Lord loves free enterprise, Kudlow, who shared a stage with the presidents daughter Ivanka, added: I dont want to be snarky. I dont even want to be political. We will have it out this year: America versus socialism.
America vs socialism was the official theme of this years CPAC, a slogan stamped all over the convention centre. The agenda included sessions entitled Socialism: Wrecker of Nations and Destroyer of Societies, Socialism and the Great Awokening and Prescription for Failure: The Ills of Socialised Medicine.
Before Trumps speech on Saturday in an opulent ballroom, a parody SNN Socialist News Network studio was set up on the main stage for a routine that included mockery of Democrats and teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Host Jesse Kelly promised to be back to bring more news from our studio to your breadline.
As a framing of the upcoming election battle, it might also have been described as the return of the red scare. Seventy years after Republican senator Joseph McCarthy alleged that hundreds of communists had infiltrated the US government, launching a witch hunt that reached into the army and Hollywood, there was fresh fearmongering about Democrats in general and Bernie Sanders in particular.
CPAC organiser Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told attendees: America versus socialism: its a very intended theme. Our view is its not capitalism versus socialism because socialism isnt just about economics. Socialism, we believe, gets to the very core of violating the dignity of the individual human being that has God given rights. And thats got us pretty fired up.
Mike Lee, a Republican senator from Utah, said: Socialism is as socialism does. One of the things that differentiates Bernie Sanders from others is that he actually acknowledges hes a socialist. Hes far from the only one in the United States Senate, sadly enough.
Lee added darkly: Theyre talking about having the government become your healthcare provider, your banker, your nanny, your watchdog. Having the government lie to you and spy on you and requiring the government to force you to work months out of every single year. In a word, the Democratic party has become the party of socialism. I dont think were ready for that and I know you arent.
Trump supporters wandering the corridors agreed that the perceived threat of socialism will be a motivating factor on election day. Many characterised it as big government promising something for nothing, raising taxes and curtailing freedoms. They pointed to examples of poverty in Cuba and Venezuela and tyranny in China and the Soviet Union.
Claude ODonovan, 81, remembered listening to the McCarthy hearings on the radio.
Communism was a muddy thing at the time, he said. He didnt have the charisma to make the argument.
Now he takes the Democrats shift to the left seriously.
Today its a real threat. Bernie Sanders can say hes a democratic socialist but thats just an acronym for communist. Its communism without a gun. In this day and age, I would never have thought wed have socialism become so dominant in the country.
ODonovan, from Aiken, South Carolina, turned up wearing a Trump cap and a Santa Claus costume a hobby of his. Santa gave things at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. These people want us to give everything from cradle to grave and it cant be done. We cant print money.
What if Sanders is elected?
We would crash almost immediately. It would be disastrous.