Barack Obama the Socialist
We were pretty sure this was the case after he made his remarks about how bitter people in small towns cling to religion. As Bill Kristol points out, this is very similar to Karl Marx’ line about religion being the opiate of the masses, if not as eloquent as the original German “Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes.” Senator Joe Lieberman reinforced this, observing, “I’d hesitate to say he’s a Marxist, but he’s got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America.”
Now, we learn that in 1965, when Obama was 4 years old, his dad, writing as “Barak H. Obama” (the Communist-preferred spelling) wrote an essay on “African Socialism and its Applicability to Planning in Kenya” that wasn’t particularly critical of socialism.
Now, it’s true that Obama has been quiet about his plans to nationalize all industry, removing it from the hands of the capitalists and moving it under the control of the proletariat. Also, if elected president, he’ll probably not be too eager to see the state wither away, at least for the next eight years. On the other hand, he does have a cult of personality, just like many famous Communists like Mao, Lenin, and Stalin. And some staffers in one of his Texas offices had Che Guevara flags hanging on their walls. It pretty much balances out.
In all seriousness, I think Lieberman’s on the right track, if rather disingenuous in his soft dismissal of the “Marxism” label. Obama’s a liberal Democrat who wants more government regulation of the economy, more redistribution of wealth, more deference to international institutions, more nationalization of medicine, and so forth and so on. Some of his policies — although probably none of his goals — are indeed “far to the left … of mainstream America.” He’s as close to a socialist as it gets in serious contenders for the presidency; but that’s not very close.
He’s part of a long movement that has adopted some of the tools of socialism in an effort to make society better, with decidedly mixed results. The state hasn’t taken over the means of production, but it has created layers of bureaucracy to oversee them. The tax code has more than a smattering of “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” And we’ve instituted speech codes and a thought police in our schools and institutions, ostracizing those who dare to speak other than the orthodox Truth.
Again, this is mostly, if not all, well-intentioned. These were all reactions against real injustices, if often over-reactions, that had negative unintended consequences. But Obama’s not talking about cleaning up these messes but rather moving further in that direction.
Ideally, we’d be discussing the policy preferences of the candidates and their likely consequences rather than bandying about silly labels. But that’s not how the game is played.