Monday, January 30, 2012


"A group of us got together and decided we would rather have your wealth in our pockets than your wealth in your pockets."

There's a funny little exchange that often happens on political blogs. Someone will say President Obama is a socialist, and at least one lefty will respond that is simply not the case. Usually they do so in insulted, angry tones. This is interesting to me for two reasons.

First, the response presumes that they at least think other people consider socialism bad. That if it became widely perceived that President Obama was a socialist, then that will hurt him politically. They seem to realize that the American people do not like socialists and really open socialism.

The second is a bit more complex. I believe its fairly obvious that President Obama is a socialist, he doesn't even try to hide it. He specifically and openly says things like "It's not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they've got a chance to success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." He makes no secret of his continual push to take money from the wealthy and give it to other people.

Further, President Obama has been absolutely clear that he believes the economy is shaped by government, and needs to be more closely controlled. Over at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff has been reading the book Radical In Chief by Stanley Kurtz, the man who worked so hard trying to dig up information on President Obama's past before the 2008 election. Mirengoff writes:
Kurtz has persuaded me that Obama probably is a socialist. Before reading his book, I did not believe this to be the case.
He examines both President Obama's actions and philosophies over the years, from what little we know about his college past (in his books) through the present day. His entire legislative and pre-government past has been shaped by socialist themes and efforts. His present governing style is still shaped by these themes, as are most of his speeches. Even in speeches when he tries to talk about the free market and business, he shapes it in terms of how government acts and what government does to bring about the desired results.

Now, what the left responds when they hear Obama called a socialist is that he's been more business friendly than any other president they know of. That he's been working with big corporations, that he's clearly no socialist at all. Which is partly true: President Obama did let Big Insurance help craft the Government Health Insurance Takeover act to best benefit them. He did work closely with Goldman Sachs and pack his advisers with their cronies. He has been working closely with corporations. That's why I consider what others call "crony capitalism" to be much closer to National Socialism. At least some on the left are frustrated by the fact that President Obama isn't being the socialist they want and likely hoped he'd be.

To understand this, you have to examine definition and expectations. Leftists seem to define socialism as sort of a anti-corporation total government lockdown and absolute control of every business. And they do so in such a way that any work with or that benefits corporations must by definition negate the possibility that someone can be socialist. They expect that a socialist would be totally focused on redistribution of wealth and command economy, and if they are not, then they must not be socialist.

The problem is, socialism doesn't all fit in one box, and you can be an inconsistent or limited socialist without failing entirely to be one. President Obama cannot suddenly command all businesses to be controlled by the state, he's under restrictions by the other parts of government, law, and wanting to be reelected. But that's the point. As Jay Cost points out:
The progressive ideology dating back to the turn of the last century, and in which Obama is comfortably situated, was never really about overturning the established order, but rather in co-opting it.
Socialism as it works out in the United States isn't like after some grand revolution but rather is something you step by step implement by working within the system and corrupting it. Cost goes on to explain that Obama's socialism is a bit different than, say, Marx:
It’s not just that Obama is a big government guy in the progressive tradition, which conservatives have opposed for more than a century. It’s also that he’s a client guy, meaning that his idea of big government inevitably has special payoffs hidden in it somewhere.
So like there's been Maoism and Marxism and Leninism, we now have Obamanism, a new blend of the stuff. He's not out to destroy capitalism, he's out to reshape it into socialism. At his HQ, Ace puts it this way:
If a guy comes over to your business and begins demanding that you do x and pay y tithe to group z, and is all up in your grill about it, you'd probably either call the cops or spare them the trouble by getting out your gun and telling the miscreant to remove himself from your site or be removed from the earth.

But these cats get a degree in Public Policy and worm themselves up the Media-Distributionist Complex, and suddenly that behavior isn't merely legal -- now they've got the coercive force of the government on their side.

And then they ask: What's the problem? I'm smart. You're not as smart. I am telling you how to better allocate your small pile of money for the benefit of society; and sure, it just so happens my salary is coming out of a skim from your wealth.

Why don't you thank me for telling you how to best direct your own resources, instead of being all angry about it?

They just don't get it and never will.
Its a divergence of worldviews that's really stark. Democrats used to be the party of small government, states rights, and constitutional protections, and they stayed that way through the progressivism of Wilson, and then with FDR started to move to the left, and by the time McGovern won in 1972, had given up entirely the old school. Sure, there were still some old school Democrats in the party, like Zell Miller, but they were the dinosaurs, left behind by the push for progressivism.

And when President Obama won, they thought that they'd finally won everything and could take off the mask. No more hiding behind a facade of free market concepts, they could cut loose and really be openly socialist. But they couldn't, with the restrictions of the system, directly implement socialism. And when they tried to get their first step to socialized medicine implemented, they ran into opposition, which they characterized as the last, obsolete dying throes of the conservative movement they'd totally defeated.

And their followers on the left see this as too slow, too limited, too much a failure to do what they want. So they characterize this as not socialist at all, because its not socialist enough, fast enough.

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