Accusations of Obama’s Socialism Predictably Fail to Raise Awareness of American Ignorance

The recent accusations of Sen. John McCain,”Joe the Plumber,” and Fayetteville, NC resident Diane Fanning, that Sen. Barack Obama is a socialist provide yet another example of why ignorance, found in both political and popular culture, should be discussed as a major political issue – even the greatest issue – that faces the next president of the United States. Liberals have too easily blamed fundamentalist religion and the Bush administration as the principle contributors of America’s cultural decline. Conservatives too easily blame “anti-American” progressives, the “liberal media,” and “activist judges” for the decline of American culture. What these sides have failed to do is start a national dialogue concerning the “overarching crisis of memory and knowledge” this country faces (Jacoby, 2008).

What needs to be addressed is: why so many people could have been tricked by the Bush administration into supporting a war on Iraq, why so many have fallen for fundamentalist religion, why so many presume that progressives, the “liberal media, and “activist judges” are eroding American life, and why people have fallen for the trope that Obama is a socialist, but McCain is not.

What on Earth would motivate someone like capitalist Warren Buffett and Republican military man Colin L. Powell to endorse a truly serious socialist? No serious argument can be given for this except that these highly-experienced, knowledgeable people are wildly delusional about an Obama presidency. A sociology professor from Northwestern University, Bruce Carruthers, said, “Obama is like a center-liberal Democrat, and he is certainly not looking to overthrow capitalism. My goodness, he wouldn’t have the support of someone like The Wizard of Omaha, Warren Buffet, if he truly was going to overthrow capitalism” (R. Huppke, Chicago Tribune). If Obama is elected, America will not necessarily expressly head toward socialism. “The whole point of his policies don’t really represent the political economy of the working class,” said Robert Roman, editor of the newsletter of the Democratic Socialists of America. He says, “Obama’s …going to be representing the interest of the capitalists as well as the working people. He’s not really talking about transforming society beyond capitalism.” Importantly, should Obama be elected, he would only have the power to recommend his domestic proposals to Congress, not to carry them out single-handedly without oversight. It should also be acknowledged that Sen. Obama’s tax plan and economic proposals, which are aimed at helping out a large section of the population, are not guaranteed passage by Congress.

Furthermore, the lesson of the Great Depression is that American capitalism is not sustainable by itself. It will eventually fail, as it has in these past few weeks, and has shown that it needs government to step in as the economy hits bubble after bubble. Both Senators Obama and McCain have realized this. But, Obama has realized this to a fuller extent, and with more competent judgment than McCain. It is ironic that when Sen. McCain used the “socialist” smear, and then was reminded immediately that he supported: the public bailout of Wall Street, partial nationalization banks, and government taking on bad mortgages, McCain dismissed that not as socialism, but by laughably saying to Chris Wallace, “Oh well, I’m just trying to help.” Obama is a socialist. I’m just trying to help.

On 19 October, in Roswell, New Mexico, Gov. Palin parroted the same talking point about Sen. Obama as McCain did in his Chris Wallace interview:

Senator Obama said he wants to quote spread the wealth. What that means is he wants government to take your money and dole it out however a politician sees fit. Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth…But Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairy Man, I believe that they think that it sounds more like socialism. Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism. To me our opponent’s plan sounds more like big government, which is the problem. Bigger government is not the solution. Whatever you call his tax plan and that redistribution of wealth it will destroy jobs. It will hurt our economy…

…Since he can’t reduce taxes on those who pay zero, he wants the government to send them a check that’s called a tax credit. And where is he gonna get the money for all those checks that he will cut? By raising taxes on America’s hard-working families and our small businesses and a lot of folks just like Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairyman out there, right there, Ed the Dairyman (FOX).

First, one can clearly see that Gov. Palin has further debased political speech beyond anyone’s wildest dreams: the electorate has gone from being addressed as “citizens,” “ladies and gentlemen,” and “people,” to a few decades ago as “folks,’ and now to the lowest of the low, “Joe the Plumber” and “Ed the Dairyman.” Actually, “folks” in this speech is used in conjunction with those last two nicknames for American citizens. Can the patronizing speech get any worse? Will politicians again start to show that they expect the people to rise up, and lift themselves to the responsibility of becoming better citizens?

Aside from the debasement of political speech, Gov. Palin cleverly (this is probably the only time one will see those two words next to each other) used the widespread historical and political illiteracy and simplistic sound bite rubrics to her advantage. For example, the key rubrics “government take your money,” “dole it out,” “redistribution of wealth,” and “bigger government” were used to plug in on people’s suspicion of government. That is were historical illiteracy comes in. People forgot that “Sarah Palin is the governor of a state that practices collective ownership of oil and other natural resources, and equally distributes the state’s cut of the revenues to every citizen” (Eric Kleefield, TPM). People hopefully did not forget that “conservatism has run up the largest debt this country has ever known, started two wars and destroyed Wall Street under the “Compassionate One,” but [are being told to] be afraid of Obama” (John Amato, Isn’t Sarah Palin a “Socialist” too?). And further, no one should have forgotten the fact that McCain essentially supported big government, except it was only to help out the rich, irresponsible, failing Wall Street corporations. Indeed, who would ever think that was socialism? McCain said in his interview with Chris Wallace, “That’s the reason why we have governments, to help those who need help, who can’t help themselves, and when time of crisis to step in and do what’s necessary to preserve the lives and futures of innocent people.” To those who buy into the spin, socialism is whatever John McCain says it is.

However, to socialists, McCain’s tactic of labeling Obama as one of them is purely repugnant. John Bachtell, organizer of the Illinois Communist Party USA, thinks Sen. McCain’s calling Obama socialist is both offensive to avowed socialists and a desperate fear-mongering gimmick to misinform voters by using “the last refuge of scoundrels,” Red-baiting. This tactic was widely used during the Cold War era, and provoked “Red Scares.”

Examples like this demonstrate the need for a serious attempt to address the widespread scientific, historical, and political illiteracy and a-literacy in America. It has become too easy to use those simple-minded causes (mentioned in the first paragraph) for the headlong flight from reason this country is in, and for the shortcomings of the past few decades. Hopefully, one of the candidates will have the courage to do point this out – and not by calling the electorate and politicians stupid or dimwitted – but by saying something like, “We don’t know as much as we should to make informed policy decisions, and we need to work on this much more in order to fulfill our obligations as citizens. Especially, as citizens of a Republic that wields such tremendous influence on the world.” Everyone needs to able to know more to have better government. Citizens get the government they deserve. As Thomas Jefferson put it, “If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

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~ by jsacc001 on October 21, 2008.

5 Responses to “Accusations of Obama’s Socialism Predictably Fail to Raise Awareness of American Ignorance”

  1. Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. I enjoy reading an article defending Obama of being a socialist. The first line of argument is naming supporters of Obama that the population would be shocked to hear. First off, Warren Buffet is soo rich the presidential election honestly will not drastically affect him. Second, Colin Powell has been a conservative pretty much his whole life until he endorsed Obama recently (why wouldnt he be conservative?- they offer more money to the defense department and Colin is a military man). I sadly believe Colin is voting for Obama based on race, an act many Americans have not heard brought up in media due to its “controversy”.
    Another question for you, author, what makes Barack have “more competent judgment” than McCain. If you could explain this, it would really help me out.
    FYI and the more you know: I recently heard a “staffing specialist” on the school board, someone with about as much rank as a principal almost, in Miami say “If people don’t vote for Barack its because they are racist.” Hearing someone say, especially someone in the education department that supposedly consists of educated people, this worries me. What are Americans motives when they have to vote between a Caucasian or an African American(even if he is only half African American)?

  3. Firstly, Colin is not voting for Obama based on race. That just shows how simple-minded the right-wing punditry is getting these days. Powell showed on “Meet the Press” that he considered larger issues, not just how much Obama looks like him. And, many Americans have heard the “same race” argument. It got much media attention especially because of George Will’s interview on ABC and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. What makes anyone think Powell is all of the sudden a liberal for endorsing Obama? He is a moderate, “pragmatist” Republican who thinks McCain was swung too far to the right over the course of his campaign, and is probably worried about Palin’s candidacy. Many Republicans who ARE NOT neoconservatives are voting for Obama (such as Ken Adelman).

    Secondly, there are many examples of Obama having better judgment than McCain such as: not initially supporting the war in Iraq, not staying in Iraq indefinitely until some ill-defined victory is reached, not bizarrely trying to take credit for the first Paulson bailout plan and causing mischief in Congressional deliberations, not trying to antagonize Russia more to the point of replaying the Cold War, not itching for war with Iran, not thinking that going after $18 million of pork-barrel spending will balance the budget, not thinking that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong,” not proposing a “League of Democracies” to circumvent the consensus and conventions of the UN, not permanently supporting Bush’s tax cuts, not freezing all gov. spending except war spending, and not (self-reportedly) siding with Bush 90% of the time. Obama displayed better jugdment by NOT doing these things that McCain did.

    In contrast to McCain, Obama wants to reform the UN, has a political and military plan to draw down the Iraq war, wants to prevent the further deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan by sending more soldiers, carefully addressed the financial crisis by proposing more protection for the taxpayer and oversight of the Treasury Secretary, wants give tax breaks to businesses that keep jobs in the US, would use alternative energy to create US jobs, wants to repair the moribund infrastructure, reform healthcare by making it more accessible (which would help the mortgage crisis), put a short moratorium on home foreclosures, allow citizens to take out some penalty-free money from their retirement accounts, has a plan to improve the quality of primary education, and make college more affordable. Those are some of the things in which Obama has shown better judgment than McCain. These examples of fixing the crumbling infrastructure, making college more affordable, and improving primary education show that he has foresight even if short-term deficit spending is required. There will be positive gains in the long-run.

    And finally, that statement that not voting for Barack signifies racism is ridiculous and ignorant. Americans’ motives hopefully will involve more than race – they should involve the issues. Clearly, the economy is the deciding issue of these campaigns, and is also the issue in which Obama has dominated McCain, not only according to numerous polls of voters, but also to every economist of merit.

  4. im glad someone is educated enough to give me a good answer…even though i still disagree with you. Since when do you believe what people say on tv…people…even politicians…GASP…tend to lie and come up with “larger issues” to hide their own motives they hide from others. of course colin powell wont say he supports obama for race. well i hope this country has enough “neoconservatives” to let mccain win since they are the only ones voting for him. palin is a nonissue; vps are overrated. Biden isnt a vp candidate to brag about either. please explain how by somehow making healthcare more accessible (which would not solve the healthcare problem) would solve the mortgage problem?

  5. Colin Powell’s actions since his time in the Bush administration also indicate he is not in the same foreign policy camp as McCain. I wonder if you would have brought up the same criticism that he was lying had he endorsed McCain. His endorsement of Obama alters his legacy of not preventing the war in Iraq. Apparently he was looking for some redemption for being used by the Bush administration. There was indeed friction between him and Rumsfeld and Rice while he was Secretary of State because he was not such an ideologue. Also, if race is the only reason he endorsed Obama, it would seem that Powell had left his pragmatism behind in the dust.
    Also, The statement that Palin is a non-issue is shocking given her proud ignorance, extreme Pentecostalism, constant deceptiveness, astounding mediocrity, lack of global and scientific awareness, retrograde policies, insularity, jingoism, and xenophobia, etc. and her sudden proximity to the most powerful position in the world after Dick Cheney has amassed so much power for the Vice Presidency.
    It would be very obscurantist to balance a criticism of Palin with a criticism of Joe Biden. That would truly diminish the severity of the danger Palin poses to the world should she become President. Every honest Republican, Democrat, third party member, and independent recognizes this. Joe Biden is vastly removed from Palin when it comes to experience, articulation, and intelligence. Both parties recognize Joe Biden’s qualification to be Vice President, and certainly when contrasted to Palin.
    Finally, the number one reason people claim bankruptcy in the United States is payment of medical bills (healthcare costs). Making healthcare more affordable and accessible would help with the mortgage problem because a significant amount of money would instead go to paying the mortgages.

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