Is Senator Obama a closet socialist waiting for inauguration day, at which time he and a Democratic Congress will immediately pursue a massive increase in the size and power of government in our lives, accompanied by massive tax increases and massive redistribution of wealth? Or is he really a moderate pragmatist, a canny politician who when he was getting started in politics used his radical contacts from his ultra-leftwing Hyde Park community, but now is in a position to use more moderate figures to build a centrist working coalition? Which is the real Obama?

Stanley Kurtz of National Review has been investigating Obama’s political past for months now, and in a recent piece on Obama’s ties to such far left groups as Acorn and The New Party, Kurtz suggests a third alternative that I find both more nuanced and more cogent than either Obama-as-Clintonesque-pragmatist or Obama-as-Manchurian-Candidate.
Kurtz writes, “Obama, like so many of his community organizer colleagues, practices an ‘incremental radicalism.’ The point is not to push for the whole redistributionist agenda right away, but to gain a series small but cumulative victories, each of which contributes to the formation of a long-term coalition for more ambitious systemic change.”

Kurtz concludes that “even as president, I think Obama would hew to this incremental strategy” but that “we have reason to believe that Obama’s long-term goals may be little different from Joel Rogers’s,” the founder of the New Left socialist party that Obama was associated with in the 1990s.

Will such an incremental approach strengthen our economy? Thanks to what little federalism is left, our fifty states–to some degree–function as fifty economic experiments, each pursuing distinct if overlapping economic policies. Taken together, the results of those experiments are pretty clear. High-tax, high regulation states like Michigan are struggling while low tax states like Texas and Arizona are booming.

In Ohio this weekend, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made the limited-government argument by comparing his native Austria to the United States: “Now, we are in a tough time right now. Ohio cannot afford, America cannot afford the economic proposals of Senator Obama. I tell you something. I left Europe four decades ago because socialism has killed opportunities there. And many — and many, many entrepreneurs and business leaders all left and have taken jobs with them. And I tell you, in recent years, Europe has realized its mistakes and begun rolling back some of its spread-the-wealth policies.”

Large nanny states are neither effective at generating wealth for workers and investors, nor commensurate with the dignity of human beings made in the image of God. Pray that the man elected president Tuesday, whether Republican or Democrat, will realize this and steer our nation on a different course.

  • http://blog.acton.org/ Jordan

    [url=http://blog.acton.org/archives/2336-Incrementalism-and-Public-Policy.html]Incrementalism[/url] isn’t such a bad thing in the long-term political pursuit of a goal…something ideological conservatives ought to consider.

    And baby stepping toward the nanny state is certainly better than goose stepping there…

  • http://www.livelovecoffee.com/ Dave

    If you throw a frog in a pot of boiling water he will jump out. If you put him in a pot of cold water and slowly bring it to a boil he will cook himself. Very scary. If some true leaders and thinkers do not emerge on the other side I am afraid of what could happen, but only time will tell.