This year's big political story was the fall from electoral grace of President Barack Obama. Numerous books attacked his radical agenda-some hysterically, some strongly but reasonably, and one that was particularly well-researched.
I'll give my recommendations, but let me start with the thought that all of us should start with the biblical admonition to pray for those in authority over us. Roman Christians were to pray for emperors like Nero about whom nothing good could be said either governmentally or personally. We now have a president whose politics most of us rightly disdain, but we should pray for him and thank God that he is faithful to his wife and his children-that's not something to take for granted.
Respecting President Obama doesn't mean that he isn't wrong on just about everything outside his family. His economic policies have led to fewer jobs. His health insurance push, unless overturned, will cost trillions and hurt millions. His foreign policy has heartened America's enemies. We should concentrate on those tragic errors. We should support authors who do solid research into Obama's past and develop solid analyses of his policies-plenty to criticize there-while staying away from hysteria and psychological speculation.
Strongly worded books showing Obama's leftism include Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski, The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency (Lyons Press), and Robert Knight, Radical Rulers: The White House Elites Who Are Pushing America Toward Socialism (Coral Ridge). The best, though, is Stanley Kurtz's Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism (Simon and Schuster, 2010).
Kurtz has done terrific detective work. He documents what the 21-year-old Obama heard at Socialist Scholars Conferences in the early 1980s and charts his activities with leftist groups like UNO (United Neighborhood Organization), the Midwest Academy, the Campaign for Human Development, and the nownotorious ACORN. He documents Obama's relations with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright and in so doing shows the dereliction of major media in reporting those connections but then dismissing their significance.
Kurtz also reviews Obama's work in the Illinois state Senate and concludes that "the best way to understand the president's policies is to see them as a series of steps designed to slowly but surely move the country closer to the socialist ideal." Kurtz shows how Obama's "socialist organizing background" trained him in "strategic patience." Obama's failure to bring Americans together is a failure only in the gauzy view of political softheads: The evidence supports Kurtz's view that "Obama's goal is to polarize the country along class lines, with Republicans marked out as the aggressors."
This Democratic playbook worked well in 1964, when Barry Goldwater raised the issue of government growth and liberals responded with books like Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics. That book dodged the issues by characterizing the American political right as full of rage at the loss of a mythical past: Status anxiety left conservatives psychologically flawed. The conservative tendency might be to do the same to liberals, but Kurtz shows us the harder and better path.
The conservative goal now should be to resist temptation, keep calm, and carry on: Show what mega-deficits do. Explain why government health care will hurt rather than help. Don't become a mirror image of the left.
Three introductions to current politics:
Angelo Codevilla's The Ruling Class (Beaufort, 2010) summarizes well the Obama milieu: Leading American universities teach that philosopher kings can gain power by making those who are poor dependent on the state; leaders can then raise the consciousness of benighted U.S. middle class members who are curiously fascinated by God, guns, and gold.
Codevilla's The Character of Nations: How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family, and Civility (Basic, 2009) and A Student's Guide to International Relations (ISI, 2010) are useful introductions to the study of politics both domestic and worldwide.