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Professor Charles Kesler ponders Obama’s—and liberalism’s—fate at the Heritage Foundation | THE JEENYUS CORNER


Andrew Evans

Charles Kesler argued Wednesday night at the Heritage Foundation that “the crisis of liberalism is Obama’s crisis” during a lecture based on his book, I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism.

Heritage Vice President Matthew Spalding introduced Kesler as a “tower of conservative thought” and said the Claremont McKenna College professor has done something “liberal, if not downright revolutionary” with the book by writing about President Barack Obama as the president “understands and explains himself.”

Kesler opened his talk with this theme, saying that it is “fairer and more useful” to call Obama “what he calls himself: a progressive or a liberal.”

He said that liberalism is approaching a “crisis,” a “turning point” where it will either “go out of business” or change entirely.

Kesler said that the 20th century was “very much the liberal century.” It was marked by three great presidents who enacted sweeping liberal public policies: Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Obama’s presidency stands in the same tradition as these 20th-century presidents, Kesler argued.

“All the alluvial silt from this stream of liberalism deposited itself in Barack Obama’s formation,” he said.

Kesler used Obama’s books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, to discuss Obama’s life and his place in American liberalism. Obama, Kesler said, is a “child of the 60s” who “shared the 60s existentialist mood.” He noted that, while many politicians fabricate parts of their autobiographies, Obama is the first to boast openly of such fictionalizing.

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