Over the weekend I wrote about Barack Obama's involvement in the New Party as a dues-paying member. I followed up with an article on Noam Chomsky's take
(circa 1997) on where the New Party belonged on the political
continuum. Chomsky said the New Party was aimed at creating "some kind
of social democratic version of state capitalism." As I explained,
"social democracy" is a species of socialism which is fairly common in
Europe, though it has been on the decline in recent years.
Further evidence that Obama fit right in with this brand of
Euro-socialism can be found in another endorsement he received back in
2000. The Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Obama when
he ran against Bobby Rush. Actually, the DSA endorsed Obama and Rush,
but the basis of the Obama endorsement is interesting:
Barak [sic] Obama is serving only his second term in the Illinois
State Senate so he might be fairly charged with ambition, but
the same might have be said of Bobby Rush when he ran against
Congressman Charles Hayes. Obama also has put in time at the grass
roots, working for five years as a community organizer in Harlem
and in Chicago. When Obama participated in a 1996 UofC YDS Townhall
Meeting on Economic Insecurity, much of what he had to say was
well within the mainstream of European social democracy. To volunteer,
call... [emphasis added]
The 1996 meeting on Economic Insecurity is something we've known
about for a while. Last month Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski uncovered an
ad from the local Hyde Park paper advertising the talk.
But notice that the Democratic Socialists of America suggested
Obama's talk was right in line with "European social democracy." Again,
that's exactly where Noam Chomsky placed the New Party in his
contemporaneous description. So if Obama talks like a social democrat
and joined a social democratic party, it's probably safe to conclude he
was a social democrat at this time.
Now if you're paying very close attention, you may notice that the New
Party (and Obama) are described as social democrats, while the DGA
bills itself as democratic socialists. What's the difference? A few
weeks ago, I came across a video by a member of the Democratic
Socialists of America. His name is Joseph Schwartz, and he's a professor
of political science at Temple University. He's also one of the people
who was part of the 1996 "Economic Insecurity" event with Barack Obama
mentioned above. Here's what Professor Schwartz had to say about
social democracy and democratic socialism in a recent lecture:
Professor Schwartz puts on an entertaining and interesting presentation. You can view the entire unedited clip here.
I think the takeaway with regard to the President is that social
democrats, like the New Party, are not anti-capitalist per se, but they
do believe in government driving the engine of capitalism. This is arguably consistent with much of what Obama has done and said as President in the last three years, from government control of private health insurance to aggressive new EPA regulations to the failed attempt at "Cap and Trade."
Obviously, there is a continuum of political views which makes it difficult to define where one view begins and another ends. That said, the evidence suggests that, at one point
not so very long ago, Obama identified himself with (and was identified
by other socialists as being in line with) Euro-style social democracy.