In today's buzz-word heavy culture, it's almost impossible to say a word like "socialist" without conjuring images of hammers and sickles or angry Tea Partiers waving anti-Obama banners. It's the same way that the word "democracy" still seems to be rallying word for some people until you say the word "capitalism", at which point their allegiance seems to shift a bit. It's really no surprise that some of the central vocabulary to our history as a nation has become perverted by the polarized political discourse and party-wrangling of the past several decades.
After all, Civics education in the U.S. is the consistently lowest performing content area and, according to recent studies show that nearly half of Americans can not name the three branches of their federal government. Only one in a hundred can name their state representative, and more people vote on reality television than they do for presidential elections. This is not the "educated electorate" that Thomas Jefferson envisioned in creating our public system of education, or our democratic process.