I had of course heard about Dinesh D'Souza's (and Newt Gingrich's) pathetic arguments about Obama's anti-colonial socialism he picked up from his almost entirely unknown father, but I get very busy close to the elections and don't have time for reading fiction. However, I was lucky enough to see an op-ed length version of D'Souza's argument in the WaPo yesterday, and I enjoyed the read. I think Dinesh D'Souza may be the single funniest political writer I have ever read. While his arguments are too absurd to spend much time on, I do have to stop for a moment to write a little bit about his basic theme, because the entertainment value is just too good.
Anyone following politics closely knows the basic argument D'Souza makes: that Obama is just a chip off the old third world socialist dad block. He cites dramatic, compelling evidence like the fact Obama's first book, written in his 20s, was entitled Dreams FROM (!) My Father, not dreams of my father. Alrighty then. But clearly D'Souza's most compelling argument, the one he features and focuses on in his op-ed, is that because Obama is in favor of a system of progressive taxation, and calls for some measure of corporate accountability, that must mean he shares the Third World socialism of his father.
Now I don't want to be condescending, Dinesh, but I suspect that the reason you don't get the absurdity of this argument is that you have never studied a lick of American history. After all, you were, as you pointed out in your op-ed, raised in India, so maybe it isn't surprising you wouldn't have studied American history growing up. But let me just ask: did Tom Paine have a third world socialist father because he argued against big corporations having too much power and argued for a system of progressive taxation? How about Thomas Jefferson? Or Andrew Jackson? Or Abe Lincoln? Or William Jennings Bryan? Or Teddy Roosevelt? Or Woodrow Wilson? Or FDR? Or Harry Truman? Or the Kennedy brothers? Or Martin Luther King, Jr? Or the thousands of other politicians, writers, and activists who throughout American history have loudly and proudly advocated the same things Obama is advocating for today: reining in the power of big corporations and a system of taxation that follows the common sense principle that those who can afford to pay more should. These ideas are not from Africa; they are not socialist; they are not remotely foreign. They are as rooted in American history, traditions, and values as any set of political ideas out there. Conservatives who try to paint scary pictures of Obama's views as foreign and non-American contort and twist their arguments into such loony territory that they make funny caricatures of themselves.
I'll close on this personal note. As a white kid from Nebraska, raised by Republican and Christian parents whose families have been in America for over a century, I grew into my views about reining in the power of big corporations and progressive taxation not because I was reading Karl Marx but because I was reading about those American heroes from our history, and even more importantly because I was reading my Bible. I read that the rich should sell their possessions and give them to the poor. I read that I would be judged by God on how I treated the poor and the suffering. I read the Old Testament prophets railing about societies being destroyed because the wealthy were doing nothing for widows and orphans and the poor. Now, I know that Jesus and the prophets came from a third world colony of a powerful empire far away from America, but I don't actually think those ideas and values are very foreign to American ideas and values today. D'Souza's scare mongering is as funny as political writing gets, because it is based on nothing but right-wing fantasies about ideas that are as all-American as you can get.
Cross-posted at OpenLeft.com, where you can read all of my writing.
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