One of the most telling aspects of Barack Obama hasn't yet been mentioned: his moral authoritarianism.
If anyone had any doubts that he is as 'liberal' as he pretends not to be, consider his moral view of other people. Like all of his kind, (since this is one good way to actually distinguish them), he is convinced that he (a) unerringly knows better than individuals themselves what is good for them and "society as a whole", (b) is perfectly willing to initiate force to achieve the ends he prescribes.
This was brought out clearly in his now-famous conversation with Joe the Plumber and the discussion about it that followed at the Presidential debate. He blithely offered that Joe's money actually belonged, though he didn't say it this way, to 'society', free for Barack Obama as future Emperor of the Federal Government to spread as he thought best, Joe's wishes aside. This is how a moral authoritarian acts.
There are people on all points of the political compass. But far from some of the common criteria for delineating "the Left" from "the Right" — such as being pro-choice or anti-abortion, embracing religion or inclining to atheism, or preferring a latte to a Budweiser — the two points listed above are enough to capture the essence of the moral authoritarian, at least as it concerns his view of the proper role of government.
There are, after all, plenty of genuine liberals who believe in judging a person by his individual values and actions, rather than his inclusion in a certain group. There are sincere conservatives who support the public school system. There are religious Democrats and secular Republicans. There are conservatives who believe in government-sponsored charity and so-called liberals who support U.S. war efforts in the Middle East. None of these positions is definitive.
In some cases, these apparent paradoxes result from lack of consistency. But, in the main, a person's fundamental philosophy drives them to adopt a whole range of views that cluster together. It's no accident that faux liberals who support social welfare programs are also strong believers in environmentalism, though the two subjects would seem to have little in common. It's not a coincidence that pro-war conservatives are anti-'make it up as you go along to accord with your moral outlook, the Constitution be damned'- judges.
These two (moral dogmatism and, hence, government intrusion) are some of the fundamental criteria for deciding what constitutes a person's 'political essence'. It is an outgrowth of his overall view of the proper relationship of individuals in society, and therefore what is the proper purpose of governments, what actions it ought or ought not to take.
By these criteria it's easy to see how some 'conservatives' opposed to genetics research are essentially similar to rabid environmentalists, however much they may differ on some issues. Both are happy to initiate force to get others to comply with their ethical choices, even in the absence of violations of anyone's rights, simply because their dogmatic moral outlook demands it.
From this perspective, it's easy to identify and classify Barack Obama, no matter how many mirrors he holds up against the sun to blind those observing him. Quite simply, he believes a socialist government should control personal decisions because he sincerely believes, as sincerely as he can hold any belief, that it knows best and is justified in using political power to achieve those ends because it has that knowledge.
But, since government in the real world is not a disembodied entity, this necessarily evolves at once to King Obama and his parliament deciding for everyone else, or so he hopes. Scratch a moral authoritarian's thin skin and you will at once draw the diseased blood of a totalitarian.
It is no surprise, then, that he can with all sincerity and no sense of shame whatever tell a plumber from Ohio that "things work best when the wealth is spread around."
Never mind that wealth is not a collective object, owned by society as a whole, but the property of some individual. Never mind, therefore, that it is inappropriate for Federal representatives to confiscate it and decide how it will be dispensed. Never mind that the only way for that all-knowing body to carry out its decisions, though it is willing to compromise (for a while) and submit to democratic elections, is by initiating force against innocent victims. Never mind the irrevocable laws of economics that teach us that removing wealth from the wealthy will necessarily soon impoverish everyone.
If money has to be taken from some and given to others by the government acting as intermediary, that's alright — because (in Obama's view) this is what justice demands. More, he knows this beyond a doubt and is fine using the government's power to effect the ends he sees as just.
It's this all-fired certainty without any basis in fact, indeed contrary to it, this smugness in their infallible moral powers that conservatives are groping to identify when they call such people elitist. But there is nothing elite about wanting to dictate the choices of other people. It is, rather, the lowest form of being.
That describes to a T the 2008 Democratic candidate for President, the moral authoritarian, Barack Obama.
[Next time: John McCain.]