Jan Schakowsky and Socialism

by Stanley Kurtz

While researching my forthcoming book, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism, I came across documentary evidence showing that, at the start of her political career, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Now, Schakowsky’s Republican opponent, Joel Pollak has noticed, and has written a piece that talks about my book and Schakowsky.

Schakowsky has been called a socialist, but I suppose that could be dismissed as conservative crazy-talk. Why not just call Schakowsky a strong liberal?

Back in the late 1980′s, Schakowsky was an influential official in the Midwest Academy network, a group I have a lot to say about in my book. In that era, the Midwest Academy was treated by the press as a bulwark of Democratic Party liberalism–a counterweight of sorts to the more centrist Democratic Leadership Council. In 1987, all six official or prospective Democratic presidential candidates addressed the Midwest Academy’s annual retreat, seeking support. It would have seemed a wild exaggeration at the time to call the Midwest Academy socialist. Yet as I document in detail in Radical-in-Chief, the Midwest Academy’s leadership, including Jan Schakowsky, really was socialist. Precisely in order to retain their growing influence within the Democratic Party, the Midwest Academy’s leaders kept the full extent of their leftism hidden.

So while it may seem more simple and fair to call even the most left-leaning Democrats “very liberal,” the fact of the matter is that there really are some socialists who choose to work within the Democratic Party while keeping their socialism quiet. It’s of great interest, therefore, that President Obama was once very closely tied to the Midwest Academy network. Agree or disagree with my argument about President Obama in Radical-in-Chief, the idea of socialist politicians working openly or quietly within the Democratic Party is not a wild impossibility but a real phenomenon.

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