The Real Obama: Forget the Constitution, Economic "Justice" Demands Redistribution of Wealth

Now we know. We’ve finally achieved clarity with Barack Hussein Obama.

It hasn’t been easy.

Ever since his campaign got off the ground, people–some people, anyway–have asked: “Who is this guy? What does he really stand for? Why aren’t people more concerned about what he really believes? There is so much we don’t know about his early years. Why, for example, has he refused to release his records from Columbia University when he was a student there? What about his twenty years as a regular congregant in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church?”


This was no nominal church affiliation, remember: it was a close spiritual filiation. Wright married the Obamas. Obama made a $20,000 contribution to Wright’s church in 2006. Yet Wright is an incendiary, anti-American radical who urged his parishioners to say “God damn America” and thinks HIV is a government plot to kill blacks.

And what about Obama’s alliance–and it is an “alliance,” not just an “association”–with the bomber William Ayers? Sure, Obama said he barely knew him, that he was just a “guy in the neighborhood,” but thanks to the labors of journalists like Stanley Kurtz, we know that Obama’s political career began in Ayers’s living room, where he had his first fund-raiser in 1995, and that the two worked closely together for years in a variety of radical initiatives in Chicago.

For reasons that I find difficult to comprehend, such elements in Obama’s political DNA so far seem to have made little impression on the public at large. People cannot seem to get their minds around the implications of these alliances. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they cannot get their hearts around it: they so want to affirm Obama that evidence that conflicts with their affection just doesn’t register. Obama says he is on the side of the middle class. People believe him.


All that, I suspect, is about to change, and change fast. Credulity is a wonderful thing. So long as you maintain the illusion of benevolence, all is well. Once that begins to crack, the façade shatters and disillusionment rushes in like a tempest-driven tide. A 2001 interview with Illinois State Senator Barack Obama on WBEZ radio has just surfaced (I link to it below: h/t The Drudge Report). The topic was the triumphs and failures of the Civil Rights movement. It is an instructive interview, remarkable for its clarity. Here at last you witness the real Barack Obama. The sound you hear in the background is the cracking of Obama’s nimbus of benevolent moderation. This is not “change we can believe in.” It is left-wing radicalism aimed at the foundations of the American system of government.

Here’s what Obama said:

Yes, the civil-rights movement had its victories. It “vested formal rights in previously dispossessed people.” Now, said Obama, anyone could vote, anyone could sit at the lunch counter and eat–as long as he could pay for it.

But what if he couldn’t pay for it?

Obama didn’t explicitly ask the question, but it was implied by his invocation of “formal” rights–that’s left-wing law-speak (they get it from Marx) for “bourgeois,” “insufficient,” “bad.” What people like Obama and Ayers want are not “formal” rights, but substantive ones: e.g., not equality of opportunity, but equality of result.


Hence Obama’s invocation in his next sentence of “political and economic justice.”

Political justice we know: it means equality before the law. The figure of justice on court houses used to be blindfolded (is she still?) because justice, if it is just, is impartial . But what is economic justice? That would require Justice to pull aside the blindfold and top-up your bank account if had less than others.

Bottom line for Obama? While the civil rights movement made some “formal” strides, it was too focused on the courts:

“The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth.”

Got that? That, according to the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, was part of the “tragedy” of the civil-rights movement.

People today may think of the Earl Warren Court as “radical,” but according to Barack Obama, it wasn’t “that radical.” Why? Because

“it didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.”

While you think about what it might mean if the President of the Untied States wanted to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution,” note that Obama goes on to disparage the Constitution as merely “a charter of negative liberties”: that is, it only tells you what the state and federal government “can’t do to you.”


For a couple thousand years, people were desperately eager to frame constraints that would apply to their governments, that would limit, for example, the government’s ability to expropriate their property, to force them to educate their children in a certain way, or subscribe to certain government-mandated beliefs.

That sort of traditional political freedom is not enough for left-wingers. Ever since Marx decried bourgeois freedom as merely “formal,” the left has set out not to preserve freedom but to remake society according to a utopian scheme.

This is exactly what Obama wants to do. The “tragedy” of the civil-rights movement, he said, is that in focussing on “negative” freedom, it tended to

“lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.”

There you have it, folks. From radical “community organizer” to coalitions that achieve the “power through which you bring about redistributive change.”

What would Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher have to say about that? “Redistributive change,” Joe, as in I’m not trying to punish you for aiming at the American dream, I’m only trying to spread your wealth around.


Come on, Joe, you have to get beyond the old “formal” notion of rights–that quaint idea that people used to have that the Constitution was a safeguard against the government doing things to you. When it comes to issues of “political and economic justice” in this society, Joe, it might well be that the government has to do lots of things to you. Like what?

* Well, it might need to take your money if you make more than it thinks you should–today Obama thinks $250,000 is too much. Maybe next year it will be $200,000.

* It might need to require that your children attend multicultural consciousness-raising sessions in their public schools.

* It might institute mandatory “voluntary” pubic service for high-school and college students, so that they are appropriately indoctrinated in the Obama-Ayers perspective on “social justice.”

Those are just a few possibilities. Were there to be an Obama administration, you can be sure that he and his advisors would busy themselves thinking up more things that the government could do to you. Don’t believe me? Listen here.

[UPDATE:   As Glenn Reynolds observes, Obama’s radical platform, which would ditch the Constitution for the sake of “substantive” justice, is just business as usual in academic law circles.  But that of course is exactly the problem.  What we are seeing here is the realization of the radical dreams of the 1960s translated from the airy purlieus of the academy to the corridors of power.]




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