Is Barack Obama a socialist? That seems to be the question after the discovery of documentation showing Obama’s endorsement by Chicago’s New Party, a group that intended to provide cover for socialists seeking public office in Illinois. The group used its endorsements to highlight members or sympathetic politicians seeking election through the Democratic Party, and according to the documentation discovered, seemed particularly enthusiastic about Obama.
Rick Moran remains skeptical, and a little irritated:
Besides using these radicals to get ahead and making common cause with groups like ACORN and The New Party, it is a legitimate question to ask if Obama shared their ideology. The answer is almost certainly no. I believe that there is something about these radicals that attracted Obama. Perhaps it was their utter certainty and belief that they are in the moral right. Or maybe it was that their personalities are so driven and single minded. Given Obama’s own doubts about his place in the world as a young man as well as his apparent aimlessness early on, it stands to reason that people who believed so strongly in something and seemed to know where they were going in life would be able to interest the young, ambitious politician.
Calling Obama a “socialist” simply isn’t logical. He doesn’t share the belief that industries should be nationalized by the government or even taken over by the workers as many American Marxists espouse. He may not be as wedded to the free market as a conservative but he doesn’t want to get rid of it. He wants to regulate it. He wants “capitalism with a human face.” He wants to mitigate some of the effects of the market when people lose. This is boilerplate Democratic party liberalism not radical socialism.
I detest conservatives throwing around the words “socialism” and “Marxism” when it comes to Obama as much as I get angry when idiot liberals toss around the word “fascist” when describing conservatives. I’m sorry but this is ignorant. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge of what socialism and communism represent as well as an ignorance of simple definitions. Obama will not set up a government agency to plan the economy. He will not as president, require businesses to meet targets for production. He will not outlaw profit. He will not put workers in charge of companies (unless it is negotiated between unions and management. It is not unheard of in this country and the practice may become more common in these perilous economic times.).
An Obama presidency will have more regulation, more “oversight,” more interference from government agencies, more paperwork for business, less business creation, fewer jobs, fewer opportunities. It will be friendlier to unions, more protectionist, and will require higher taxes from corporations (who then will simply pass the tax bill on to us, their customers). But government won’t run the economy. And calling Obama a “socialist” simply ignores all of the above and substitutes irrationalism (or ignorance) for the reality of what an Obama presidency actually represents; a lurch to the left that will be detrimental to the economy, bad for business, but basically allow market forces to continue to dominate our economy.
In other words, Obama is much more of an opportunist than anyone dedicated to socialist principles. When he needed a boost in the South Side, he flattered the New Party. When he needed a boost from the Chicago Machine, he allied himself with Richard Daley. When Obama decided to run for President, he turned into a reformer, the only one who has never actually attempted to reform anything.
I suspect Rick’s closer to the truth on this, but there is a certain irony in this. The Obama campaign tried to paint Sarah Palin as a dangerous radical and an unpatriotic politician by claiming she belonged to a separatist political party. It turned out to be drizzly horse manure, which the McCain campaign proved by showing her entire record of party registrations. We should demand the same from Obama. Was he always a registered Democrat, or did he register as a member of the New Party at any time?
Rick is also correct in noting that Americans don’t really have a grasp of what socialism means. In most cases now, what people generally mean is a tendency towards European quasi-socialism, probably most like the Christian Democrat party in Germany. Bernie Sanders might come close to the real Socialists in France, but most Democrats favor the flabby European hybrid of capitalism and socialism, with its cradle-to-grave entitlement system and its high-tax model for private enterprise.
However, given the economic misfortune of Europe, that’s bad enough. Barack Obama comes from exactly that kind of political philosophy. If the New Party endorsement helps make that more clear, then we shouldn’t quibble over terminology.