Barack Obama — still a “social democrat” after all these years

As I discussed yesterday, Stanley Kurtz has found conclusive new evidence that, in 1996, Barack Obama joined the New Party, the political arm of the radical group ACORN. The Obama campaign had denied this fact when Kurtz raised the matter during the last presidential campaign. The Obama campaign lied.

Kurtz has a longer story in the National Review (available online only to subscribers) about Obama’s membership in the New Party. The article expands on Kurtz’s discussion of what the New Party was about:

What was the New Party’s ideology? National cofounders Daniel Cantor and Joel Rogers saw the group as a “social democratic” party, roughly modeled on the Swedish labor movement. A party standing on the left side of even Sweden’s political spectrum would clearly be radical by American standards. While Cantor and Rogers initially hoped to make the New Party’s social-democratic stance explicit, other party leaders saw such openness as too risky. An early New Party document, however, makes the party’s social democratic stance very clear.

This manifesto, “The New Party:‘Building the New Majority,’” is dated April 1992, the very beginning of the party’s existence, just before formal membership sign-up began. It calls New Party members “not just liberal” Democrats but “social democrats.” It dismisses the current American political system as “a sewer of privilege and exclusion,” and condemns the democratic party as “dominated by business, or business-backed candidates, or upper middle class liberal elites searching for a candidate acceptable to business.”

The manifesto rejects the theory that the Democratic party was weakened when a sixties-inflected McGovernite wing took control of it. Instead, it argues, the failure of the democratic party to root itself in community organizing is the true source of its weakness. It repeatedly compares America’s democratic party unfavorably with Europe’s social-democratic parties. Yes, there are “good democrats” who deserve endorsement, the manifesto
concedes, ­but they are really social democrats, and merit New Party support for precisely that reason.

The document ends by describing the New Party platform as an attempt to enact authentic social democracy to the extent possible given “the constraints on such an order imposed by capitalism.” The unmistakable implication is that the founders of the New Party would prefer to throw off the shackles of capitalism entirely.

It’s easy to see why Obama felt comfortable joining the New Party. As Kurtz demonstrated in Radical-in-Chief, the goal of the community organizing movement, to which Obama had dedicated himself, was to accomplish just what the New Party sought to do — promote social democracy to the extent possible given the constraints imposed by capitalism, and attempt to lessen those constraints.

This is also a good description of the Obama administration’s domestic policy. The president has made it clear that he favors socialized medicine, which he calls a single payer system. When he was constrained from doing this, he did the next best thing on behalf of social democracy — effectively imposing government control on the health insurance industry.

Obama has also been snatching up as much control as he can over other key U.S. including, but certainly not limited to, the automobile industry. Again, he is trying to enact social democracy to the extent possible.

Indeed, as battered as the private sector is today, Obama believes it’s doing “fine” and that the public secton is what’s hurting. He would not hold this extraordinary view unless he were a “social democrat.”

So the answer to the question of when Barack Obama stopped being a socialist, or social democrat if you prefer, is: he hasn’t.

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