In 1996, during his first run for public office, Barack Obama formally joined a leftist third party called the New Party. Its Chicago chapter served as the de facto political arm of the now-defunct group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Ideologically, the New Party sharply differentiated itself from what it took to be the business-dominated Democratic party of Bill Clinton, identifying instead with the social-democratic movements of Europe.
The claim that Obama had been a member of the New Party gained attention from conservatives during the final two weeks of the 2008 campaign, but — even though it rested on considerable evidence — it was never widely reported or discussed in the mainstream press. When I asserted on National Review Online in late October 2008 that Obama had indeed been a member of the New Party, the Obama campaign called my charge a “crackpot smear.” Through its Fight the Smears website, it insisted that its candidate had never been a member, and had “never solicited” the New Party’s endorsement.