In high school, I was a self-described socialist. What this meant at the time, God only knows. Now I vacillate between agreeing with our smarter, more prolific blog contributors. If you go back through the League’s voluminous archives, you’ll find that Erik was once pretty enthusiastic about protectionism. Since then, he’s moved on to open-borders liberaltarianism. Does a secret urge to slap anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese imports still lurk within his heart-of-hearts? That, my friends, is the sort of sensitive information we dare not disclose to folks not privy to highly-classified (and interminable) intra-League email threads.
Peoples’ views, especially about politics, tend to change. Hence my bafflement at any attempt to extrapolate Barack Obama’s “true” ideology from old conference itineraries. There’s also the question of what constitutes someone’s “true” beliefs – if you privately profess socialism but govern like a standard left-of-center Democrat, are you really a socialist? Perhaps that makes you a SINO, a Socialist In Name Only.
Stanley Kurtz has apparently written a book, Radical-in-Chief, that uncovers Obama’s secret socialist leanings. Keep in mind that his definition of socialism divests the term of nearly all its most threatening connotations – Obama, Kurtz tells us, is merely following in the European, social democratic tradition. This is a neat trick: Kurtz gets to sell lots of book to people who think the President really is on the verge of liquidating the Kulaks while assuring his more sophisticated interlocutors that Obama is just a European-style leftist. A serious charge, to be sure, but an intellectually responsible one.
For the moment, let’s stipulate that Kurtz’s charges are accurate. Does it matter? Obama is stuck governing the most conservative Western-style democracy with a shaky, center-left coalition that faces all sorts of procedural hurdles (the genius or short-sightedness of the Founders, depending on your point of view). This environment imposes political constraints that simply can’t be wished away, no matter how socialist the head-of-state. In short, why should I care about Obama’s secret socialist leanings when his campaign rhetoric and governing agenda are functionally indistinguishable from, say, a President Hillary Clinton?
I don’t get it. I have more important things to think about. Like pot, theories of mutualist political economy, and whether my choice of beer accurately reflects my demographic status.