Advancing a Free Society

Is President Obama Truly a Socialist?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pew Research finds that sixty percent of Americans respond negatively to “socialism.” It is clear why President Barack Obama must avoid that label. Words are important. Political candidates who control the language of political discourse win elections.

Most of our elites would certainly not entertain the question: “Is Obama a socialist?” Only irresponsible fanatics carelessly throw around such epithets, they say. Polite circles ignore such goofiness.

As someone who has professionally studied and written about comparative economics, capitalism, and socialism for almost fifty years, the reticence to probe the core beliefs of a political leader seems odd. The question is perfectly legitimate in both an academic and political context as long as we define terms and place the discussion in proper context.

By “socialist,” I do not mean a Lenin, Castro, or Mao, but whether Obama falls within the mainstream of contemporary socialism as represented, for example, by Germany’s Social Democrats, French Socialists, or Spain’s socialist-workers party?

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