Barack Obama may very well succeed in convincing most Americans that he espouses their more moderate, traditional mindset: According to a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, 63 percent of those surveyed believe the nominee shares the values by which most Americans try to live.
But how can they be sure, in light of Obama’s remarkable inexperience, calculated lack of a scholarly “paper trail,” absence of papers from his Illinois Senate days and similar lacunae, deceptively understated or “stealth liberalism,” and ill-defined rhetoric?
One blind spot in the public’s understanding of Obama concerns his education, in the broad sense of the term: What has he absorbed from various influences over the years?
He has been steeped, by virtue of upbringing and personal choice, in an often extremely radical worldview. Throughout his life he has also typically chosen to consort with radicals of various stripes and gravitated toward radical causes. Consider some of the main educational influences that came to bear on Obama.
In The Obama Nation, Jerome R. Corsi documents the intellectual journey of the candidate’s Kenyan father, who abandoned him and about whom he poignantly wrote in his autobiography, Dreams From My Father. Corsi shows how Obama Sr.’s leftist ideology gradually hardened into more extreme Communist views. In Dreams, Obama Jr. speaks of his father’s “strong image,” which provided him with a “bulwark on which to grow up, an image to live up to.”
As for Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, the candidate portrays her as “an unreconstructed liberal” inspired by the civil-rights movement. Yet he stakes out a position different from her liberalism of a “pre-1967 vintage.” He dwells instead on his fascination with “the Dionysian, up-for-grabs quality” of 1968, a time when, as Corsi notes, the “Far Left hardened” and “the civil rights and antiwar movements were both radicalized.” In Dreams, Obama recalls how he “soaked in a vision of the sixties” based on events such as the rise of Huey Newton, the co-founder of the militant Black Panthers. Obama then seems to put some critical distance between himself and far-Left “orthodoxy” with the claim that he had begun “to reexamine” its tenets. How he did so remains unclear. The College ‘Experience’
Frank Marshall Davis, ‘Red Mentor’
Of the curriculum at Punahou Academy, the college-prep school Obama attended for several years in Hawaii, we know little. An apparently greater intellectual influence in those years was a mysterious mentor-writer identified in Dreams only as “Frank,” who counseled him over whiskey on issues relating to race, education and American values, and who read him poems. This close personal mentor was Communist Party USA member Frank Marshall Davis.
Many Americans have been swept up in left-wing thought and activism through college. But Obama’s case seems especially drastic. In Dreams
, he recalls how at Occidental College in Los Angeles, striving not to be “mistaken for a sellout,” he selected his companions:
carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets . . . we discussed neocolonialism, [revolutionary writer] Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy … We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.
One of Obama’s friends, incidentally, was “Marcus,” who believed “white people don’t see us as human beings.”
The black nationalism of Malcolm X also attracted Obama, although he rejected this extremist ideology as impractical and ineffective. Nonetheless, it is significant that in Dreams, he wrote about viewing assimilation as:
gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around. Only white culture could be . . . nonracial, willing to adopt the occasional exotic into its ranks. Only white culture had individuals. And we, the half-breeds and the college-degreed . . . become only so grateful to lose ourselves in . . . America’s happy, faceless marketplace; and we’re [not outraged by the indignities] . . . less fortunate coloreds have to put up with . . . but because we’re wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and speak impeccable English and yet have somehow been mistaken for an ordinary n*****.
Such harangues show Obama to have been unmindful of the real meaning of assimilation and unappreciative of its immeasurable worth.
Having come to “understand [himself] as a black American,” Obama then transferred to Columbia University in order to “test [his] commitments.” In New York he continued to fixate on issues relating to race and class
I began to grasp the almost mathematical precision with which America’s race and class problems joined; the depth, the ferocity, of resulting tribal wars; the bile that flowed freely not just out on the streets but in the stalls of Columbia’s bathrooms as well, where …the walls remained scratched with blunt correspondence between n****** and k****.
Obama’s absorption in “the politics of the dispossessed” characteristically led him back to socialist solutions. He attended socialist conferences at Cooper Union and worried, justifiably, about “uninhabitable tenements” and black unemployment and low-level jobs.