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Obama is a ______

April 15, 2011

Reading Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and Matthew’s Crowley’s excellent post on this very blog, got me thinking about the definitions of Communism, Socialism, and Capitalism. Thinking about the definitions, and how they don’t matter. Here is yet another video–yes, Fox News again–of a debate over whether Obama is a socialist.  It seems that 55% of Americans believe that Obama is a socialist. America has a long history of attaching negative connotations to the “dirty words” of capitalism and socialism.

The thing is that’s not the problem, it’s that every single person, policy, and political idea has to fall into one of these camps. It’s similar to the issue of the Democratic party and Republican party being the be-all and end-all. Issues aren’t being judged on their merit. Some Republicans will disagree with anything Obama proposes and call him a big-spending socialist. No matter that these people often don’t know enough about the issue, they are just supporting their team. George Bush didn’t exactly solve the budget deficit and cut spending either. The same goes for many Americans on the far left. In an ideal world, every issue would be looked at in a vacuum, not by who proposed or if it is socialism. The question shouldn’t be if is Obama is a socialist. It should be: do you fundamentally agree with the idea that every American has a right to basic healthcare? That people who make over $250,000 dollars should be taxed significantly more that those who don’t? If you don’t then that’s fine. But don’t dismiss an idea just because you are a Republican or a Democrat. And I apologize if this post comes off as liberally biased, but the example i always heard as a kid was that if you give a poor man $20 he spends it on food, if you give a rich man $20 he puts it in the bank. Our obsession with classification is something to think about.

4 Comments
  1. Robert Tepper permalink
    April 15, 2011 12:07 PM

    I found this post to be very interesting and I completely agree that our country is obsessed with classification. I also agree that many people don’t really know too much about the issues and side with their political party regardless of their position. Although we may be obsessed with classification, remember that it is that very obsession that keeps many Americans involved in politics who normally would not be. Political parties provide basic platforms and cue voters on certain issues. Without parties and other classifications, such as those that you mentioned (Socialism, Communism, Capitalism), I believe the majority of Americans would have little to no involvement in politics. Whether it is educated or not, the fact that people debate over these issues and classifications is what keeps the issues relevant to voters and allows changes to be made.

  2. April 15, 2011 12:43 PM

    I agree that people should judge an idea separate of the person who presented it, but to a certain degree we have to keep in mind who presented it. A persons character and track record of how they responded in the past gives indications of how they will respond in the future. I don’t believe that knocking down an idea without thought because one may not like the individual is right, but if one looks at the idea, how the presenter has gone about putting ideas into action in the past and then decides, then that is okay.

    I actually had a similar discussion with my roommate about communism/socialism. It’s a personal judgement because what one person thinks is a socialist agenda, another may not. Socialism falls in “left” spectrum, but just because you are liberal does not mean you are a socialist. The thing about Obama is, when he was elected he was the most liberal congressmen in congress so many people probably thought, “He must be a socialist”. Similarly though, if the most conservative congressman was elected others would think, “Well he’s a fascist”. I think a big reason why people call Obama a socialist is because of the health care plan. A lot of it comes from past perceptions and associations. After World War II and the instillation of communism/socialism in some European countries many of them adopted universal health care. Some members of my family during that time in Poland experienced this system and grew to loathe it, as others who eventually immigrated probably did too. For them it wasn’t just because they were more conservative, it’s because they lived through it.

  3. Bobby Marshall permalink
    April 15, 2011 6:05 PM

    I found this to be a great post and completely agree with you. I have for a long time thought that partisan politics is what is killing this country. I know family friends at home that will vote a certain way not because they actually like the candidate or believe his or her platform, but will vote for them merely because he or she is a republican or a democrat. I personally think that it is partisan politics and how loyal people are to a certain party, disregarding sometimes what the party stands for, that is killing democracy in this country. If you have a certain belief or thought you should express it and stand for it, you should’t hide behind a veil of a certain party’s platform. In the infamous words of Crosby, Stills and Nash “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

  4. Anthony Sinishtaj permalink
    April 16, 2011 1:10 AM

    I agree with this post. Our tendency to class ourselves by political parties is horrendous. I also dislike how people use a political term to make ad hominem arguments against an issue. Especially when people are so uninformed of something. For example, many times, the words “Communism would be nice if it worked” are said. However, these people have no idea about Marxism or Communism. Marxism isn’t a governmental system, but a theory of how society changes. Marx states that Capitalism is very efficient and productive. However, he states that it causes much heartache and pain to a very large group of people. On a little sidenote, Mill would be fine with these arguments, though they are very wrong.

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