A major component of Republican political messaging in the last few election cycles has been trying to tie their opponents to socialism or communism, with their target audience particularly being immigrants that have left socialist countries and their families. This argument can be seen, for example, in advertisements tying Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and by extension the rest of the party, to socialist countries. Of course, while the Democratic Party has indeed become more progessive in recent years, much of this movement has been on social issues. The party's economic policy has become only modestly more left-wing, and it has not expressed its institutional support for any major socialist priorities such as nationalization of any industry. Of note, the only self-identified democratic socialist candidate, Bernie Sanders, lost two successive Democratic Party primaries, and even the second one by a significant margin. The current US president, Joe Biden, is considered economically moderate.
Despite all that, the Republican messaging strategy seems to have been reasonably effective. For instance, in the 2020 election, Donald Trump won a high percentage of Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American voters, even increasing his vote share. This success, and strong Republican support among these groups more generally, is often attributed to Republicans successfully painting Democrats as socialist or sympathetic to socialism. Anecdotally, I have also seen this messaging resonate with some Russian Americans whose families left the Soviet Union.
On the one hand, one would expect these voters to have a better idea of what socialism is, on average, than most other Americans; on the other hand, the Democratic Party is far from being socialist or communist. In fact, even the few self-declared socialists in the party would likely be classified as right-wing by the standards of e.g. Venezuela or Cuba. 1 Similarly, some popular opposition figures in such countries would be considered rather left-wing by US standards. 2 So then, what accounts for the apparent effectiveness of Republican messaging around socialism among immigrants from socialist or formerly socialist countries?
1: For instance, even Bernie did not call for nationalizing energy production, in the sense of expropriation of existing utilities, but rather for creating a government competitor, like the Postal Service. This is far-left for Republicans but would be considered lukewarm by the standards of most socialist countries.
2: For example, Juan Guiadó who enjoys or enjoyed significant popularity both in Venezuela and among the diaspora as the leader of the opposition to Nicolás Maduro, belonged to a party that was a member of the Socialist International, and has proposed such radical measures as removing the requirement for the state oil company to have majority ownership of any private venture (but not, say, denationalizing it).