When I first broke the story of the in depth and long standing relationship between Obama and Ayers back in April, I pointed out that unless Obama explained the relationship and made it clear that his current politics had nothing to do with the authoritarian agenda of Ayers in education or elsewhere that he would pay a huge political price.
I said this would be a tremendous blow to the millions of Americans who share my hope for a dramatic change in direction for this country in both the domestic and international arena. Already Obama has begun changing his policies on national security to please those who fear he might have a close relationship with authoritarians like Ayers.
Now, with just a few weeks to go, Palin is making good hay with the Ayers links. The time is now for Obama to explain fully his relationship with Ayers and Dohrn, to own up to what the evidence suggests and to make clear that Obama no longer shares their authoritarian views. Early in the campaign Obama was willing to sit down with reporters and answer all questions about his relationship with Tony Rezko and the controversial purchase of Obama’s home. His answers did not satisfy everyone but at least he was willing to discuss the matter openly and at length.
If he does not do the same when it comes to Ayers and Dohrn he may have the distinct honor of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Since that is a real possibility here, why hasn’t Obama thrown Ayers and Dohrn under the bus? I think the explanation is based on his singular path to political prominence and success. Obama has always been the outsider – he arrived in Chicago without a natural power base. Chicago is a town where every seat at the tables of power is already occupied and has been occupied for more than a century. Every racial and ethnic group, every social institution such as labor or business or organized crime fought bloody battles to get a seat at that table. And they don’t make room for newcomers easily.
Thus, the very first question I asked then was the classic Chicago question “Who Sent Obama?” Because in Chicago, “we don’t want nobody that nobody sent.”
And nobody appeared to have sent Obama. Thus, Obama had to get “sent” by somebody. He could have joined the labor movement, he could have joined mainstream civil rights groups, he could have joined a mainstream law firm and then the U.S. Attorney’s or State’s Attorney’s offices. All of these, however, would have required years of hard work and apprenticeship.
Instead, Obama cozied up to the what was left over on the South Side from an earlier activist era. Now it was Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, Judson Miner, Marilyn Katz, David Axelrod and Bernardine Dohrn, who offered him mentorship and connections on an alternative road to power. These individuals are not just representative of the odd politics of Chicago. They are linked to a wider national milieu of politically correct and authoritarian political activists that include people who are more comfortable with the Chavez regime in Venezuela than they are with American democratic institutions like organized labor.
Now at the level of a presidential campaign, why doesn’t Obama distance himself more forcefully from this crowd? Because he wants that Ayers/Dohrn camp to help provide him poltical support and direction on a national level. Already there has been the selection of Linda Darling-Hammond as a key education advisor who endorses repaying the alleged billions in “education debt owed to people of color” by whites (read: reparations).
Once in the Oval Office, Obama can either continue to look to this crowd for guidance in key policy areas or he may use them to balance off against the pressures coming from more mainstream elements in the Cambridge/Wall Street/Georgetown power structure.
What will be left out of an Obama administration will be a genuine voice for the millions of Americans who thought they were voting for genuinely progressive and democratic Change.