Among conservatives, the "story that won't die" about Barack Obama is the tale of his close ties to 60's radicals who still identify very strongly with Marxism. The biggie is William Ayres. Another radical who has now been linked to Obama is Michael Klonsky.
Anyone who has studied the Progressive movement in America, from its turn-of-the-twentieth-century origins up until today, should not be surprised that Marxism has always been the dominant philosophical influence of the contemporary American left. In other words, progressivism has always been synonymous with Marxist thought, particularly Marx's concern for the plight of the underpriviledged, under-educated, underpaid, and under-represented working class.
And just in case you haven't yet figured it out, progressivism and its core values of egalitarianism and benevolent distribution of wealth (as opposed to conservatism and its core values of peace through strength and the free market) is the dominant philosophy of America's "chattering class," those who craft and perpetuate our cultural mythos --philosophers, historians, social scientists, educators, journalists, artists, and entertainers. Thus our contemporary cultural narrative, as taught in universities, as expounded in editorial pages, as explored through songs and poems and films, is steeped in progressivism, and by extension, Marxist ideals.
But that wasn't always the case. The paradigm shift that brought about the wholesale conversion of the cultural chattering class to progressivism and Marxism was WWII, because the evils committed by Germany -- considered by many to be the cultural center of Western Europe -- caused the academic world to drastically re-think the theological, philosophical, and economic ideals that shaped Europe during its great period of colonial expansion during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Western intellectuals tackled not only what went wrong in Germany, but also what was happening in lands that had long been oppressed by European colonial governments and military forces, specifically Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. Support for "people's revolutions" around the world grew rapidly among intellectuals, who by this time (the early 1960's) had begun to teach their students that the treatment of natives by Western colonial powers was just as evil as the oppression inflicted by the Nazis on the European nations that they conquered.
Thus a new generation of students was indoctrinated in the philosophies of Marx, and taught to believe that capitalism and military power were de facto marks of evil, and that the third world revolutionaries who promised political and cultural equality and financial equity for their people were truly the last best hope for freedom and stability in the world. "Baby Boomers" like William Ayres and Michael Klonsky were part of this new generation. They willfully ignored, and in many cases supported, the unmitigated use of violence that coincided with "people's revolutions," and stood unwaveringly behind any Communist regime that was opposed by the United States government. And in the late 1960's, the Baby Boomers became the dominant force behind American popular culture, which remains dominated by leftist ideals to this very day.
Another branch of progressivism, one that has been heavily involved in issues of social justice for more than a century, is populated by many Christian activists who have dedicated their lives to organizing and enabling the poor and oppressed. They are almost exclusively pacifist: while they support non-violent civil disobedience, they universally condemn warfare and the sale of arms and munitions for profit. They argue that the resources spent on warfare would be much better spent educating and equipping the poor, and breaking down the barriers between the different classes within our society. Christian progressives also espouse thrift, stewardship, charitable giving, and communal living. Dorothy Day's Hospitality Houses and Clarence Jordan's Koinonia Farm are two of the best known examples of Christian-oriented communal fellowship.
Because of their absolute refusal to support the U.S. military -- even for "just" causes such as the liberation of Europe from the Nazis -- and because of their continuing efforts in support of labor unions, community organizing, and unrestricted government benefits for the poor, Christian progressives have often been accused of being Communists; this was especially true during the "red scare" decade of the 1950's. In truth, many early Christian progressives did form partnerships with socialist and Communist activists, beginning with the period of economic and racial unrest that blanketed America after the First World War. Ironically, these Christians considered the nascent Communist movement to be one of their strongest allies in the struggle to give a voice to the working poor. (Today's evangelical Christians should use this curious fact as food for thought and discussion.)
Finally, black intellectuals have wrestled with the themes of socialism and government intervention for over a century. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois led both sides of this debate: Washington argued that the black man was capable of achieving surpassing greatness if the government simply kept others from impeding him; DuBois felt that the government had an obligation to directly give back both the financial and social status that it had robbed from the black man. DuBois' side eventually won out, and his line of thinking culminated in the democratic socialism espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in the Affirmative Action programs implemented by the Federal Government.
So what does all of this have to do with Barack Obama? Well, it's rather simple really -- Barack Obama is the first major Presidential nominee who is entirely a product of these three main streams of progressivism: Afrocentric democratic socialism, Christian social justice and pacifism, and the Marxist ideal of worker-led revolution, or "change" if you prefer. Obama's mother was a self-proclaimed Bohemian free spirit, politically progressive and disdainful of traditional Protestant Christianity. Obama went to Ivy League schools and was heavily involved in community organizing and social justice issues. He was mentored by William Ayres and became a trusted peer, aiding Ayres in his attempts to reform the public education system in Chicago. He struggled to identify with the black community (which originally shunned him because he is Ivy League educated and half white) so he joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, perhaps the most Afrocentric church in Chicago and unabashed practitioners of social justice, community organizing, and Black Liberation Theology.
Naturally, Barack Obama is going to have many associations with people whom conservatives would immediately label "communist." (And a few associations with people such as William Ayres, who describe themselves as full-blown revolutionaries and Communists.)
So what does all of this mean? Well, first off let me say that I don't expect an immediate "people's revolution" and the establishment of the Democratic Socialist States of America if Obama wins. But what is troubling to me is that on the campaign trail, Obama himself has never been straightforward about where he stands within the continuum of hard-left, left, and moderate-left ideals. "Joe The Plumber" Wurzelbacher coaxed Obama into accidentally admitting that he believes government has an obligation to "spread the wealth around." But what else does Obama believe? It's probably safe to say that he doesn't directly endorse the kind of violent Communist revolution that Bill Ayers was hoping for thirty five years ago. But exactly what does he want? This?
House Democrats recently invited Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at the New School of Social Research, to testify before a subcommittee on her idea to eliminate the preferential tax treatment of the popular retirement plans. In place of 401(k) plans, she would have workers transfer their dough into government-created "guaranteed retirement accounts" for every worker. The government would deposit $600 (inflation indexed) every year into the GRAs. Each worker would also have to save 5 percent of pay into the accounts, to which the government would pay a measly 3 percent return.
Such a plan would of course make it impossible for workers and employers to afford to continue contributing to private 401(k) retirement accounts. And on top of potentially massive corporate income and capital gains tax increases, the loss of market capital from such a plan would be devastating not only to the stock market, but to our economy as a whole.
Also, Obama has pledged to slash defense spending, to eliminate new weapons systems development, and to pursue unilateral disarmament. He has even pledged to meet with the leaders of dangerous nations without preconditions. Just exactly what are his views on defense and the necessity of military preparedness? We really don't know.
The true danger in an Obama victory lies in the seriousness with which his star-struck radical leftist and Marxist supporters will interpret such a win. Will it be considered a "mandate" for hard-left public policies and a final attempt to purge the last traces of traditional conservative political thought, free market economics, and Protestant Christianity from contemporary American culture?
A sobering truth about progressivism is that it is fundamentally incompatible with free thought. Progressivism celebrates the triumph of the human intellect, and such a philosophical underpinning necessitates the creation of intellectual classes, particularly the "enlightened" vs. the "helpless" or "ignorant." The "brights" know that eventually the inferior intellectual classes will tire of being controlled. I absolutely believe that given enough access to government power, contemporary progressive intellectuals will try to stifle any dissent or inquiry that deviates from the progressive party line, because deep down inside they know that such chilling policies are the only way to keep the "non-enlightened" from becoming discontent with their intellectual overlords.
My concern about all of this can be summed up in one of Ronald Reagan's famous quotes -- it's not that our liberal friends are ignorant, it's just that they know so much that simply isn't true. If Barack Obama wins, we will have a perfect opportunity to find out just how much Progressives really know -- or don't have a common-sense clue about.
ADDED: Here's yet another video about Barack Obama that is being circulated through conservative blogs:
The video contains audio excerpts from a 1995 interview with Obama about his book Dreams of My Father. During the interview, Obama uses a favorite stereotype of progressives -- the "white executive" who lives out in the suburbs because he "doesn't want to pay taxes to inner city children." (I wonder what Obama thinks today, about his own Rev. Jeremiah Wright moving to one of Chicago's choicest suburbs?)
Obama also articulates the belief that his own salvation is dependent upon "a collective salvation of the country," which in turn is directly related to the elimination of systems that allow certain groups to prosper, while other groups (specifically African-Americans) are doing "bad if not worse."
How do we save the country? We "make sacrifices."
Obama is not just espousing Marxism here. Obama's statements also represent one of the fundamental tenants of Liberation Theology, which is that God not only judges individuals, but nations (that is, communities bound by covenant in the Old Testament sense, not just modern nation-states). The "Black Liberation Theology" of James Cone that Rev. Jeremiah Wright so fervently taught to his flock at Trinity UCC is simply an Afrocentric variation of classic liberation theology.
Liberation theology expands the definition of "sin" beyond personal transgressions; it teaches that communities can collectively sin, based on how they treat the least among themselves. (Recall that God judged the entire nation of Egypt, not just Pharaoh.) Liberation theologians teach that even though God's plan for personal salvation has been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's nature is consistent, and He still judges righteousness collectively, just as He did in the Old Testament -- specifically among communities who claim to follow Him and whose leaders publicly pray for His guidance. Under such a standard, of course, the United States stands to be judged most harshly by God; this makes American liberation theologians particularly fearful, because there have always been drastic inequalities between the poorest and the richest in our nation.
I have blogged about economic injustice and God's judgment of nations elsewhere. And while I agree with much of what liberation theology teaches, I am strongly concerned about the Marxist plans that Obama and his minions have for America. There is a massive difference between a people led to justice through the work of the Holy Spirit voluntarily sacrificing in order to create equality and security among their bretheren, and a group of ruling elites forcing the masses to "sacrifice" in order to feed an enormous, inefficient, and corrupt bureaucracy. Such a system is guaranteed to make everyone poorer, and to do little else.