“You know if you look at the victories and the failures of the Civil Rights movement and its litigation strategy in the Court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I would be okay. But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical, it didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf and that hasn’t shifted. And one of the I think the tragedies of the Civil Rights movement was because the Civil Rights movement became so court focused I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.” – Barack Obama, 2001 radio interview with Chicago Public Radio
Why does this quote made in 2001 from Obama have the campaign worried? How is this redistribution of wealth phrase different than Joe the Plumber’s answer? There are a few reasons.
1) Barack Obama says in the opening sentence that the civil rights movement did not go far enough to correct past injustices. In Obama’s view the Civil Rights movement allowed him to eat at his local Denny’s without being kicked out or forced to eat in another section. It also utilized the courts more than it should have to affect change.
2) Obama told Joe the Plumber he wanted to redistribute the wealth and in this quote we see that his agenda for change has always included that idea. However, he again criticizes the Supreme Court for not venturing into economic inequalities that existed, and as he sees it still exist, in the 1960’s. With two openings on the Supreme Court coming, this statement clearly shows what kind of Justices he would seek to place in the highest court.
3) Most disturbing is Obama’s idea of “the Constitution as a charter of negative liberties”. Thanks to a quick review of Wikipedia, a negative liberty is essentially a personal liberty that people have to pursue their interests whether they be economic or otherwise. A positive liberty is a liberty that is collective or communal in nature and is used by leaders to promote programs for the good of the citizenry. In other words, if you make too much money those under you suffer so for the good of the people a leader will “tax” your money to give it to someone else. Or anither way would be to say that guns kill people so for the good of the people their ownership should be curtailed. Essentially Obama is laying out his plan to rewrite the fundamentals of the Constitution either through legislative or judicial means.
4) Finally, Obama admits in 2001 that ACORN and other community groups would be used to advance his agendas when he states that community organizations were left behind by the civil rights movement and their influence should have been utilized more.
Presumably Obama was not running for the Presidency in 2001 and thus these comments are his true feelings. While some may find the redistribution theory alarming in Obama’s answer, what should be more disturbing is Obama’s willingness to call the Constitution flawed becasue it does not say what the government MUST do for the citizens. This statement from 2001 is the clearest example yet of Obama’s theory on government and what he means by CHANGE.
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