Diana West

Think back to President Obama's 2008 campaign when "Joe the Plumber" ever so briefly pulled down Candidate Obama's "post-partisan" mask to reveal the spread-the-wealth, socialist beliefs beneath. The Obama campaign, with media cooperation, quickly covered up this political wardrobe malfunction with more warm and fuzzy "hope and change." Also covered up was President Obama's past membership in the socialist New Party, for which, as National Review's Stanley Kurtz recently reported, de Blasio once served as executive director in New York. Similarly, the Obama and de Blasio share close ACORN ties.

Meanwhile, as Americans brace for the federal takeover of one-sixth of the economy with Obamacare, do we know what's hitting us yet? It's called socialism, and it has increasingly transformed the American political landscape since FDR, whom de Blasio, not incidentally in this context, claims as his political hero. Quite unexpectedly, socialism -- or its variant, "democratic socialism" -- has emerged as a key issue in New York City. This past week, Lhota discussed de Blasio's Times-unearthed worldview, which, as Politicker.com reported, "included telling his fellow Sandinista activists that he supported a 'democratic socialism' vision for society."

"His policies haven't indicated any change whatsoever," Lhota said, as quoted in Newsday. "Anybody who loves the Sandinistas as much as he does, anybody who wants to support the Sandinistas, who are a pro-Marxist -- it speaks for itself."

Yes and no. Americans are so grievously under-educated about the tenets of Marxism-Leninism and the horrors they inflicted, including 100 million killed, that Lhota must do even more to explain what he means. He needs to keep talking about how the provenance of de Blasio's policies have less to do with the principles of free people under the U.S. Constitution than with government controls in the old Eastern bloc -- from de Blasio's plans to expand government's role in the economy by controlling prices in the housing market and imposing a higher minimum wage, to degrading the concept of national citizenship by introducing a "Universal City ID card" and allowing driver's licenses for illegal aliens. Lhota needs to explain that "democratic socialism" is never "democratic," and that "socialism" destroys free markets.

It's a heavy load for a mayoral candidate to take on, but, given the polls, Lhota has nothing to lose and everything to gain by arguing that such ideas, which have entered the Democratic Party mainstream (and now lap at the Republican establishment), flow from anti-liberty, collectivist roots.

It is these same roots that the left always tries to obscure, and de Blasio is no different. Initially, he denied having once claimed for himself the "democratic socialist" label. "I am a progressive who believes in an activist approach to government. You can call it whatever the heck you want," the front-runner said, sounding more than a tad defensive.

I call it collectivist code for the expanding intrusion of government control into every facet of private life. If Joe Lhota can clearly explain this to New Yorkers, he just might win.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).