I spent a while this afternoon listening to radio snippets of McCain’s recent stump speeches, and he kept saying that Barack Obama wants to “spread the wealth,” and the audience kept going “Boo!…Boo!,” and, even though I’m kind of a free market sympathizer, my gut response to the the scene, at an elemental pragmatic level, was, “It’s really weird that they’re booing. Who would boo at that? (Maybe they’re saying ‘Bruuuce.’)”
Because when you hear the phrase “Spread the wealth,” as opposed to, say, “Nationalize the means of production” or “Establish a dictatorship of the proletariat” or “Liquidate the Kulaks,” you tend to grant it a positive association. It really has no inherent political baggage, much less implicit negative connotations. It’s basically the same as “Don’t bogart that joint.” (You’d boo if someone said, “Bogart that joint!”)
So McCain is counting on sympathy for libertarian economics to trump the gut-level pragmatics of a common saying. In a time of worldwide financial panic. I just don’t see that working very well.