Synopses & Reviews
Is Barack Obama the savior of liberalism—or the last liberal president? Charles R. Kesler's spirited analysis of Obama's political thought shows that he represents either a new birth of liberalism—or its demise.
Who is Barack Obama? Though many of his own supporters wonder if he really believes in anything, Charles R. Kesler argues that these disappointed liberals don't appreciate the scope of the president's ambition or the long-term stakes for which he is playing.
Conservatives also misunderstand Obama, according to this leading conservative scholar, educator, and journalist. They dismiss him as a socialist, hopelessly out of touch with the American mainstream. The fringe Right dwells on Obama's foreign upbringing, his missing birth certificate, Bill Ayers's supposed authorship of his books. What mainstream and fringe have in common is a stubborn underestimation of the man and the political movement he embodies.
Reflecting a sophisticated mix of philosophy, psychology, and history, and complemented by a scathing wit, I Am the Change tries to understand Obama as he understands himself, based largely on his own writings, speeches, and interviews. Kesler, the rare conservative who takes Obama seriously as a political thinker, views him as a gifted and highly intelligent progressive who is attempting to become the greatest president in the history of modern liberalism. Intent on reinvigorating the liberal faith, Obama nonetheless fails to understand its fatal contradictions—a shortsightedness that may prove to be liberalism's undoing.
Will Obama save liberalism and become its fourth great incarnation, following Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson? Or will he be derailed by his very successes? These are the questions at the heart of Kesler's thoughtful and illuminating book.
"While recalling the wildly inflated expectations that greeted President Barack Obama's 2008 election, conservative scholar Kesler argues that 'fundamental political change' through the building of a permanent Democratic majority and the 'effective disappearance of conservatives' is still the agenda of Obama's self-aggrandizing and messianic mission. According to Kesler, liberalism is a big-government and antibusiness bogeyman with totalitarian bent and the antithesis to an American conservatism that resists 'the European model of social democracy' and 'Keynesian magic.' In dissecting liberalism's misguidedness, Kesler returns to its modern roots, beginning with Woodrow Wilson's Progressivism. Obama, he suggests, is in a direct line with a 'top down' radical reform agenda never mind the rhetoric about the grassroots Obamacare being a particularly glaring instance of 'the modern liberal state' in action. But a century of liberalism has bred a philosophical and fiscal crisis that now dooms it to obsolesce or dangerous fascistic transformation. The author's argument raises important red flags concerning state power generally (although such excesses can hardly be laid exclusively at the feet of liberals), yet loses urgency by being alternately alarmist and dismissive concerning the menace of liberalism. A familiar critique from the right. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Is Barack Obama the last liberal president? In I Am the Change, Charles Kesler, a leading conservative scholar, educator, and journalist, offers a sophisticated analysis of the presidents political thought, based on Obamas own words and writings, to demonstrate that he represents either a new birth of liberalism…or its demise. Keslers writing is a potent mixture of philosophy, journalism, psychology, and history—seasoned with a delightful, razor-sharp wit—as he takes a greatly underestimated chief executive seriously and explores American liberalism in crisis.
About the Author
Charles R. Kesler is the Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and the editor of the Claremont Review of Books. He is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and the coeditor, with William F. Buckley, Jr., of Keeping the Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought.