At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Dinesh D’Souza’s political documentary—2016: Obama’s America—is beginning to soar at the box office.

D’Souza’s film is based upon his book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage.  Now, while I haven’t seen the former, I have read—and reviewed—the latter.  In his monograph, D’Souza contends that it isn’t Marxism, racialism, leftism, socialism, or liberalism that primarily informs Barack Obama’s vision of the world. No, it is another sort of “ism” that animates the President, an “ism” that only a Third World immigrant like D’Souza can really understand and appreciate.

Obama, D’Souza argues, subscribes to what the author calls “anti-colonialism.

By virtue of having had their perceptions shaped in large measure by the Western colonial rule under which they had long lived, non-Westerners like the residents of D’Souza’s native India view the world very differently from the manner in which Westerners regard it.  To put it more succinctly, from distrust to contempt, varying degrees of animus toward the West characterize Third World peoples.

Obama, D’Souza tries to persuade us, is like an inhabitant from the Third World in this respect.  But now that he has amassed all of the power that comes with the United States presidency, Obama is on a quest to rectify what he perceives to be the litany of injustices to which America and the West have historically subjected the rest of the planet.

It is this obsession with redeeming America and delivering justice to the Third World that accounts for the vast plethora of redistributive schemes that Obama has been busy at work implementing since the day he took office.  It is this anti-colonial vision of his that informs Obama’s innumerable circumventions of Congress via “executive orders” and “czar” appointments, to say nothing of his utter neglect of the opposition party.

There is much to commend in D’Souza’s portrait of Obama. 

Ultimately, however, his thesis fails.

Obama is primarily motivated, not by an aversion to colonialism, but by devotion to Blackism.

“Blackism” is an ideology.  It is distinct from both biology and culture.  Biological blackness is an accident of birth.  Yet neither is there a choice on the part of most blacks to be reared in the traditions that constitute what we may call black culture.  But Blackism consists of a few basic tenets that any biologically black person can will to accept.

Blackism is a unique and simple device of which any black person in search of racial “authenticity” can effortlessly avail himself.  Like all ideologies, it is a cliff note, so to speak, the Reader’s Digest version of the complex of black cultural traditions from which it has been abstracted.  And, like all ideologies, it serves the function—the illusion, really—of making immediately accessible to all something that would otherwise require many years of (informal) education.

Blackism endows its adherents with racial authenticity, even if they are light-complexioned with as much Caucasoid as Negroid ancestry, like President Obama, and even if, like President Obama, they had no more exposure to black culture than has an Eskimo who has spent his life in the Arctic.

Blackism promises its adherents authentic blackness.  Yet belief in authentic blackness is also one of its tenets.  There are still others, namely, belief in a Manichean-like universe comprised of “racist” whites, on the one hand, and, on the other, non-white victims of white racial oppression.  The third and, for the most part, final tenet of Blackism demands commitment by its adherents to combating the legacy of white oppression “by whichever means necessary.” 

Malcolm X made famous this last line.  Indeed, it is to Malcolm X that any discussion of Blackism must refer, for Malcolm was the Blackist par excellence. 

Malcolm Little was born and raised in the rural Midwest.  While coming of age, the very light complexioned Malcolm—George Schuyler had said that Malcolm wasn’t black, he was yellow!—associated mostly—almost exclusively—with whites.  As Malcolm biographer Bruce Perry has shown, Malcolm’s fair skin gave rise to insecurities regarding his racial authenticity.  He felt that he had to prove that he was black enough, so to speak.

Thus, there is a sense in which it can perhaps be said that not only did Malcolm subscribe to Blackism, he did as much as anyone to shaping it as a doctrine. 

Malcolm X exerted considerable influence over Obama. Among the books to which Obama acknowledges his debt in his first memoir, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is mentioned exponentially more times than any other.  This is particularly telling when it is considered that, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. is mentioned sparingly.

There are a few considerations that militate against D’Souza’s thesis that it is primarily an anti-colonial mindset that animates Obama. These same points favor my contention that it is a commitment to Blackism that drives the President.

First, if you follow D’Souza’s logic to term, you are forced to conclude that Obama should be especially sympathetic to America, for America was never a colonial power and was, in fact, an object of colonial rule. In other words, if it is just colonialism that’s stuck in Obama’s crawl, then he should be equally disposed to favor any and all colonial peoples and just as disposed to disfavor any and all one-time colonial powers.

But as D’Souza himself inadvertently, but repeatedly, shows, it isn’t colonialism that Obama despises, and it isn’t the subjects of colonial rule to whom his sympathies extend.  It is white colonialism that he disdains and the non-white subjects of colonial rule with whom he sympathizes.

Second, like Malcolm X before him, Obama may very well view black Americans and the non-white inhabitants of the Third World as sharing in a common struggle. But this no more justifies concluding that Obama is an anti-colonialist than it justifies describing Malcolm X first and foremost in these terms.   Just as Malcolm X saw himself as a voice for black Americans before all else—just as he was concerned primarily with authentic blackness—so too is Obama most concerned with achieving racial authenticity.

Third, D’Souza grounds his thesis in the title of Obama’s memoir: Dreams From My Father.  D’Souza accentuates that it is his father’s dreams that Obama is intent on bringing to fruition.  Yet he ignores the subtitle of this book. He ignores that it is intended to be “a story of race and inheritance.”  D’Souza neglects the fact that Dreams recapitulates Obama’s quest for racial identity. 

Fourth and finally, not only does Dreams purport to reenact Obama’s odyssey from the wilderness of self-obliviousness to the promised land of racial identity and, thus, self-discovery.  As many a commentator has observed, Dreams is carefully crafted so as to fit the meta-narrative that has defined African American literature for at least the last half-a-century. Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family exemplified this template.  The Autobiography of Malcolm X—not, incidentally, also written by Haley—also typifies it.

There are undoubtedly many invaluable insights to take away from D’Souza’s 2016.   That Obama is primarily an anti-colonialist, though, is not one of them. 

It is to Blackism, not anti-colonialism, that Obama has pledged his allegiance. 

originally published at The New American        




The contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for the presidency will end with a decisive, and possibly even a landslide, victory for Romney in November.

Polling data that hasn’t even come close to supporting this contention of mine is of no relevance.

Outside of political junkies, the rest of the electorate doesn’t begin paying attention to election races until after Labor Day.

Furthermore, Obama has heretofore outspent Romney vis-à-vis (intensely negative) campaign ads—in spite of the fact that Romney has by far and away outraised Obama in campaign donations.  Campaign finance laws preventing Romney from spending any of the monies that he has raised for the general election until after he formally becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee conspire to conceal this fact.  However, after the GOP convention in Tampa at the end of this month, Romney’s funds will be unleashed. 

In other words, Obama hasn’t really even gotten hit—yet.

These considerations aside, polling phenomenon depicting a razor sharp race or, more incredibly, an Obama lead, is irrelevant simply and solely because it contradicts a few basic facts that partisans of all stripes must concede.

The first of such facts is that Obama is no longer an unknown candidate.  He now has a record—a record of which everyone is painfully aware. So, even the most naïve, even the most ignorant of voters, will not fall for the same rhetoric of “hope and change” that Obama endlessly sprouted four years ago and that succeeded in mesmerizing legions of unsuspecting Americans who ecstatically consumed the notion that he was a “new” type of politician. 

That Obama himself knows this accounts for why he no longer even attempts to speak along these lines.

Secondly, the President’s approval rating has plummeted since the fall of 2008.  But it isn’t just that Obama’s numbers have fallen further and more rapidly than that of any other president.   

A much touted Pew Research Center poll from earlier in the month supports what every poll reader now knows: Obama’s favorability rating is actually below average for a presidential candidate at this time in an election season.  It states that Obama’s “current favorability ratings compare poorly with the final pre-election ratings for previous Democratic candidates.”  The poll adds: “Not since Michael Dukakis in 1988 has a Democratic candidate gone into the election with favorability ratings as low as Obama’s are today.”  

In short, Obama is not well liked.

Thirdly, it stretches credibility to the snapping point to think that everyone who voted for Obama in 2008 will vote for him this time around.

Not even close.

Blacks will vote for him, certainly, but even within this demographic, his support is not likely to be quite as high as it was four years ago.

For one, the hope shared by far too many blacks that the election of the first black president would usher in a golden age of a sort for black Americans is now exposed for the patent absurdity that it has always been.  Unemployment rates are high overall, but they have skyrocketed among blacks, and black youth in particular. 

More importantly, though, Obama’s endorsement of homosexual “marriage” promises to cost him some support among blacks—a likelihood that no less a figure than Louis Farrakhan foreshadows. 

At the end of May, at the California Convention Center in San Diego, the Nation of Islam head—a close friend of Obama’s former pastor of twenty plus years, Jeremiah Wright, and one time Obama backer—addressed an audience and noted in disgust that our 44th president is the first occupant of the White House to sanction this practice.  Obama, Farrakhan said, is the first American president who has “sanctioned what the Scriptures forbid.”

In addition to Farrakhan, there is also the Coalition of African-American Pastors. Its members once endorsed Obama.  Now, they have publically repudiated him for taking this position.

Bill Owens asserted: “We were once proud of you, but our pride has turned to shame that you, the man holding the most powerful position in the world, would stoop to leading the country down an immoral path.”  Quinn Chapel AME’s Luke Robinson added: “His support for this un-biblical behavior will destroy even more folks in our already decaying and broken society.” Robinson declared: “His pronouncement is in fact a direct attack on the God of the bible and the Christian faith.”

But even if, from some sense of blind racial loyalty, blacks do vote for him in the same numbers as they voted for Obama in 2008, there are other groups that most certainly will not.

Take Roman Catholics, as a prime example. 

Although the media has done a splendid job of diverting the public’s attention from it, the Catholic Church has been besieged by the Obama administration.  The Affordable Health Care Act—“Obamacare”—is an unprecedented attack against both religious liberty and freedom of conscience.  Catholic clerics around the country have alerted their congregants to this. 

Catholics will not be voting for Obama in anything like their numbers in 2008.

Independents constitute another group that threw its weight behind Obama in the last election.  Precisely because, as with everyone else, independents now have a track record with which to gauge Obama, there is no way that he will garner nearly as much support among them in November.

Fourth, 2008 marked the end of George W. Bush’s second term.  As evidenced by voters’ readiness to cashier congressional Republicans in the mid-terms of ’06 and Bush’s 30% approval rating two years later, the country had GOP fatigue.

Matters are otherwise now.

The economy has gone from bad to worse during the course of Obama’s first term. And it is the economy that is voters’ top priority. Even in those polls that show Obama leading Romney, the latter consistently ranks higher in voter confidence when it comes to this most crucial of issues.

Small business owners and young adults who owe tens of thousands in student loan debt but who can’t find a job know about Obama’s abysmal handling of the economy better than anyone.

They also aren’t bound to be suckered by him again.

Fifth, when we consider that Republicans are more enthused now than they had been in a long time, Romney promises to elicit every bit as much and significantly more support than John McCain received in ’08.  From the rise of the Tea Party to the Republican tsunami of the 2010 midterm elections and the recent explosion of support for Chick-fil-A, there is no conceivable reason to deny this.

There is one final consideration that portends a sweeping Romney victory.

Congressman and former presidential contender Ron Paul has a significant and devoted following of young voters.  Their passion is second to none.  Doubtless, some of them will refuse to vote for either Romney or Obama.  But there is reason to suspect that some of them will.

Paul and Romney never showed any signs of having a strained relationship, and even though Paul hasn’t as of yet endorsed the latter, neither has he endorsed anyone else, like he did in 2008. 

Nor do I think it is likely that he will.

Ron’s son Rand, Kentucky Senator and a rising star in the Tea Party, has endorsed Romney.  Paul Sr. is retiring.  Junior is not, and the father doesn’t want to make unnecessary waves for the son.  Moreover,Rand has been allotted a speaking platform at the GOP Convention—a turn of events that can only help Romney among young Paul supporters.

Barring any unexpected revelations to the effect that Romney is a killer or a closet enslaver (Obama’s and Joe Biden’s attempts to convince us of this have thus far failed), it looks like it’s going be a clean Romney victory in November.

originally published at The New American

Newt Gingrich was mistaken when he referred to Mitt Romney as “a Massachusetts moderate.”  The author of “Romneycare” is a Massachusetts liberal.

Regularly, I hear from my fellow Ron Paul supporters (as well as many others) that Romney and Obama, Republican and Democrat, are for all practical purposes indistinguishable.  These same people inform me that under no conceivable circumstances will they ever again vote for “the lesser of two evils.”

While the impulse underwriting these sentiments is understandable enough, it nevertheless reflects a refusal to recognize that this isn’t the next “American idol” for which we are about vote in November. 

To put it bluntly: anyone who is interested in arresting “the fundamental transformation” of America that President Obama set in motion four years ago has no other real option but to vote for the liberal from Massachusetts.

The objection, launched not just by Paul supporters, but some others on the right, that this election is a wash because the difference between Romney and Obama is one without a distinction is easily met.

First of all, it simply isn’t true to say that there is no difference between the two candidates: a liberal Republican is not a hard leftist like Obama.

Secondly, let’s just suppose for argument’s sake that this is true, that the policies of Obama are interchangeable with those of Romney.

From the perspective of those of us who share none of Obama’s enthusiasm to fundamentally transform our country, Romney would still be preferable to Obama.

There is one crucial reason for this that, to my knowledge, no one has touched upon:

No country lives by policy alone.

Invariably, those on the right who equate Romney with Obama do so by concentrating exclusively on the policy prescriptions of the two candidates.  This approach, though, is as narrow in focus as it is politically immature.

Above all else, Americans at least claim to value liberty. But the liberty to which we have grown attached isn’t some abstract universal concept.  It is a concrete, particular way of life that is determined at least as much by extra-political or cultural considerations as the legislation—the policies—for which politicians advocate.

What this means is that things being what they are, our liberty is threatened as much by the environment that allows Barack Obama to advance his leftist agenda as by his leftist agenda itself.

It is an axiom to the lover of liberty that the greater the concentration of power, the greater the threat to the object of his affections. Now, the President of the United States of America is among the most powerful people on the planet.  As such, he must be vulnerable to every conceivable kind of criticism, whether fair or entirely baseless.

However, because Obama is widely heralded as our “first black” president, a “world-historical” figure of sorts, he has been inoculated to a significant extent from the same type of treatment to which past presidents have been subjected.

To put it starkly, because Obama is the first black president, legions of mostly white Americans are reluctant to express their true feelings about him for fear of being considered a “racist.”  And those Americans, from Republican politicians to working class folk, who are openly critical of the President almost always take exceptional care to speak only to his policies, or to reassure us that, as a person, they find Obama to be just dandy.       

Yet it isn’t just that Obama is black. A black conservative or Republican would have a much tougher go at the presidency than Obama could ever dream of having. 

What is far more relevant is that Obama is a black leftist, a black Democrat.

This is more relevant because, sadly, the vast majority of those who have traditionally served the invaluable social function of checking abuses of power—the media, popular artists (like comedians and actors), and academics—share Obama’s ideology. 

But this isn’t the only incentive that they have to aid and abet his program to fundamentally transform America.  Obama’s readiness to play the race card has succeeded in rendering “the watchdogs” no less fearful than the majority of their compatriots of being charged with the “r” word.

If, though, Romney is elected, his standing as the Republican Party’s titular head alone will suffice to relieve the press and others of the fears that currently inhibit full throated objections to Obama.  

Again, the President of the United States must be vulnerable to all sorts of criticisms, from the most intelligent in nature to the most satirical and unjust. 

Furthermore, the conservative base of his party will be sure to forever keep the pressure upon Romney to at least think twice about indulging whatever liberal proclivities happen to possess him at any given moment.  In contrast, Obama’s left-wing constituents, coupled with the fact that he will never again face another election, make it all too easy for him to plow full steam ahead with his robust socialist agenda.

So, even if Romney wanted to do exactly what Obama wants to do, it would still make better sense for right-leaning dissidents to vote for Romney.  

In other words, the lover of liberty who wants to halt the fundamental transformation of his beloved homeland must see to it that the Massachusetts liberal wins.

The government, every one who has ever lived under a modern democratic government knows all too well, “works” for the citizen.  Citizens delegate authority to their elected representatives on the condition that such representatives will do just what “the people” want.

This, at any rate, is the ideal of democracy. 

It is an ideal that reached its apex during the eighteenth century, and that hasn’t shown any signs of abating since.

It is also an ideal that the twentieth century conservative theorist Joseph A. Schumpeter decidedly debunked long ago.  

Schumpeter was born and raised in what is now the Czech Republic in 1883.  In 1906, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna, where he studied law. In 1909, Schumpeter acquired a post at the University of Czernowitz where he was a professor of government and economics. Twenty-three years later, he left forAmerica, where he would began his teaching assignment at Harvard University. Throughout his life, Schumpeter would write extensively on politics, economics, and sociology.

Schumpeter explains that the theory of democracy ascribes “to the will of the individual an independence and a rational quality that are altogether unrealistic” (emphasis original).  In reality, the citizen’s “will” is nothing more “than an indeterminate bundle of vague impulses loosely playing about given slogans and mistaken impressions.” 

If, as is assumed, “the will of the citizen per se is a political factor entitled to respect,” then this would mean that “everyone would have to know definitely what he wants to stand for.”  This, in turn, would mean that each person would have to possess “the ability to observe and interpret correctly the facts that are directly accessible to everyone and to sift critically the information about the facts that are not.” 

If the will of each person is, as the theory of democracy supposes, a determinate thing, then from its union with the facts that it ascertains each person, “according to the rules of logical inference,” should be able to render “a clear and prompt conclusion as to particular issues,” verdicts possessing such “a high degree of general efficiency” that “one man’s opinion could be held…to be roughly as good as every other man’s.”

Schumpeter adds that all of this would have to occur “independently of pressure groups and propaganda, for volitions and inferences that are imposed upon the electorate obviously do not qualify for ultimate data of the democratic process.”

However, this idea of the individual voter as a rational machine carefully attending to his wants and needs and acting accordingly is, like so much else that came out of the eighteenth century, a fiction.

Schumpeter notes that “even in the most ordinary currents of daily life,” our “wants are nothing like as definite” and our “actions upon those wants…nothing like as rational and prompt” as theorists have imagined. 

Take the consumer-producer relationship.  Schumpeter tells us—what we already know—that consumers “are so amenable to the influence of advertising and other methods of persuasion that producers often seem to dictate to them instead of being directed by them.”  With its commercial advertising, this relationship is particularly informative when considering the relationship between the voter and his elected representative. 

The best advertising “indeed nearly always involves some appeal to reason.”  However, “mere assertion, often repeated, counts more than rational argument [.]”  Moreover, “the direct attack upon the subconscious which takes the form of attempts to evoke and crystallize pleasant associations of an entirely extra-rational” character is also far more formidable than any appeal to the sheer intellect could hope to be (emphasis added).

The voter’s will “is largely not a genuine but a manufactured will.”  It is a creation or product of the political process—not its impetus.   

Schumpeter remarks:

“The ways in which issues and the popular will on any issue are being manufactured is exactly analogous to the ways of commercial advertising. We find the same attempts to contact the subconscious.  We find the same technique of creating favorable and unfavorable associations which are the more effective the less rational they are. We find the same evasions and reticences and the same trick of producing opinion by reiterated assertion that is successful precisely to the extent to which it avoids rational argument and the danger of awakening the critical faculties of the people.”

Schumpeter never denies that, in some areas of life, individuals can and do act rationally.  Still, “when we move…farther away from the private concerns of the family and the business office” toward the realms of national and international politics, “individual volition, command of facts and method of inference” begin to fade. 

To put it more bluntly, “the typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field.”  Schumpeter elaborates:

“He [the typical citizen] argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking becomes associative and affective.” 

To anyone who would deny Schumpeter’s critique of the classical doctrine of democracy, Schumpeter poses a challenge:

“The reader who thinks me unduly pessimistic need only ask himself whether he has never heard—or said himself—that this or that awkward fact must not be told publicly, or that a certain line of reasoning, though valid, is undesirable.”

Schumpeter was no foe of democracy, it is important to grasp. This should be clear when we read the words with which he ends his critical appraisal of “the classical doctrine,” as he describes the object of his critique:

“More than anyone else the lover of democracy has ever reason to accept” that the ideal is flawed “and to clear his creed from the aspersion that it rests upon make-believe.”

As we enter into the final days of but another election cycle and find ourselves on the receiving end of a dizzying array of polls informing us of what we want, we should recall the wisdom of Joseph Schumpeter.