Last weekend, I was walking on a street in New York City when two stickers on the back of a smaller, older, before bankruptcy, Chevy SUV caught my eye. One said “McCain 2008” (just McCain, no Palin). The other was of the Obama “sunrise” logo, with the old Soviet hammer and sickle symbol imposed upon it. That’s a clear message, no? Obama is a communist, no, rather a commie, and likely a Kenyan Muslim one to boot. And oh yes, just in case you might think that New Yorkers don’t harbor such thoughts, the car did have a New York State license plate.
Now there is really not too much evidence to support the “commie” appellation for the President, but I got to thinking. Supposing he were a communist. What kind of politics and policies would he have as President? Of course when folks of this car-owner’s ilk aren’t calling Obama a communist, they are calling him a “Nazi.” But it is to answering the first question that the balance of this column is devoted. But before we get onto that one, we had better have a definition of “communist” to use because historically they have come in all shapes and sizes. Since Obama is a U.S. citizen, the wonderings and meanderings of putative GOP candidate for Senate and yes, maybe even for President, Lou Dobbs, and former House GOP leader Dick Armey, and their fellow “birthers” to the contrary notwithstanding, let us use the U.S. model of “communism” as our measuring stick. That is, we will use the U.S. model for the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) back in its heyday, in the 1930s and the 1940s until just after the end of World War II.
It was at that latter time, when the prelude to the Cold War and its necessary companion, the cynically generated anti-Communist hysteria generally known here as “McCarthyism,” was being launched even before the drunk from Wisconsin made his way onto the national stage by folks such as Dick Nixon and the House Un-American (sic) Activities Committee, that the fortunes of the CPUSA took a steep downward turn. But for about 15 years before that time, it had been a prominent national political actor, especially in the development of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the coordinating body for the mass industrial trade unions that grew to prominence under the New Deal.
It was also active in left-wing electoral politics. In fact, ironically in face of the convictions of its national and state leadership in a series of “Smith Act” trials in the late 40s-early 50s for “advocating the overthrow of the United States government by force and violence,” the Party’s bylaws stated it was committed to the “parliamentary road to socialism,” not the revolutionary one. In fact the Party mobilized political support for major pieces of the New Deal, like Social Security, of course the Wagner Act that finally legalized trade unions and collective bargaining, and the massive Federal public works program that was organized under the Works Progress Administration. They also strongly supported anti-Nazi activities (that is until the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939) and the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.
So I am making the assumption that if Obama were a communist, as that sticker and many signs at Dick Armey’s and Glenn Beck’s tea/9/12 demos proclaim (when they are not proclaiming that he is a Nazi), he would be one of the American sort. To see what justification their might be to the charge, let’s take a look at just what sort of politics and policies he would be advocating, indeed fighting for, were he indeed a communist.
Well, first of all he would have from Day One (OK maybe Day Two or Ten — giving them a shot at being reasonable) recognized that the Republican Party, as they were telling him over and over again right from the start, was his enemy as well as the enemy of both Constitutional government and most U.S. citizens other than the very wealthy. (Limbaugh, the titular head of the GOP, made that very clear even before Obama was inaugurated.) He would not have been negotiating with them about anything. He would have been from the outset calling them to account, first and foremost for being the Party of NO just when the nation is facing a series of very serious crises, both domestic and foreign. Second of all, right from the start he would have laying the blame for the crises right where it still belongs: at the feet of the Bush/Cheney Administration and the subservient GOP Congress that they had working for them for six of their eight years in office.
As far as the economy is concerned, he would have been parsimonious when it came to “rescuing the banks,” and he would have required very strong commitments from them, in writing, in return for the massive bailouts that they received, for major changes in the way they do business, from their loan/investment policies to their pay/bonus scales. He would have immediately put forward a legislative program to re-establish strict regulation of our financial and investment institutions, beginning with the immediate re-enactment of Glass-Steagal. That was the New Deal law that separated investment and commercial banking that the dynamic duo of Bill Clinton and Obama economic-policy head Larry Summers, along with their buddies in the then-GOP controlled Congress, killed in 1999.
He would have proposed, demanded, of Congress, a real economic stimulus package of at least $1.5 trillion, with no tax cuts except for those promised to working folks during the campaign, and a rebirth of a massive, national, Federal WPA-like public works program. He would have sent up to Congress not only a single-payer national health program, but also a comprehensive health and health care planning program to deal with the myriad problems in the U.S. health care delivery system, from mal-distribution of manpower and facilities to serious deficiencies in quality control, that no financing system can possibly deal with by itself.
He would have taken a very strong stand on protecting and preserving abortion rights, not just on the grounds of Roe v. Wade and the “woman’s right to choose,” but also on the grounds of religious freedom and the right of everyone under the First Amendment, regardless of sex or age, to their own religious belief as to when life begins. He would have made it clear that he fully supports civil equality for our gay and lesbian citizens, based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
He would have established a major national commission to develop a plan for ending the so-called “drug war,” which is really a war on the users on certain kinds of recreational mood altering drugs (RMADs) that kill maybe 10,000 people a year. At the same time he would be seriously ramping up the campaign against the two real killer RMADs, tobacco and alcohol, that kill over 500,000 people per year. Of course, he would have ordered the military to plan an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, while attempting to engage the more rational members of the Taliban in negotiations to make that withdrawal as peaceful as possible, even as he was de-funding them by ending the “Drug War” that so inflates the price of heroin.
Except for Afghanistan, I am not touching foreign policy here. In conclusion, I will say two things about the above list of what a communist President would likely be doing in office. First, what President Obama has done, is doing, and seems determined to keep on doing, is nothing like what is listed here. So that bumper sticker is obviously wrong. Second, the list above sure looks good to me.
Just to be fair to both sides of the anti-Obama claims, in two weeks, we’ll take a look at what he would be doing in office if he were a Nazi.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a Columnist for BuzzFlash, Dr. Jonas is also a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST, http://www.cjournal.info/; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter, http://lists.psalience.org/mailman/listinfo/ths; a Contributor to The Planetary Movement; and a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century (POAC); http://www.oldamericancentury.org/index.htm.
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