The Corner

Re: Omnibus Response (on Radicalism)

Ramesh, that’s all fair enough but I think you’ve subtlely changed the question and missed the mark on the nature of Obama’s radicalism. 

First, assuming (as we both appear to do) that Obama has been a radical in the past, I asked which of his past radical positions he has now moderated.  You’ve responded with new positions he has taken that leave unchanged his old stands — and even the ones you’ve suggested are misleading.  (To be clear, I don’t mean Ramesh is being misleading; I mean Ramesh has cited Obama positions that are misleading — moderate-looking camouflage for his actually extremist positions.) 

For example, what he calls his “tax plan” does not account for — to take just a couple of examples — the tax (probably on fossil fuels) that would have to be imposed to pay for the Global Poverty Act he proposes, nor the levies implicit in any cap-and-trade or similar scheme in response to climate change.  And on the Second Amendment, Obama is posing as supportive of the Supreme Court decision with the caveat that the decision leaves plenty of room for gun regulation — a loophole that you can drive a truck through.

Second, and relatedly, Obama’s radicalism, beginning with his Alinski/ACORN/community organizer period, is a bottom-up socialism.  This, I’d suggest, is why he fits comfortably with Ayers, who (especially now) is more Maoist than Stalinist.  What Obama is about is infiltrating (and training others to infiltrate) bourgeois institutions in order to change them from within — in essence, using the system to supplant the system.  A key requirement of this stealthy approach (very consistent with talking vaporously about “change” but never getting more specific than absolutely necessary) is electability.  With an enormous assist from the media, which does not press him for specifics, Obama has walked this line brilliantly.  Absent convincing retractions of his prior radical positions, though, we should construe shrewd moves like the ostensibly reasonable Second Amendment position as efforts make him electable.

This is why Ayers is so important:  it is a peek behind the curtain of Obama’s rhetoric.  When he talks about “education reform,” that sounds admirable and, given the state of the schools, entirely reasonable.  But when you look at what the Obama/Ayers program really tried to do to the schools (see, e.g., Stanley’s work on this), it is radical.  With a guy who speaks in euphemisms — “change,” “social justice,” “due process,” etc. — it is vital to have concrete examples of how these concepts are put into action.

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