Barack Obama today appears to be suffering the fate of Laocoön. The Jeremiah Wright jeremiad has succeeded in twisting the legs of the authoritarian left around the Obama campaign. The question now is whether Obama is tough enough to cut their hold on his presidential bid in time to keep his campaign from faltering fatally.
The key is not just untwisting what Wright & Co. are twisting together. My own recommendation, unsolicited and gratuitous since I will not vote for him in any case, is not to engage in a wrestling match with this camp – instead, just cut and cut deeply, and cast them aside.
Wright argued in his NAACP speech and the Press Club press conference that the attack on him is all about a racist America. Of course, racial discrimination remains a serious problem in this country – and perhaps in this country more than any other. But the Wright affair is not about race and it is not about religion, despite Wright’s argument that the attack on him is an attack on the “black church.”
If that is true then it must also be true that the “liberation theology” arguments of Wright’s church are also those of most black churches. I have a hard time believing that. Wright is likely far closer to the fringe politics of the crowd around folks like Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, who are also linked to Obama, though precisely how is not entirely clear, than he is to the mainstream of black America’s churches. When Wright invokes Latin American liberation theology, as he did today at the National Press Club, he is invoking a patronizing and paternalistic method of organizing shock troops among the poor of the developing world to back up authoritarian revolutionary movements. This hardly seems a relevant message for the current plight of America’s black population (and it was in the end not much help to third world peasants either).
This political perspective, however, is at the heart of the world view of Dohrn, Ayers & Co. It was at the heart of much of the authoritarian side of the 60s left and remains a symptom of today’s left. One of the key links today is through the educational ideology advocated by people like Bill Ayers who it appears now play a dominant role in education schools. When I finished my Ph.D. dissertation on the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua in 1991 (where liberation theology was a critical component of the road to power for the FSLN), I used to joke that I had written the last Ph.D. dissertation of the Cold War. Little did I know that the neo-stalinist ideology of Daniel Ortega and Tomas Borge would find new life in the “small schools” and “social justice” ideology of America’s education schools! Just think, I could have avoided months of fieldwork in the middle of a civil war in one of the poorest countries in the world and just hung out at the University of Illinois’ lovely Circle Campus!