There haven’t been many defenses of the No Labels movement, but Cathy Young has a thoughtful one out today. Among other things, Young takes on my critique of the No Labels speech police. She says that, while my book criticizes what I see as President Obama’s Swedish-style socialism, I misleadingly place his picture inside a Soviet-style red star on the cover. Contrary to Young, however, the cover has a lot to do with what I actually say in the book.
There’s no doubt that Radical-in-Chief’s cover art draws the reader’s eye with a spectacular symbol of classic Marxist socialism. It would have been tough to put a picture of the Midwest Academy on the book, since no-one’s ever heard of it, and since the Midwest Academy keeps its socialism secret in any case. I get at the stealthy, pragmatic, and incremental Midwest Academy-style socialism the reader will learn about inside through the book’s subtitle.
But the fact is that a lot of Radical-in-Chief is about good old fashioned Marxism. There’s the story of Reverend Wright’s adventures in Cuba, for example, which drew Obama to Wright’s church, I claim. And Obama himself was a revolutionary Marxist at Occidental College. Also, many of the Swedish-style socialist organizers who trained and sponsored Obama supported Marxist regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua. Alice Palmer, who chose Obama to be her successor in the Illinois State Senate, was a fan of the Soviet Union. Bill Ayers often wears the red star. Despite their democratic professions, many of Obama’s stealth-socialist community organizer colleagues believed that a violent socialist revolution would be necessary in the future. And some of Obama’s mentors favored Swedish social experiments that skirted the boundary between democratic socialism and outright authoritarianism. Even Obama’s most gradualist mentors saw their ideological stealth as a modern version of Communist Party strategy during the Popular Front period.
So while American socialism definitely changed during its turn to community organizing in the eighties and nineties, the hard-core Marxist past was never entirely shed. The book grapples with that complexity. The Swedish alternative is real, but the links to the bad old Marxist days remain. That’s part of what makes even reformed socialism a matter of legitimate concern to those who love liberty.