Obama's connection to the Democratic Socialists of America: Is it relevant?

Barack Obama’s connections to the Democratic Socialists of America (check out some of the recommended readings at this link) has been the topic of much scrutiny just in recent days. As far as I know, this was first reported by a New Zealand based libertarian blogger, New Zeal, back in January, 2008.
The New Zeal site has a weath of background on the DSA and an affiliated socialist group called the New Party. Newsbusters reports that to be an approved candidate, one had to sign a contract and agreement with the party’s socialist objectives.
Obama sought the endorsement of the New Party for his 1996 state senate race and was referred to as a member by the Populist. After his victory, the Democratic Socialist newsletter indicated that Obama attended the New Party convention to thank them for their support and help.

New Party Update
by Bruce Bentley
The Chicago New Party is increasely becoming a viable political organization that can make a different in Chicago politics. It is crucial for a political organization to have a solid infrastructure and visible results in its political program. The New Party has continued to solidify this base.
First, in relation to its infrastructure, the NP’s membership has increased since January ’95 from 225 to 440. National membership has increased from 5700 in December ’95 to 7000. Currently the NP’s fiscal balance is $7,000 and receives an average of $450/month is sustainer donations.
Secondly, the NP’s ’96 Political Program has been enormously successful with 3 of 4 endorsed candidates winning electoral primaries. All four candidates attended the NP membership meeting on April 11th to express their gratitude. Danny Davis, winner in the 7th Congressional District, invited NPers to join his Campaign Steering Committee. Patricia Martin, who won the race for Judge in 7th
Subcircuit Court, explained that due to the NP she was able to network and get experienced advice from progressives like Davis. Barack Obama, victor in the 13th State Senate District, encouraged
NPers to join in his task forces on Voter Education and Voter Registration.

Notice what Obama’s task force work was – voter education and registration. Eventually, that work was with ACORN, who is the center of fraud investigations in 10 states now.
A bit more insight into the DSA/New Party ideology can be found in their purpose statement:

The purpose of The Corporation shall be to organize the activities of the members of the Democratic Socialists of America. Its activities shall include education and advocacy. We share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships.

Back in March of this year, the DSA became aware of the flap over Obama’s connections first reported in January. Writer Bob Roman provided this perspective on interest in Obama’s DSA/New Party roots:

This is interesting if you’re an extreme right-wing ideologue of if you’re a DSA member. It probably doesn’t mean much for mainstream politics. Right-wing bloggers have discovered Chicago DSA’s 1996 endorsement of Obama for the Illinois State Senate and Obama’s participation that same year in a University of Chicago Young Democratic Socialists townhall meeting on “Economic Insecurity”. This news started in New Zealand (it is the world wide web indeed) where a local libertarian has been obsessing over Chicago DSA’s links to mainstream Chicago politics. The news gradually (by web standards) spread to right-wing blogs here in the States. It even managed to pop up in a few conservative mainstream venues. More recently, the conservative Accuracy In Media combined this with some juicy Communist Party associations (communist mentor unmasked!) and threw it out as an example of how the news media has a liberal bias for not reporting the story.
Of course, many right-wingers had been convinced Obama is a “socialist” already. If you’re wondering why, it’s mostly because the term “socialist” for these folks has about as much content as “fascist” does for many lefties; it’s an insult not a description. So the news from New Zealand was greeted with an “Aha” by these folks more than anything else.
Much of this noise sounds pretty nice to lefty ears; you can’t buy this kind of publicity. But as it’s all been on right-wing sites, not too many folks bother to follow up on the links, even when they were provided.
On the other hand, this ten day wonder had been pretty much ignored by the left. Until recently when In These Times ran a story warning of the eventual “Red-Boating” of Obama should he win the Democrat’s nomination for President. They probably have it wrong. For influencing more than a handful of voters, the story has no legs. But because DSA and “socialism” generally has become a hate object among the sort of folks who blow-up Federal office buildings and reproductive health clinics (or would like to), the eventual implications for Barack Obama (and for the country) may be far more serious.

Well, I don’t want to blow up any buildings or health clinics but I do think a candidate’s intellectual and political philosophy matters. I don’t hate socialists but I do not want to live in a socialist nation. As Rudolph Penner said yesterday on C-Span, capitalism is not perfect but the alternatives have been worse.
I spoke to a former Hillary support this morning who said she believes her party has been taken over by the far left wing of the party. The party has left behind the centrists. Obama’s leftist heritage matters a lot to her.
As Joe Biden said in the VP debate, “past is prologue.” What does Barack Obama’s affiliation with the far left, socialist New Party say about the prologue of an Obama administration? What in his background and political record says he will now move to the center, and unite the nation? Will someone mentored by the DSA best lead us from economic crisis?
These are fair questions and I am getting increasingly frustrated that the mainstream media will not ask the Obama campaign about these issues. If Obama has moved away from his early mentoring, I would like to hear how, why and when it happened. Wouldn’t you?

24 thoughts on “Obama's connection to the Democratic Socialists of America: Is it relevant?”

  1. Howard,
    My sense of Barak Obama is that he is still living in the “wonder years” of life. It seems like all the issues are “new” to him and he is seeing them and hearing them for the first time and responds to them as though the impact of them hasn’t yet registered. He says what people want to hear and knows it temporarily soothes them, without having the real wisdom or intelligence to know how to be pro-active with offering sustainable solutions. It is really interesting to see how people respond to him with such fervor based on a philosophy that enables them rather than empowers them.

    A far left Media …
    A far left President …
    A far left Congress …
    A far left Senate …
    A far left Supreme Court …
    This would eliminate all the checks and
    balances that our democracy is based upon.
    Barack Obama formed his political and economic
    ideology, and his radical associations, during the
    TWENTY YEARS … yes, that’s TWENTY YEARS … when
    he followed Marxist Black Liberation Theology, in
    Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American, racist church.
    And, now, with our country on the brink of depression,
    Obama wants to impose new laws which would change
    America into a third world country.
    You may be upset with George Bush, but in spite
    of Obama’s slogans, John McCain is NOT George Bush …
    so don’t over react to Obama’s 600 million dollar
    Propaganda campaign designed to highjack America !!!
    A vote for Obama is a vote for changing America beyond
    recognition … and, it would be a vote for voter fraud,
    a corrupt media, socialism, and the end to America as we know it.
    Keep America free, strong, safe, and American …
    Elect McCain/Palin on November 4th.

  3. I’m hoping my friend Jason doesn’t mind me re-posting his words from his blog here – but I think some people will enjoy listening to this – assuming you haven’t already heard it:
    “Very briefly on economics
    Back in May, the best show on the radio, This American Life, dedicated an entire episode to the most comprehensive and comprehensible explanation of the Housing Crisis I have heard. The popularity of this episode has spawned a new podcast and blog on NPR–Planet Money. One particular entry, “Who Can I Blame?” is particularly timely as the McCain/Obama show attempts to entertain us with stories about how the other is to blame and how they themselves are not.
    Good reading although I don’t know if I can go along with the bit about how other countries share the blame for limiting investment. Part of me reads that as “shame on you for being wary of the possibly corrosive affects of the Global Economy and exercising some of the same regulations that may have kept us out of this mess.” But I could be wrong.”

  4. Warren,
    Just curious – how many corporate scandals have we seen over the last decade that had nothing to do with government interference??? Greed, corruption, scandal, marketplace – all words that seem forever a part of what Capitalism has to do with. When the end all be all of things is the dollar, people suffer. We’ve seen it happen too much throughout history. That you defend such a practice is somewhat deplorable. Nothing about Christianity suggests that it would ever embrace a purely capitalist system.

  5. Speaking of housing bubble…
    Man who earns $14,000 per year approved for $720,000 mortgage

    Despite making only $14,000 a year, strawberry picker Alberto Ramirez managed to buy his own slice of the American Dream. But his Hollister home came with a hefty price tag – $720,000. A year and a half later, Ramirez has defaulted on his loan, and he’s hoping to sell the house before it’s repossessed.

  6. Eddy – I disagree. The last few weeks has been what happens when government interferes with markets.
    The housing market works like most markets – supply and demand. The government encouraged lenders to relax rules so that people who normally couldn’t afford homes could get them. The demand for homes, artificially ignited by the govt intervention, grew and housing prices boomed. Eventually, people could not pay their mortgages and defaulted, leading to lots of empty homes. Builders were building them faster then people could get into them. We now have a glut and much lower prices. There is more to the current credit crisis than that but the root of it is too much govt intervention. Intentions were good, no doubt, but the consequences were ruinous.
    Since govt messed it up, I believe govt will need to take steps to fix it but as a rule, I want less socialism not more.

  7. Hillbilly-
    My blog handle is ‘Eddy’ not ‘Ed’.
    I believe, over the past few decades–and especially in the last few weeks, we’ve seen-and are seeing-what happens when capitalism goes bad. While capitalism is quite obviously a plausible system, it, like socialism, falls victim to people who exploit the spirit of the system to their own gain.
    I’m willing to entertain that capitalism needs an infusion of socialist concerns to bring out its best.

  8. Maybe you should be focusing on McCain’s outright racism. After all their campaigning that has stirred up the mobs to fever pitch, one of McCain’s supporters said she feared Obama because he was an Arab. McCain corrected her by saying that no he isn’t, he’s a good man and a good family man. As if Arabs aren’t! So, we’re supposed to believe that Arabs are terrible people who are horrible parents.
    The last thing this country needs is a racist for a president. The last thing we need is someone who gets into office by stirring up mobs into a frenzy. The last thing we need is someone who focuses on irrelevant issues while the country burns.

  9. Legolas,
    I found some reports in the meanwhile.
    I couldn’t believe it when I heard about it because firstly it’s unacceptable and secondly it’s tactically mistaken to put Obama on the spot as an endangered candidate.

  10. Warren – No, nobody from the McCain campaign is calling for harm to Obama. However, I haven’t seen any evidence anyone has been removed from the rallies for their violent comments, and until yesterday there was no confrontation of these comments during rallies. And, it’s pretty clear these sentiments stem in part from such careless comments as claiming Obama “pals around with terrorists.”
    It’s also not a good sign when, despite repeated condemnations from the McCain campaign, speakers at his rallies continue to invoke “Barack Hussein Obama” in a demeaning way – I believe it’s happened twice just this last week. This is worrisome not only as a sign of what key McCain supporters “really think,” or at least really think will work as red meat for rally attendees, but also as a sign that McCain isn’t in very good control of his own campaign.

  11. Warren

    I don’t support Obama but life will go on if he is elected.

    According to David Walker, the nation’s Comptroller General and head of the GAO you are correct.
    Both McCain and Obama’s economic plans put the country in a significantly worse economic situation.

    If you look at year 2013 — so we give a little time for their policies to work, five years out — there is less than a one-tenth of 1 percent of GDP difference between the two.

    The country is set to go bankrupt in 2040 (before we count the bailouts or nationalized healthcare or amnesty for illegals). When asked what either candidate is doing to address the nation’s growing $50-plus trillion financial black hole Walked responded, “Zip. Zip,”
    Ex-U.S. Comptroller: Candidates’ Fiscal Plans ‘Zip’

  12. Lynn David – Nope didn’t see the Wildmo(a)n letter.
    I don’t support Obama but life will go on if he is elected. However, the questions about his mentoring and affiliations are natural when someone has such a short public history. It really is amazing that the nation may elect someone who was community organizing just over a decade ago. Ronald Reagan started out as a democrat and had a political conversion. However, he talked openly about it. Obama is not as far as I can tell.
    Legolas – No one from the McCain camp is calling for harm against Obama. Some people who show up at the rally’s have been irrational and they should be removed from the premises. The same is true for people who attend the Obama rallies.

  13. Have you seen Donald Wildmon’s recent AFA letter, Warren? I got it yesterday and your somewhat desperate demeanor in this post seemed to echo Wildmon’s letter. Just wondering.

    The upcoming election is the most critical election in the history of our nation. The very future of our nation’s foundation is at stake. Every person will be affected. If the liberals win, then our foundation will no longer be based on the traditional Judeo-Christian morality. It will gradually but assuredly be based on an ever shifting, ever moving foundation. If the liberals win, the damage can’t be stopped with elections two, four or forty years from now. America will forever be changed. We will keep seeing a gradual and growing hostility toward people of faith, especially Christians. The morals of our nation will continue to decline. Our children and grandchildren will pay the price.

    And his lies concering a certain agenda went on from there.

  14. Then on the other hand McCain suddenly came off his attack posture today (when polls showed the attacks were setting him back?) and said Obama would make a fine president (or some such similar words). That brought boo’s and hisses from his own supporters. It appeared that saying only he, McCain, would make a better president didn’t necessarily placate the crowd.
    Can’t seem to win for losing.

  15. You’re not a socialist, Warren? Then what’s up with mental health parity? Why should a person be forced to pay for coverage in a health insurance policy which he does not want? If one is cock-sure they don’t need mental health coverage, why force them to buy it? From a monetary standpoint that’s either socialism or purely capitalist greed on the part of mental health professionals.
    But in general the neoconservative right has so brainwashed itself that anyone that doesn’t absolutely measure up is a communist, marxist, or socialist. By that standard, McCain had to be rehabilitated over the last eight years to measure up to the Rovian standard.
    It seems, however, that it made McCain meaner and I do mention that in a mental health context. From what I have read of his attitude and the anger he has portrayed I don’t think McCain has the demeanor for one suited to be president. Prefunctorily dismissing a relative of a MIA soldier who had comee to see him and pushing her into the wall? I knew soft-spoken accountant who became mean in his last years, becoming a threat to his own family. This is not the kind of person one makes a president.

  16. Legolas wrote:
    people are uncontestedly calling for Obama’s death at Republican rallies
    Could you provide some evidence for this?

  17. Are we really talking about Obama’s ties to Democratic Socialists when people are uncontestedly calling for Obama’s death at Republican rallies?

  18. As much as I despise Socialism and have no doubt that Obama is a leftist the Bush/Paulson bailout just pushed America closer to Socialism (and massive inflation) than any Democrat since FDR.
    I suppose Obama could push us the rest of the way by nationalizing the health care industry and unionizing much of the workforce.
    Don’t think he won’t try.
    Employee Free Choice Act
    It’s going to be impossible to stop this kind of stuff with a Congress, Senate and Presidency in Democrat hands. I almost forgot, the Dems will pass an amnesty program far to the left of what Bush wanted. And like most Americans of all political stripes I didn’t like Bush’s plan. Bush’s plan would have encouraged massive illegal immigration just like Reagan’s amnesty in the 80s. What’s Obama’s plan going to be like? DOH!!

  19. Ed – What flavor is the kool-aid?
    I think a crash course in the relative advantages of Marxism versus capitialism is order.
    It would be nice to simply redistribute all the wealth but whose vision of fairness would we use to do so?
    With Obama, we wish have planned socialism. He will tax those making more than 250,000 and use it to pay ACORN employees and the like.
    If coerced redistribution of wealth is your thing then Obama is your man.

  20. Warren–
    In your opening paragraph, you suggested that we check out the recommended reading on the Democratic Socialists website. I’m wondering, did you check them out yourself or did you stumble over that word ‘socialist’ in the titles?
    I’ve checked out about half of them so far and they are actually links to articles, statements or pamphlets that clarify the views of the Democratic Socialists. You seem to be majoring on the word ‘socialist’ with all the negative associations it has carried rather than catching that the ‘democratic’ modifier is significant to their name and their vision.
    Their principal message seems to be that capitalism, while great in theory, tips the scales in favor of the wealthy. Not only do the wealthy have their high-paying jobs, big houses, multiple cars BUT their money has also given them a bigger voice in governmental issues and policies. The equality prescribed by ‘one vote, one voice’ simply doesn’t play out. The money voice has already decreed what the issues are that we get to vote for…who the candidates are that we get to vote for. And, surprise, surprise…the benefits trickle up to the wealthy more than they trickle down to the middle and lower class.
    One memorable example is how much money we’ve committed to highways so that the wealthy could work and shop downtown but then drive their gas-guzzlers to their suburban dream homes. At the same time, we’ve committed very little by comparison to public transportation while we’ve steadily been driving the jobs and the value-priced retail out of the city.
    I noticed this inequity when I was unemployed a few years ago. Yes, there were lots of jobs but you simply couldn’t get there by mass transit. Stores and restaurants that are ‘affordable’ on a lower middle class income such as mine have been dwindling in the downtown areas replaced by ‘upscale’ retailers and restaurants.
    If this is the kind of inequity that Obama hopes to address if he becomes president, he’s got my support.

  21. Past is Prologue.
    Of course it is relevant. It may not be reason enough not to vote for him, in fact it may help some folks feel better, but either way it is relevant.
    We should know what the candidates believe and how they came to these beliefs (regarding their political philosophy) since they seek the highest political office in our nation. If there is a connection to the socialist’s we have a right to know and he has an obligation to air it out and remove any doubt it creates.

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