Say no to change through coercion

By Dan Streib

An interesting thing happened to me the other day. After planning to write a column on Obama’s associations with figures like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, I stumbled across an article referenced by National Review contributor Stanley Kurtz. In his obsession to connect Obama to these figures in condemning ways, I believe Kurtz missed some crucial points of the 1995 article in The Chicago Reader titled “What Makes Obama Run?”

Interestingly enough, the article focuses on why Obama was campaigning for a seat in the Illinois Legislature. I figured that such an article might shed some light on why Obama is involved in politics and what his ambitions are. And shedding light on Obama is precisely what it did.

Early on, The Reader states that Obama sought to move beyond the “false dichotomy” between the competing factions in the civil rights movement of integrationist policies and black nationalism. Apparently, Obama rejects both ideas in favor of a vague proposal of massive cooperation between disadvantaged communities of all races.

According to The Reader, Obama wants citizens to engage in “bottom-up democracies” at the community level (aside from electoral politics) to try and solve their problems. In full consistency with this idea, The Reader quotes Obama as rejecting the bias that America has for individual action in favor of collective action. He liked the latter and wished for some sort of change in American culture.

The Reader said he sought the Springfield seat so that he could act as a “catalyst” toward such fundamental change in his local communities. As for why he has now recently gained higher political aspirations, these Obama quotes from The Reader piece may prove enlightening:

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

“…is it possible for those of us working through the Democratic Party to figure out ways to use the political process to create jobs for our communities?”

“Any African-Americans who are only talking about racism as a barrier to our success are seriously misled if they don’t also come to grips with the larger economic forces that are creating economic insecurity for all workers – whites, Latinos, and Asians.”

“…many believe that the country is too racially polarized to build the kind of multiracial coalitions necessary to bring about massive economic change.”

“Massive economic change” is what’s needed. The Democratic Party must be used for job creation among the poor, and given the context, “larger economic forces” must be defeated to create economic security if his “bottom-up democracies” are to ever get off the ground. These were the prime motivators leading him into politics at the state level. When he couldn’t achieve the “change” he aspired to there, does it not make sense that he would move on to the national level?

The traditional conservative argument against liberalism normally highlights the fact that liberals have the same goals of economic equality as socialists, but they are less successful in bringing them about. And in their futile efforts to achieve equality through the government at a reasonable cost, they end up merely contributing to an ever-present and ever-dangerous government largess.

Such arguments, however, fail to work against Obama. For Obama, liberal policy is just a means to an end: the end of creating conditions ripe for massive community action – something that he hints at throughout his current political rhetoric.

Yet, Obama won’t fully tell Americans the ambitions he used to be so open about – they might not like it. They might remember America’s long list of individual freedoms and her long history of individual achievement and self-reliance. They might be afraid to be turned into one of the followers of his cult who enjoy groupthink sessions at his religious … oops, I mean political … rallies. In fact, given those fears, they might vote McCain. So, Obama keeps mum about his ideas, and Americans continue to blindly follow a leader they know nothing about.

Although it’s sad prospect to consider, if McCain can’t win, we can always hope that Obama’s cultural change stays limited to his followers. That way, the rest of us can continue to work together when we are inclined to, rather than when we are coerced.

Dan is a sophomore in political science who wishes he was known nationwide as “Joe the Plumber.”