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Obama Campaigned Before Socialist Group in '96


Newsletters published by the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America show President Barack Obama actively participated in a 1996 rally co-sponsored by the group and held at The University of Chicago during his first campaign for the Illinois state Senate.


The president’s defenders, including Obama himself, have sought to deflect questions about his socialist connections and dismiss them as partisan hyperbole or as guilt by association ̶ regarding his connections with William Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Frank Marshall Davis.

But an article in the March-April 2000 edition of the Chicago DSA’s newsletter, The New Ground, detailing its recommendations for the March 2000 Democratic primaries suggests the group considered Obama one of its own.

“When Obama participated in a 1996 U[niversity] of C[hicago] Y[oung] D[emocratic] S[ocialists] Townhall Meeting on Economic Insecurity, much of what he had to say was well within the mainstream of European social democracy,” Chicago DSA writer Robert Roman wrote, contrasting it with his group’s less enthusiastic recommendation of former Black Panther, Rep. Bobby Rush, saying he “hasn’t always been the ideal Congressman from a left perspective.”

Rush went on to defeat Obama in the Democratic congressional primary, handing the future president his first and only electoral defeat thus far.

Obama appeared at the Feb. 25, 1996 meeting several weeks before the March 1996 primary and endorsed ideas Roman described in the March-April 1996 edition of the New Ground as sounding” very much like the ‘social wage’ approach used by many social democratic labor parties.”

According to the Encyclopedia of Marxism, a social wage means having government “increase the benefits that workers receive via state services” rather than increasing wages, thus reducing “inequalities among workers”.

The Chicago DSA warmly endorsed Obama’s candidacy for his first term in the Illinois state Senate and praised his lack of primary opposition due to his having disqualified primary his opponents. It also suggested its members contribute to his campaign.

Obama’s involvement in the 1996 rally does not surprise noted author Paul Kengor, who details many of Barack Obama’s socialist connections in his book “Dupes.”

“This is not a surprise at all, especially given Obama’s association with people from this group, in the Chicago chapter specifically, like Dr. Quentin Young,” Kengor said.

Young played a role in the violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and testified before the Democratic-controlled House Committee on Internal Security in Oct. 1968 about his connections with the radical Students for a Democratic Society.

“Quentin Young, not coincidentally, is a major Obama supporter who has been calling for national healthcare for decades. He was there in that living room of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn in 1995 when Alice Palmer introduced a young Obama as her chosen successor. Obama knew this crowd very well,” Kengor said.

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