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“Obama is a socialist!”  No, I certainly don’t think so, but my quotation marks might imply that someone else said so.  But, of course, many people have said so.  Sarah Palin recently said so on Fox News, countless Tea Party types have screamed so, and the recent Republican presidential candidates clearly implied so too.  Without addressing the merits of calling the statement an insult, it’s hard to get past the absurdity of calling it true.

During a recent December 13th interview with the Miami television network Noticias Univision 23, President Obama asserted that "the truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream, that if I had set the same policies that I have back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”  While I’m not convinced that Obama would have been a moderate Republican thirty years ago, the intervening extreme ‘right’ shift of that party clearly leaves him not belonging within it today.

On several occasions, I’ve asked some of my Republican friends what ‘far left’ policies advanced by President Obama have led to their belief in his extremism.  Without exception, I’ve heard no clear response.  

Whether it’s caused by fear mongering from Fox News and the rest of the ‘far right’ media, whether it’s caused by some unfortunate bias toward the man himself, or whether something else, or some combination of things, have caused it, there is a widespread fear about what President Obama will someday do or what he ‘would do if he could.’  It’s not derived from any analysis of his past words or actions, but from some strange sort of mass assumption.  It’s hard to debate or debunk an assumption that doesn’t require the support of facts or evidence.

The relevant facts, and the weight of the evidence, point toward a man, and a leader, with a classic moderate approach to advancing similarly moderate policies.

When Republicans do manage to assert evidence of the liberal Obama, they most often cite the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  But, the Act, more commonly known as ‘Obamacare,’ was certainly no creation from the liberal ‘left.’  The general structure of the changed healthcare system that the Act will create was first advanced by conservatives that viewed the use of an ‘individual mandate,’ coupled with private insurance, as an alternative to ‘socialized medicine.’  They asserted that the mandate would prevent the problem of “free loaders” that don’t pay their own share of the country’s growing healthcare costs.

Of course, Obamacare was modeled on ‘Romneycare,’ the Massachusetts healthcare system advanced by its former Republican Governor, Mitt Romney.  The same system had also been strongly supported by the conservative Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich until President Obama and Congressional Democrats decided to adopt its approach.  

In the process of passing the Obamacare legislation, the President never seriously promoted the more progressive approaches represented by the proposed public insurance option or a single payer system.  The President’s proposal, and the ultimate legislation, was the moderate approach reflected in Obamacare that had its roots within the conservative Republican establishment.      

With the liberal Obamacare argument debunked, my conservative friends would likely move on to the famous ‘Stimulus Plan.’  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed at a time when the overwhelming majority of economists believed that massive economic spending stimulus was needed for the country to prevent something akin to a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The stimulus bill advanced by President Obama involved half, or less, of the spending that many of the President’s economic advisers thought necessary.  Many commentators still today argue that greater stimulus is needed for the struggling economy.  Not surprisingly, the President took the moderate ‘middle of the road’ approach.

Of course, any mention of the ‘Stimulus’ would probably be followed by an objection to the great ‘Bailouts.’  Yet, TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program) was passed during the presidency of George W. Bush.  During the time of great fear about possible greater economic disaster, the Obama Administration did continue the ‘bailout’ process for certain key American industries.  The Administration’s rescue of the American auto industry was initially opposed by many conservatives, such as Mitt Romney, who have since embraced it as a success.  

I’ve also heard the argument that President Obama’s extreme liberal lean was evidenced by his previous support for a ‘cap-and-trade’ emissons control policy for greenhouse gases.  Of course, many prominent Republicans also supported that proposed plan before it became more politically safe and fashionable for Republicans to disagree with the vast majority of scientists in the field and to deny the evidence of human influenced climate change.  The previous Republican support was probably due to the cap-and-trade system’s roots in conservative market-based policies rather than a use of the principal alternative of a direct ‘pollution tax.’  Once again, President Obama supported the moderate, or possibly conservative, approach of the market-based system.

While addressing his environmental approach, it might be noted that in 2011, President Obama halted the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to impose new air pollution limits because he believed that it might upset the country’s ongoing economic recovery.  That act was very upsetting to many environmentalists and progressives.

During the televised ‘Foreign Policy Debate’ prior to the recent presidential election, the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, voiced little disagreement with any of the foreign policy positions or actions of the Obama Administration.  The Administration has not shied away from conflict and it has not been reluctant to flex our country’s military muscle.  

Many progressives complained when the Bush Administration, urged by Senator John McCain, began an extensive ‘troop surge’ in Iraq.  Several years later, the Obama Administration used the same ‘surge’ approach in Afghanistan.  

The Obama Administration has increased the use of ‘drone’ killings and has heightened the hunt for our country’s enemies.  Most famously, President Obama ordered the strike that killed Osama Bin Laden.  

President Obama’s first Secretary of Defense was a Republican, Robert Gates, who had served in the same position under President Bush.  Heading into his second term, Obama is considering appointing another Republican, Chuck Hagel, as the new Secretary of Defense.  

Given the recent horrible mass killing of children in a school in Newtown, Connecticut, the many issues of gun control are a subject of much current discussion.  Despite the assumptions and fear of many gun enthusiasts, possibly the only gun-related legislation signed into law by President Obama during his first term was a measure that permits firearms within national parks and wildlife refuges.  Any likely restrictions during his second term would probably go no further than reinstating the assault-rifle ban that previously existed, limiting the number of bullets allowed in a gun clip and requiring greater background checks for gun buyers.  In other words, the Administration will probably continue its moderate approach to gun policy.  

Also prominently within the current news is the fight over the future of American fiscal policy.  We are approaching the imminent ‘fiscal cliff,’ and the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that it would bring.  Congressional Republicans appear to be unable to pass any compromise that would include even a single dollar of tax increases on annual income in the millions of dollars.  The top marginal tax rates are at near historic lows.  In 1944 and 1945, the top rate was 94%.  The current top rate is 35% and President Obama has proposed returning the top rate to the 39% rate that applied at the end of the presidency of Bill Clinton.  All other rates would remain at their current low levels.  Additionally, President Obama has joined many Republicans in proposing to cut the tax rates applicable to corporations.  

Despite the current historically great gap between America’s rich and its poor and middle class, President Obama has proposed or supported many spending cuts that include cuts to the entitlement programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, that are relied upon by the least well off.  To save $223 Billion over the next 10 years, Obama has agreed to changes to the way Social Security and other benefits are indexed for inflation.  His concession of those benefit reductions has greatly upset many progressives.  The President has proposed many more spending cuts and has made it clear that no progressive programs are ‘off the table’ when it comes to the impending cuts.  

President Obama surely does have more progressive beliefs than his Republican counterparts on a variety of social issues, such as abortion rights and gay marriage.  Yet, the first term repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was also supported by many moderate Republicans.  Recent polling has shown that a majority of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage.  Given that majority, the president’s support for marriage equality can rightly be seen as the stance of a moderate.  

The caricature of the socialist Obama is absurd, but it is emblematic of an increasingly right-wing Republican establishment that still believes that it is the moderate party of Eisenhower and Ford, but regularly demonizes those that still fit that mold.  Our country would benefit from a Republican Party that has returned to its roots and a Democratic Party that is not alone in its moderation and that might even lean ‘left’ again.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You know what's disgusting? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chicago minx, Gooserock, blueoasis

    I've had this exact conversation with so many right wingers it's insane.  The only ones that actually argue half way decently are libertarians, but they're bat shit in general.  They think anything that isn't people living in the trees by themselves with no government is fascism.

    "Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die," - Buddha.

    by sujigu on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 05:35:21 PM PST

    •  When you really question libertarians they (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock, Renee

      crumble.  I tell them to try living in Somalia.

      "Maybe we should march on the campus of the electoral college and occupy it until they change their vote"--some wingnut, Worldnetdaily

      by chicago minx on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 05:51:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I prefer Angola (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chicago minx

        Somalia they can always quip back that it's theocratic.

        "Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die," - Buddha.

        by sujigu on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 06:06:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  . (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloraLine, chicago minx, Renee

        libertarians are so naive its pathetic.  They love the 'idea' of free markets with no or little government but don't understand that the money power always endeavors to monopolize without effective government policy to stop it (we don't have any effective policy these days).  We are as close to 'free markets' as is possible right now and it is closer to franchised fascist monopoly model than anything resembling a free and competitive market.

        "History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance." -James Madison

        by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 08:34:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Agree with a single small exception (5+ / 0-)
    President Obama’s first Secretary of Defense was a Republican, Bill Gates,
    Bill Gates turned out to be pretty liberal.  Robert Gates would be the Republican SoD.

    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

    by shrike on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 05:46:16 PM PST

  •  It's Not About Confusion, It's About Window Moving (8+ / 0-)

    They don't mistakenly think he's an actual communist. Not their leaders and pundits. They know perfectly well he's a conservative.

    Rather, they're working to establish Obama's solid conservatism as being radically far left beyond the boundaries of what should be permissible in this country in policy and messaging.

    Today we have Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The right wants those and many other programs completely terminated. When they achieve that, Obama's conservative willingness to merely cut into such programs yet keep them going will be too socialistic for the country.

    They could never have tried to move the overton window so far to the right in one move except under a first Black President.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 05:50:39 PM PST

  •  This is all because Noam Chomsky is no longer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Renee, A Citizen, MrWebster

    on tee-vee. It's easy to get confused about leftists when they're as visible as unicorns.

  •  Tell me, please: What is the difference between... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stevej, blueoasis

    ...being an "Extreme Moderate," right now, versus being a supporter of "The Third Way?"

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 06:01:45 PM PST

  •  Correction (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    winsock, gramofsam1, LaurenMonica
    President Obama’s first Secretary of Defense was a Republican, Bill Gates, who had served in the same position under President Bush.
    Bob Gates is considered a Republican but he is not a registered Republican.
    KING: There's been some talk of keeping Secretary Gates on for some time. Is that acceptable to you?

    REID: Sure. I think we need a good transition there. I am confident that Senator Obama has somebody in mind for secretary of defense but Gates -- you know, it's interesting, my conversation with Secretary Gates, he's not even a Republican. Why wouldn't we want to keep him? He's never been a registered Republican.

    The choice of our lifetime: Mitt Romney, It Takes A Pillage or President Barack Obama, Forward Together.

    by FiredUpInCA on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 06:12:37 PM PST

  •  I don't have any documentation on this. (7+ / 0-)

    But this

    what he ‘would do if he could.’
    reminded me of conversations I have had with several southern relatives. I thought it was weird the way they said it, and each conversation I heard it in was worded the same way.

    Then I read The Black Jacobins and there was a discussion about the horrible atrocities the slave holders used to subjugate the human beings they controlled. It was noted that the slave holders were deeply afraid of the slaves because they were convinced they would return the brutality. You know, projection. In the book the wording that the slave holders used to express this fear was the same as your quote above.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 06:39:00 PM PST

  •  Obama is no Socialist (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, misslegalbeagle

    And he's not a communist, a fascist or a Nazi, all of which he's been called by his opponents.

    I think Obama is right about where he stands.

    I've said before that if he had run for the Illinois Senate in Des Plaines instead of Chicago, he'd have been quite comfortable doing so as a Republican.

  •  Yet the other day ppl here were setting their hair (0+ / 0-)

    on fire over this because Pres. Obame refuted the ridiculous idea that he was a socialist.

    I think many forget that there was a time when Liberal Republicans were more progressive than Blue Dog Democrats. But nowadays thanks to the purist TeaBaggers, Liberal Republicans are now an endangered species within their party. Sad isnt it?

    "Rick Perry talks a lot and he's not very bright. And that's a combination I like in Republicans." --- James Carville

    by LaurenMonica on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:31:30 AM PST

  •  There is another illusion (0+ / 0-)

    Good post.  I have had the same argument with wingers--by what policies did Obama show he was a socialist.  The arguments usually devolve to a right wing anarchism where any use of government is defined as socialism.

    But the other illusion to mention is that many Democrats believe him to be progressive or a  traditional New Deal liberal. It is the same illusion as right wingers, but not as extreme.  

    During the election the Obama team effectively portrayed Rommey as a plutocrat--which he is.  Of course many Democrats then filled in the other part of that equation--Obama must therefore be the anti-plutocrat.

    Two weeks after Obama won re-election, HSBC is given nothing but a fine for engaging in blatant criminal activity.

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