Last week I wrote a post mocking conservatives for their relentless search for the next secret videotape that will expose Barack Obama as a dangerous radical, the latest of which was the shocking revelation that as a law student, he supported his professor Derrick Bell's efforts to diversify the Harvard Law School faculty. Unsurprisingly, conservatives reacted by saying that I just didn't get it (here's a sample). It's worth saying a bit more about this phenomenon, because we surely haven't seen the last of it, both in the campaign and in Obama's second term, should he win one.
The search for the radical associations in Obama's pre-political history began almost as soon as Obama's presidential candidacy began in 2007. Some conservatives (and that's an important qualifier; many conservatives understand that this stuff is nuts) have been positively obsessed with uncovering Obama's radical associations. They have also insisted that those associations are closer than anyone thinks. So it isn't enough that Obama once served on a charitable board with former '60s radical Bill Ayers; some want us to believe that Ayers actually ghostwrote Obama's books! Obama didn't just speak at a rally supporting Derrick Bell; he hugged Bell, which just shows how close they were!
And all of this is supposed to lead to something, something about Obama's presidency. Not even the craziest among the conspirators thinks that Obama is, today, taking orders from Ayers. But they would no doubt assert that he doesn't have to, because in his youth Obama drank so deeply from their cup of extremist America-hating that he will be doing what the likes of Ayers want anyway.
So here's my question: When do we get to see Obama's radicalism?
I'm not talking about Affordable Care Act-type radicalism. I mean the real radicalism. The Weather Underground radicalism. The Black Panther radicalism. The dismantling of capitalism, the closing of the Defense Department, the demotion of white people to second-class citizenship. When is that going to come? Can they give us the litany of Obama policies that represent the realization of the visions of the '60s radicals who supposedly control his mind across the decades?
Because after all, the point of the supposedly shocking revelation about Obama's past isn't to help us understand what has already happened but to give us a preview of what is to come. For instance, some conservatives believe the auto bailout is a key component of Obama's nefarious socialist plan. But you don't need to know when Obama spoke with Bill Ayers 15 years ago or what he said about Derrick Bell 20 years ago to understand the auto bailout. You can look at the actual auto bailout. No, the shocking revelation is supposed to warn us about new radicalism, the radicalism to come that can only be appreciated if you grasp the full implications of the people Obama was hanging around with a couple of decades ago.
So what exactly is it that they're warning America about? When do we get to see this crazy radical Obama? If they're pressed, there is an answer to this question: In his second term! That's when the mask will be torn off, and the true Obama revealed. Sure, he might be governing like your average center-left Democrat now, but that's only because he's been lulling us into a false sense of security, so he can get re-elected and then begin his true project of remaking America, when Angela Davis gets nominated to the Supreme Court, private property is outlawed, and half the public gets herded onto collective farms. Or something.
To people who have a grip on reality, the things Barack Obama will do in a second term aren't particularly mysterious. We don't know exactly what will happen, of course, but we've got a pretty good idea. He'll try to solidify the ACA, his signature legislative accomplishment. He may try to achieve tax reform, which could involve slightly higher rates for the wealthy, although he'll need Republican cooperation to do it. He'll try to extricate us from Afghanistan, and he doesn't seem too keen on starting a war with Iran. And so on. Conservatives will dislike most of what he does, and liberals will like most (but not all) of it. In short, though the details aren't easy to predict, in its broad strokes a second Obama term will probably be a lot like the first Obama term. You'd have to be pretty crazy to believe otherwise.