Obama Is No Liberal

For all the overheated talk about how far to the left Barack Obama is—for all that he has been called a socialist and even accused of having sympathies with the Weather Underground—the truth is that he isn't a particularly liberal President.

It was probably inevitable that Obama would disappoint the high hopes of his progressive base when the realities of governing forced him to compromise. But the fact is that Obama has never been all that liberal. During the primaries a group called Political Compass, which places politicians on a political spectrum on the basis of how they vote and what they say, listed Obama as a moderately authoritarian centrist—far to the right of people like Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich.

In fact, as David Rieff points out, in most European countries Obama would be in the center of the political spectrum. He is liberal only in comparison with people like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Only the fact that America is as a whole substantially more conservative that most western countries makes Obama seem liberal at all. The truth is that Obama in many ways isn’t that far to the left of Ronald Reagan, whom he repeatedly praised during the campaign.

Consider Obama's stance on social issues. He doesn’t support same-sex marriage, and as President has not only backed off his promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, but has even defended its questionable constitutionality. Nor does he support legalizing marijuana, although he admits to having used it when he was younger.

Or consider his stance on civil liberties. Although as a candidate Obama was critical of the Bush administration’s assertion of broad executive powers, as President he has made the same sweeping use of the state secrets privilege that Bush did. And although Obama moved to close the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay, as Glenn Greenwald argues he seems to have relocated the detention program to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, telling a federal judge in February that detainees there had no legal right to challenge their imprisonment. Most strikingly, Obama has said he wants the authority to detain people indefinitely without charging them with any crime—a power which his White House Counsel admitted in the New Yorker would be a sharp departure from the American legal tradition.

If this is a radical agenda, it's not a liberal one.

Related Articles

How schizophrenia is linked to common personality type

Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.

Mind & Brain
  • A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
  • This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
Keep reading Show less

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less