Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama Ignites Ideological War

UPDATE: Commenters have pointed out an error in my reading of Ambinder's passage on "Americans" aren't terribly upset by it (Obama's ideological redistributionism).

My bad.

Now acknowleging that, Ambinder's still focusing on the wrong thing, which is that Obama's clearly stating he favors economic redistribution. Focus on the forest, folks.


Today's online buzz surrounding Barack Obama's 2001 statements on Chicago's WBEZ public radio is shaping up to be a much-needed discussion of the ideological underpinnings of election 2008.

First, of course,
the Obama camp has denied the candidate's arguing for economic distribution. But what I'm finding interesting is how pundits are focusing on the legal argumentation rather than the underlying socio-economic basis of Obama's statements. See Marc Ambinder, for example, on the "old ideological wars":

"Socialist" ... "redistributive" ... These are 20th century words with 20th century connotations; indeed, the point of Obama's relfection was that the most progressive - most liberal - court of the era could not bring itself to violate a core American principle and could not extend the sphere of justice to the economy. Obama wasn't simply making a technical point about jurisprudence and history; he was expressing a liberal positivist's lament about the court's reluctance in one specific case - San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez - which dealt with education funding.

Conservatives find it absurd that Americans are about to elect the most liberal president of the modern era and aren't terribly upset by it; but in capitalizing on this particular argument of Obama's, the Republicans are rearguing whether some form of economic redistributions from white people to black people was necessary - even though Obama never really made the point.
Who among the conservative establishment isn't "terribly upset" that Barack Obama's the most far-left Democratic nominee in American history?

Rush Limbaugh? Nope,
couldn't be him. How about GOP Senator George Voinovich? Nope, he must have lost the memo. Couldn't be John McCain, either, right?

CHRIS WALLACE (Fox News): But you did it indirectly, so let me ask you for some straight talk. Do you think that Senator Obama is a socialist? Do you think that his plans are socialism?

JOHN MCCAIN: I think his plans are redistribution of the wealth. He said it himself, "We need to spread the wealth around." Now, that's one of...

WALLACE: Is that socialism?

MCCAIN: That's one of the tenets of socialism. But it's more the liberal left, which he's always been on. He's always been in the left lane of American politics.

WALLACE: But, Senator, when we talk...

MCCAIN: So is one of the tenets of socialism redistribution of the wealth? Not just socialism — a lot of other liberal and left wing philosophies — redistribution of the wealth? I don't believe in it. I believe in wealth creation by Joe the Plumber.
People don't want to use the "s-word" in American politics. The U.S. stood against the advance of socialism in its historic ideological struggle against Marxist-Leninist ideology and Soviet totalitarianism. In Latin America today, there's one of the strongest shifts to popular socialist regimes in recent decades. Some even indicate that a worldwide alliance of socialism and Islam is on the march to topple American imperial domination.

It's not only disingenuous to argue that conservatives aren't worried about Obama's socialism, it's outright journalistic malpractice to assert that there's no economic class analysis in Obama's 2001 public radio statement.

Barack Obama couldn't have been more clear:

I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.
Note something here: The issue is not whether the U.S. lacks the development of democratic socialist traditions (
we do); it's not whether both Democrats and Republicans in fact advocate policies that often align the U.S. with social democratic policies found in other advanced industrial nations (they do); and it's not whether Republicans have run out of ideas, and are scraping the bottom of the barrel in reaching frantically to smear the Democratic nominee as radical (they haven't gone far enough).

The issue today is how far Barack Obama will take the United States to the far-left of the ideological spectrum, in both policy and culture.

Because the United States' founding political orientation is center-right, and because the U.S. never had a feudal background and no feudal order was overthrown in 1776, the election of Barack Obama - and his agenda of expansive government expenditures, taxes, regulations, racial-redistribution, and foreign policy multiculturallism - will take the country farther to the left than at any time in American history. Whether Americans choose to call it socialism or not, an Obama presidency portends an even more divisive period of political history than we've seen under the last eight years of Republican rule.

Barack Obama maintains a socialist-ideological sensibility in the objective sense, as demonstrated by his repeated statements on economic redistribution and "spreading the wealth."

Leftists should quit playing around the words like "liberal" and "progressive" and forthrightly embrace the socialist label. If Obama can help leftists do that, it'll be the most honest thing he's done all year.