The Republicans are whipping their wingnut base into a frenzy about Barack Obama and his scary otherness. The results are not pretty. But Obamaphobia has reached new levels of absurdity among the once formidable conservative intelligentsia. For the last few days, they have wrangled over whether Obama is a Maoist, a Stalinist, or a Democratic Socialist. The discussion is truly absurd.
The correct answer for you students of American political history: none of the above. Obama is a neoliberal on economic policy. He favors the public-private partnerships that have been the staple of bipartisan governance for the last forty years. There is nary a whiff of socialism among the Democratic candidate's advisors. Obama's foreign policy toward Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, and Russia is, in every respect, mainstream. Were Dwight Eisenhower or John F. Kennedy to return in 2008, they would find little to challenge in Obama's resolutely centrist views on American international relations.
If you have the stomach for it, or if you want a good laugh, check out the lengthy exchange on Obama's supposed leftism at the Power Line and the National Review Online. William F. Buckley, Jr. would, no doubt, be appalled at the intellectual degradation of the journal that he founded, the National Review. Usually dead wrong, but often very smart in its heyday, the NR has fallen into an abyss of partisan foolishness. Rather than standing athwart history and yelling stop, as Buckley once described the conservative intellectual mission, the National Review's current stable of hacks, and their counterparts in the wingnutty blogosphere, are stuck in the mud. Let's call it the "Palinification" of the G.O.P., a substitution of bilious sloganeering for intelligent, if dangerously wrongheaded analysis. For those of us on the political left, the disappearance of an intellectually rigorous right wing is a good thing over the long run. But listening to wingnuts hurling spurious charges of terrorism, treason, and leftism is excruciating in the short run.