Barack Obama, Socialist?

This may be a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. The political, media, cultural and social establishments are determined to elect the pro-status quo, anti-change candidate, Barack Obama, as President. The power and money arrayed behind Obama seem unbeatable. At the same time, it is inconceivable that the American people would elect a socialist President. So, if this report is correct, something’s got to give.

In June sources released information that during his campaign for the State Senate in Illinois, Barack Obama was endorsed by an organization known as the Chicago “New Party”. The ‘New Party’ was a political party established by the Democratic Socialists of America (the DSA) to push forth the socialist principles of the DSA by focusing on winnable elections at a local level and spreading the Socialist movement upwards. …

After allegations surfaced in early summer over the ‘New Party’s’ endorsement of Obama, the Obama campaign along with the remnants of the New Party and Democratic Socialists of America claimed that Obama was never a member of either organization. The DSA and ‘New Party’ then systematically attempted to cover up any ties between Obama and the Socialist Organizations. However, it now appears that Barack Obama was indeed a certified and acknowledged member of the DSA’s New Party.

On Tuesday, I discovered a web page that had been scrubbed from the New Party’s website. The web page which was published in October 1996, was an internet newsletter update on that years congressional races. Although the web page was deleted from the New Party’s website, the non-profit Internet Archive Organization had archived the page.

Here it is:

So the New Party claimed Obama as a member as of 1996. Progressive Populist magazine agreed in this editorial:

New Party members and supported candidates won 16 of 23 races, including an at-large race for the Little Rock, Ark., City Council, a seat on the county board for Little Rock and the school board for Prince George’s County, Md. Chicago is sending the first New Party member to Congress, as Danny Davis, who ran as a Democrat, won an overwhelming 85% victory. New Party member Barack Obama was uncontested for a State Senate seat from Chicago.

The Democratic Socialist Party of America was slightly more modest in claiming Senator Obama as an adherent:

Still, it appears clear that as of 1996, the New Party and its parent organization the Democratic Socialists of America considered Barack Obama to be their guy–one of a handful of avowed socialists running for office at any level in the United States. It strikes me that Obama has some explaining to do.

UPDATE: See also our more recent post Compare and Contrast.

FURTHER UPDATE: Ann Althouse, whom I respect greatly, says it’s “not fair to call the New Party ‘socialist.'” She recalls it as a “left-leaning and progressive” party. Perhaps. But all of the descriptions I’ve seen of the New Party’s ideology qualify, in my view, as socialist. Discover the Networks writes:

[T]he New Party was a Marxist political coalition whose objective was to endorse and elect leftist public officials — most often Democrats. The New Party’s short-term objective was to move the Democratic Party leftward, thereby setting the stage for the eventual rise of new Marxist third party.

Most New Party members hailed from the Democratic Socialists of America and the militant organization ACORN. The party’s Chicago chapter also included a large contingent from the Committees of Correspondence, a Marxist coalition of former Maoists, Trotskyists, and Communist Party USA members.

If this New Party web site is legit, and I see no reason to think it isn’t, the party’s own statement of its principles is clearly socialist. For example:

* The establishment, defense, and facilitation of worker, consumer, shareholder, and taxpayer rights to democratic self-organization.

* The democratization of our banking and financial system-including popular election of those charged with public stewardship of our banking system, worker-owner control over their pension assets, community-controlled alternative financial institutions. [Ed.: Hey, we may be in the process of “achieving” that one, and during a Republican administration, too!]

* Full employment, a shorter work week, and a guaranteed minimum income for all adults; a universal “social wage” to include such basic benefits as health care, child care, vacation time, and lifelong access to education and training; a systematic phase-in of comparable worth and like programs to ensure gender equity.

I would call that a socialist party, but maybe Barack Obama disagrees. Maybe he thinks it was only “leftist” and “progressive.” What’s important, I think, is not what adjectives we use to characterize the New Party’s platform, but rather, that Barack Obama be asked whether he was, in fact, a member or adherent of the New Party, as it claimed, and whether he did then, and does today, subscribe to that party’s platform. Whether that platform is termed “socialist” or “leftist” is, I think, of small moment.


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