Why Is Stanley Kurtz Calling Obama a Socialist?

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by Jamelle Bouie

Stanley Kurtz looks at Barack Obama and sees the specter of Karl Marx:

But the fact is that a lot of Radical-in-Chief is about good old fashioned Marxism. There's the story of Reverend Wright's adventures in Cuba, for example, which drew Obama to Wright's church, I claim. And Obama himself was a revolutionary Marxist at Occidental College. Also, many of the Swedish-style socialist organizers who trained and sponsored Obama supported Marxist regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua. Alice Palmer, who chose Obama to be her successor in the Illinois State Senate, was a fan of the Soviet Union. Bill Ayers often wears the red star.

Kurtz, if you're not familiar with his work, is a loyal soldier of the conservative movement. And for the last few years, he has devoted himself to exposing Obama's socialism and radical beliefs. As you can imagine, this is shoddy work. To wit: his definition of socialist is impossibly broad--encompassing everything from European social democrats to Rubinite neo-liberals--and his scant evidence comes from tenuous links and huge generalizations about Obama's motivations and drive. In Kurtz's narrative, Obama joined Jeremiah Wright's church out of Marxist solidarity and not the stated combination of professional obligation and spiritual need.

The truth, as we all know, is that Obama is a conventional American liberal, and like most conventional American liberals, Obama wants to account and compensate for the market's failures. The Affordable Care Act, financial reform--these aren't nefarious plots for socialist domination, they are attempts at reforming capitalism to save it.

Of course,he interesting question here isn't, "Is Barack Obama a socialist," it's "Why does Stanley Kurtz believe Barack Obama is a socialist, despite all evidence to the contrary?"

My guess? A well-intentioned effort to stop political opponents with cries of socialism and tyranny has transformed into an unreality, where Kurtz (and his allies) believe--honestly--that Obama is a step away from dictators past. Fred Clark, one of my favorite bloggers, describes this as the consequence of bearing false witness against one's neighbor:

What may start out as a well-intentioned choice to "fight dirty" for a righteous cause gradually forces the bearers of false witness to behave as though their false testimony were true. This is treacherous -- behaving in accord with unreality is never effective, wise or safe. Ultimately, the bearers of false witness come to believe their own lies. They come to be trapped in their own fantasy world, no longer willing or able to separate reality from unreality. Once the bearers of false witness are that far gone it may be too late to set them free from their self-constructed prisons.

This fits Kurtz--and most of the conservative movement--perfectly.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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