Dinesh D’Souza, the influential conservative political commentator, respected Christian apologist, and director of the documentary film 2016: Obama’s America was in Houston on Saturday, June 28 for the premier of his new film America: Imagine the World Without Her, and he appeared for a Q&A session with the audience. I was able to attend both the screening and the Q&A, and had the opportunity to ask Mr. D’Souza a question myself. The film is an adaptation of his latest book by the same title, and the main argument advanced by both is that liberals and progressives are deliberately undermining American greatness by promoting an anti-American interpretation of American history and using the U.S. government to weaken America’s economic prosperity at home and diplomatic influence abroad. D’Souza is quite explicit in making this claim, and he writes in the book that “decline…has become a policy objective” and that “progressivism is the ideology of American suicide.” Quite the accusation.

While it is certainly true that many Americans feel anxious about the future of the U.S. given continued economic stagnation, seemingly inescapable military entanglements, and the ongoing inability of Congress to work together to address long-term entitlement and environmental issues, the argument that one of our nation’s major political parties is consciously harming the country is unlikely to foster the type of reconciliation that our divided union so desperately needs to achieve. D’Souza’s characterization of liberals and progressives in the film as determined to cause America’s decline will only reinforce the most conspiratorial, hyperbolic, and confrontational rhetoric and tactics that far too many conservative commentators and politicians have embraced since the rise of the Tea Party and its visceral mistrust of President Obama.

America is not unique in identifying the anxiety that many Americans feel about the possibility of national decline, but the film’s proposed remedy is nothing short of the complete eradication from America’s political institutions of liberals and progressives. Rather than highlight the fact that political divisions have been a continuity throughout American history and promote the art of compromise, and the necessity of pragmatism over ideology, the film only gives further expression to and confirmation of the worst tendencies on the far-Right to view our current political problems in apocalyptic terms. Expect the casual musings about impeachment to become an explicit and urgent necessity by those who accept D’Souza’s argument.

 The film focuses explicitly on education and how liberals and progressives teach their students to criticize or even hate America rather than celebrate it. D’Souza argues that today’s teachers and professors promote shame and guilt about America’s past and that this is part of a larger liberal/progressive scheme to convince the citizenry that the United States should be weakened on the world stage. He credits the formulation of a “single narrative of American shame” to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and spends considerable time attacking Zinn’s interpretation of American history. The film argues that today’s students are not hearing the whole story, and that their teachers are actively hiding the positive contributions made by America in favor of a biased, one-sided account that only highlights America’s flaws.

The assumption of the film is that such a one-sided interpretation of American history is, in fact, being taught in our high schools and universities. As someone who earned a B.A. in history and now teaches high school history I can say such an assumption is unfounded. Zinn’s text is not used as a comprehensive history, but rather as a supplemental text that provides perspectives and incidents that a typical textbook may leave out. In other words, Zinn’s text does exactly what D’Souza claims his film is doing. It was unclear whether the film promoted a more balanced presentation of history, or if the liberal/progressive version should be completely jettisoned for the “correct” celebratory version. I asked Mr. D’Souza during the Q&A how he thought American history should be taught and whether or not Howard Zinn’s now classic text should still be read. He responded that he had read A People’s History of the United States multiple times and that reading Zinn was only a problem if the text was presented as the complete story. My response, as a teacher, is that Mr. D’Souza would feel much better about America’s youth if he actually spoke to a teacher about how they use Zinn’s text in the classroom.

A useful counter-argument to D’Souza’s America, in which he writes, “the American era is ending in part because a powerful group of Americans wants it to end,” is the timely Our Divided Political Heart by E.J. Dionne Jr. Both books attempt to diagnose the current discontent and anxiety within America about the future, but they offer starkly different solutions to our problems. Whereas D’Souza’s website promoting the film encourages the viewer to “decide which America you believe in,” Dionne argues that “false choices are the enemy of balance” and insists that regaining a healthy balance between our competing political philosophies is the key to forging a new long-term consensus like the one that existed after World War II wherein general agreement existed about the benefits of investment in infrastructure, education, and scientific research, and the amount of taxes that were necessary to fund the welfare state and the military.

The current divide in Congress, as many political scientists have observed, is the result of asymmetric polarization, meaning that only one side of the political spectrum has become extreme and/or unwilling to compromise with the other. It goes without saying that the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives is responsible for the intense polarization; after all, there is no Occupy Wall Street caucus and conservative claims that the Democratic Party or President Obama reflect the real concerns of OWS are simply false. In his book, Dionne pleads with Republicans and the Tea Party to recognize that “in the absence of a new consensus, we will continue to fight,” and D’Souza’s response to such a reality seems to be: prepare for battle. One audience member clearly got the message; he opened the Q&A session by asking what people could do besides engage in armed rebellion.

Dionne, like D’Souza, perceives the centrality of history to our current political impasse. He writes that, “Americans disagree about who we are because we can’t agree about who we’ve been” and it is this disagreement about how to understand ourselves and our past that D’Souza attempts to resolve in the film. He fashions himself as a debater going head-to-head with an established liberal/progressive understanding of American history, one that denigrates rather than celebrates our past, and he seeks to refute the argument once-and-for-all. Again, the tactic is not compromise, common ground, or reconciliation; it is to defeat the enemy. Dionne, unlike D’Souza, would arguably not perceive such a tactic as constructive or feasible because, as he writes, “American history is defined by an irrepressible and ongoing tension between two core values: our love of individualism and our reverence for community.” As Dionne points out, both liberals and conservatives care deeply about and promote individual rights and the well-being of the community, but D’Souza attempts to fashion progressivism’s contribution as illegitimate or sinister.

The history of progressivism, which includes Republicans such as Teddy Roosevelt, is entirely misrepresented by conflating it with the views of scholars and activists such as Noam Chomsky, who is a self-described anarchist. The film leaves the audience with the impression that in too many classrooms American history is taught with the aim of inciting anti-Americanism and that the response should not be to regain balance between competing perspectives, but that the “truth” about America’s greatness must be proclaimed loud and proud. One audience member asked Mr. D’Souza to contact the Koch brothers in order to fund the film’s promotion in public schools, seeing no problem with screening a highly partisan film such as America in classrooms across the country. Mr. D’Souza reinforced the audience’s concerns by stating that there is nothing wrong with today’s young people, that it is their teachers that are leading them astray. Concerned parents may soon be calling for teachers they perceive to be pushing progressive Kool-aid to instead drink the hemlock.

The argument put forward by America, which is released nationwide on Wednesday, July 2, goes beyond the demonization of a specific politician, piece of legislation, or political party; it attempts to demonize an entire political philosophy and repudiate part of our political history. The hyperbole of the attacks against liberalism and progressivism are reminiscent of the vitriolic rhetoric that Glenn Beck used to espouse but has since apologized for. In terms of our attempt to move beyond divisiveness and mistrust, Beck’s apology was one step forward, but D’Souza’s film is two steps backward. America offers a calmer, more measured, quasi-academic tone but the degree of disgust implicitly endorsed towards liberals and progressives is the same. As much as the film is about our past, it is really about our future, and D’Souza takes aim at both Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton as leaders of the liberal/progressive movement to “undo” American greatness. Yet, as Dionne points out, “If everything that matters is at stake, then taking enormous risks with the country’s well-being…is no longer out of bounds. Rather, pushing the system to its limits – and beyond – becomes a form of patriotism.” D’Souza unwisely fuels the existing sense on the far-Right that they are a besieged minority in possession of the truth, but that the schools, the government, and the media are increasingly against them. If we are to take D’Souza’s argument about the liberal/progressive undermining of America as sincere, one can only fear how D’Souza’s audience would react to a democratically elected Hillary Clinton in 2016.

God’s Not Dead, a film by Harold Cronk that premiered March 21, attempts to tackle the important issues of academic freedom, personal autonomy, and freedom of speech. What is a professor permitted to say in class or demand from students? What rights do students have to think and speak for themselves? Such a conflict, which is real enough, yet dramatized poorly in the film, is at the heart of the educational process. Is the role of the professor to think for the students, to provide them the correct viewpoint, or to help the students develop the intellectual tools that will enable them to think for themselves? A common view of philosophy is that it provides people the intellectual tools to think through issues in a logical, rigorous manner, while religion may demand the acceptance of arguments based on faith. God’s Not Dead cleverly inverts this contrast by presenting a dogmatic atheist professor who demands “professions of disbelief” from his students, while a brave Christian student defends the right of his peers to think freely.

As someone who has studied philosophy at the undergraduate and graduate level, currently teaches the humanities to high school students, and has grappled with faith for years, I eagerly viewed the film to discover what the ultimate message would be for believer and non-believer alike. The most interesting scene for me was the only moment of the film that the audience enthusiastically applauded. The Christian student, tasked with proving the existence of God and attempting to use his professor’s own arguments against him, quotes Stephen Hawking: “Philosophy is dead.” The audience applauded and cheered the assertion. I was struck by this reaction, no doubt, since the message of the film up to that point appeared to be that a) philosophy does not require atheism, and b) that religious faith can be defended on rational grounds. Was the audience missing the point of the conflict between the professor and the student? Why was it cheering for the death of philosophy when philosophy was being used to give life to religious faith?

The film depicts a philosophy professor, Dr. Radisson, demanding that his students write “God is dead” on a sheet of paper the first day of class. He instructs them to sign the sheet, explaining that his course “Introduction to Philosophical Thought,” will go much more smoothly without theistic or supernatural beliefs being considered by the students. As someone who has studied philosophy and who now teaches philosophy, I have never witnessed anything remotely similar to Dr. Radisson’s demand and cannot imagine anyone doing so. The choice faced by the Christian student, Josh, is simply not a choice, to my knowledge, that students are forced to face by their instructors. What is undoubtedly true, and what has been my own experience, is that choices about one’s personal beliefs definitely take place internally and on the student’s own terms. If a student reads David Hume or Friedrich Nietzsche then their beliefs will be directly challenged and they will have to think through specific questions and reconcile competing claims, but that is a process that takes place within the individual and not something forced on them by the professor. After all, individuals choose to take a philosophy course knowing that they may read texts that will challenge their beliefs or contradict their current views.

A majority of philosophy professors are atheists, but Dr. Radisson is arguably a straw-man caricature created to promote the view, common amongst too many Christians, that philosophy departments are intolerant secular prisons preventing young people from retaining their faith or thinking for themselves. The film is quite disheartening and inaccurate in its portrayal of philosophy as a straightjacket that restricts thought rather than a source of empowerment. Again, did the Christian student not defend his faith and arrive at a deeper understanding of it through the use of rational analysis and philosophical reflection? The fact that belief in certain religious or metaphysical claims may decline as a result of a college education or the study of philosophy is far different from atheism being openly promoted or forced onto students. The film portrays an academic setting hostile to religious faith, feeding the delusion that Christians are a besieged minority, when in fact numerous polls indicate that approximately 75% of adults in the U.S. believe in God.

While Dr. Radisson’s request that students disavow belief in God for the purposes of his course was both inappropriate and unnecessary, the notion that one’s personal beliefs should be consciously set aside in order to engage in a specific research methodology is common. Scientists engage in “methodological atheism” in order to discover natural explanations to natural events; and it is common to study religious texts in a dispassionate manner for literary, historical, and comparative purposes. What is troubling about God’s Not Dead is that it reinforces the misconception that some Christians, I assume many of those in the audience, have about public education more generally. While the viewer may root for Josh as he defends his faith, they most likely do not want their own child to have to go through a similar ordeal. The reality is that students do not have to make the difficult decisions that are forced on Josh by Dr. Radisson. I fear that the film simply gives further affirmation to parents who send their children to private religious schools in order to avoid the influence of “secular tyrants” like Dr. Radisson who will seek to undermine their faith. The reality is that while it may be more comfortable to express one’s faith or openly affirm Christian beliefs in a private religious school, the student is more challenged to justify their beliefs to themselves and encouraged to develop intellectual autonomy in a secular environment, even one as hostile as Dr. Radisson’s classroom. Democracy requires self-government, which begins with the individual, and philosophy empowers the individual to develop intellectual autonomy. When the audience applauds the “death of philosophy,” they may be cheering for their own disempowerment. The task of public education is to prepare individuals for democratic self-government, which requires the ability to acknowledge differences of opinion, respect the beliefs of others, and compromise on controversial issues. In portraying the public university and philosophy classroom as unrealistically hostile to religion, the film may have the unintended consequence of promoting a religious intolerance of critical self-reflection that is inimical to democracy.

July 24, 2013

In thinking about what it is that the Occupy movement has been and continues to be a response to, it seems that alienation from Nature and a sense of powerlessness within the political system are two of the main characteristics of modern society that Occupy aims to confront. The principles and values expressed by Occupy Wall Street have an obvious overlap with the concerns of environmentalists and the movement has in various ways attempted to both circumvent and directly influence the political system. The desire of many people to reassert the value of Nature and reconnect with other human beings is arguably what attracted many to the Occupy movement, its message and its efforts.

The entertainment industry, as always, has attempted to capitalize on people’s desires by marketing the authenticity and community that many people seek. Film is an obvious medium through which people are offered the satisfaction of their desires, or at least the opportunity to vicariously live out their desires. Two popular films that have tapped into the sense of alienation and powerlessness experienced by today’s youth are Into the Wild and The East. The different responses to modern society presented in these two films demonstrate that the details of how to overcome alienation and powerlessness are far from obvious and help to illuminate why a movement such as Occupy Wall Street offers a viable path forward.

Into the Wild was a very popular drama (based on a true story) about a young man who rejected the exploitation and hypocrisy of modern society by turning his back on the world in the pursuit of individual salvation through a return to Nature. It is the story of a young man who studies the liberal arts, becomes disillusioned with the world, and seeks to escape what he sees by cultivating an individual authenticity far away from society’s expectations and hazards. His response to corruption is to avert his eyes and seek personal liberation, not ultimately from his knowledge of how bad things are, but from his physical connection to a fallen world. The young man has passed from what the Romantic poet William Blake described as the “state of innocence” into the “state of disillusionment” and allowed his cynicism and disgust to forsake the world, and all of the injustice that troubled him so much.

The response of some people, upon entering into the “state of disillusionment,” is to turn back and willingly embrace a false view of the world from within the “state of innocence” by pretending that everything is okay (happy consumers). Others remain in the “state of disillusionment” and conform to the crooked values of a crooked world figuring that they might as well get what they can how they can since the world is an ugly place (unhappy consumers). The response to alienation and powerless that Into the Wild presents is neither. Christopher McCandless, the young man who actually turned his back on civilization and ultimately starved to death in the Alaskan wilderness, did successfully rebel against modern society. The potential problem with his escape is that he overcame political powerlessness by forfeiting power altogether, and in the pursuit of personal self-discovery and authenticity turned his back on many meaningful relationships and forms of community.

Viewers had a variety of reactions to McCandless’s story as captured by the non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer and the film by Sean Penn, some empathizing with the young man’s search for meaning and rejection of society and others criticizing his sense of privilege and lack of perspective. The film communicates to the audience many of the objections to the world that Occupy expresses, but offers a response to the world that is ultimately self-serving and complicit in the perpetuation of the reality that is being rejected and evaded.

The East is a story about a group of young environmental anarchists who carry out planned actions of retaliation against pharmaceutical companies and the fossil fuel industry. For most members of the group the retaliations are personal, having been chosen based on events in their personal lives where a reckless and unethical corporation’s pursuit of profit resulted in unjustifiable harm to innocent people.

The film addresses both alienation from Nature and powerlessness by locating the group’s base in an abandoned house in the forest where they cultivate an ascetic, communal lifestyle and plan their retaliations against the corporate forces that have so corrupted the political system that peaceful and democratic accountability or reform, at least according to the group, have been rendered unfeasible. The environmental anarchists attempt to impose justice onto a system that they see as inherently corrupt and amoral as they create the type of community amongst themselves that they argue a consumer culture precludes. It is unclear in the film if their goal is to change the values of modern society or simply combat one existing set of values with an alternative set of values.

Unlike Into the Wild, the disillusioned youth in The East do not physically turn their backs on modern society. They actively confront the reality that they abhor, but they do so on personal and vindictive terms. Their version of community is ultimately an insulated, self-serving community whose particular motives detract from the universal articulation of its principles. Their actions can certainly be interpreted as violent and possibly even as acts of domestic terrorism. The members succumb to a different type of cynicism than McCandless in that they view political reform to be impossible, which results in their embrace of direct confrontation with the forces of exploitation, injustice, and corruption.

While such a diagnosis of politics may be quite accurate and their cynicism warranted, the error of the group’s response to alienation and powerlessness is their embrace of violence absent any larger reform movement (which is not to say that violence would be justified under different circumstances). The film accurately captures many of the injustices of modern society and makes a compelling case for indignation and activism to confront such injustices, but the particular reaction portrayed in The East is not a viable path forward in the real world.

The overreaction by law enforcement and national security to the rise of Occupy Wall Street, the actions of WikiLeaks and the whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, indicates that emulating the youth in The East would result in swift and harsh suppression, not to mention rejection by the mainstream media and the general public. Violence is unlikely to inspire a larger reform movement, and will most likely shrink whatever movement currently exists. While the film does not endorse the actions of the anarchists, it does present one possible reaction that today’s youth may find hypothetically as attractive as it is impractical.

What are today’s youth to do? Turn their backs on political problems and seek freedom in self-exploration or violently confront a broken political system and subsume their identity into a collective? Obviously, neither option is a good one, but these two films are examples of what today’s youth are being offered. For most viewers, films such as Into the Wild and The East are not seen as examples to emulate or guide-posts for choosing a direction in life. But film does impact popular culture and people’s views of specific issues confronting modern society. The individual who sympathizes with Into the Wild may stop paying attention to politics and focus more on maintaining personal contentment by doing things that make them feel better like camping, hiking, rock-climbing, etc. The individual who sympathizes with The East, assuming they do not join an eco-terrorist group, will harbor resentment towards a political system they see as beyond reform and most likely embrace a disillusioned “unhappy consumer” lifestyle.

The conclusion of The East communicates an alternative to violent retaliation by simultaneously endorsing the criticism offered by the environmental anarchists and rejecting their means of confronting an unjust reality. The film ends with the peaceful dissemination of information and reform as a way forward. Likewise, Into the Wild concludes with the recognition that true happiness requires other people and takes place within community.

As enjoyable as it may be to escape into the aesthetics of Into the Wild and The East and to imaginatively embrace their responses to alienation and powerlessness, neither seems to offer a realistic or viable way of constructively altering the reality that both films reject. The disillusioned youth should not turn their back on society or embrace violence. The disillusioned youth should not turn their back on community or sacrifice their individual autonomy. Today’s youth should engage in peaceful, organized resistance against the forces of exploitation, injustice, and corruption that are the sources of alienation and powerlessness with the intention of replacing the corporate (capitalist) values of modern society with the values of sustainability, interdependency, empathy, autonomy, community, humility, gratitude, and love.

Today’s youth should occupy rather than escape modern society.

September 12, 2012

I recently went to see the documentary film “Obama’s America: 2016” at Starplex Theater in Kingwood, Texas with the expectation of being confronted with a series of falsehoods and logical fallacies, but I was very surprised by how informative the film was regarding Barack Obama’s past. I read Obama’s autobiographical memoir Dreams From My Father after his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and the film did a wonderful job bringing to life Obama’s reflections and experiences. The portions of the film based on Obama’s book were very well done and quite informative for viewers who arguably would be more content to have Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck tell them everything they need to know about Obama’s past. The film solidly rejected the “birther conspiracy” by stating that Obama was born in Hawaii and the film never questioned Obama’s religious beliefs. Instead, the film focused on a topic that many Americans know little about: anti-colonialism.

The portions of the film that sought to interpret Obama’s past in order to provide context for his political views in the present, and what those views could mean for America’s future, came from Dinesh D’Souza’s Roots of Obama’s Rageand Obama’s America. D’Souza is an Indian-American immigrant, Roman Catholic convert, and influential conservative intellectual. D’Souza’s thesis is quite simple: Barack Obama is motivated by a Marxist anti-colonial worldview and seeks to deliberately weaken the United States through his presidency. The support offered for this claim: Obama’s enthusiasm for nuclear disarmament, his willingness to increase the national debt, and his unwillingness to increase offshore oil drilling. Okay, but what is anti-colonialism?

You may recall from various history classes that Europe colonized much of the world between 1500 and 1950. There were various phases of colonization (exploration of the New World, Africa in the 19th century, the Middle East after WWI) and diverse motivations (Christianization, national pride, natural resources). The United States itself, as the film points out, was a colony of the British Empire and rebelled against its colonial “master.” Over time, colonies in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, particularly after WWII, began to gain independence and it was anti-colonialism, the belief that people should be self-governing, that was the political ideology motivating the various liberation movements throughout the world.

Anti-colonialism forms part of Barack Obama’s background in the figure of his father, Barack Obama Sr., who was a Harvard educated Kenyan with anti-colonial political views. President Obama only met his father once, but Dinesh D’Souza argues that this absence of a father is what led Obama to identify so strongly with his father’s views. D’Souza attempts to psychoanalyze Obama and argues that he is trying to fulfill his father’s political aspirations. D’Souza’s main support for this claim comes from Obama’s own reflections in Dreams From My Father. In the book, Obama talks about how his past influences his present, and that his father’s history is also his history. D’Souza interprets this to mean that Obama is on a crusade to weaken the Unites States in order to help the people of the Third World, people like his father’s family, who suffered under Western oppression and exploitation.

In the film, D’Souza points out that he and President Obama have much in common biographically, both of them receiving Ivy League educations in the United States and both of their fathers being from former British colonies. The main difference, according to D’Souza, is that the anti-colonialism that Obama “inherited” from his father insists that the industrialized West became wealthy by exploiting the unindustrialized Third World. D’Souza argues that countries like the United States became wealthy due to creativity and hard work, rather than exploitation of other people and their land. I guess D’Souza overlooks the fact that the United States, once it gained independence from the British Empire, took natural resources from Native Americans and labor from African slaves by force, to say nothing of “banana republics” in Central America or our foreign policy in the Middle East since WWII. D’Souza argues that Obama wants to weaken the Unites States because the United States happens to be the sole superpower currently leading the industrialized West. It’s that simple. Obama is anti-colonial, which means he his anti-Western, which means he is anti-American, which means he ran for office with the sole purpose of weakening the “American Empire.”

Honestly, I do not doubt that President Obama’s political views are somewhat informed by anti-colonialism or that he was influenced by Marxist professors in college. Interestingly, the film, and most of the audience, assumes that anti-colonialism and Marxism are inherently anti-American. Again, the United States was born out of rebellion, out of an independence movement against the British Empire. We claim to want to spread democracy around the world. Why should we, as Americans, be opposed to countries in the Third World striving for the political ideals what we ourselves promote? We either believe our own Declaration of Independence, which states that “all men are created equal” and are capable of self-government, or we don’t. Leninism (revolutionary Marxism) and Stalinism (totalitarianism) are certainly at odds with democracy, but Marxism itself is not. Many scholars and political theorists argue that democracy and socialism are more compatible than democracy and capitalism. They argue that unregulated, excessive capitalism corrupts the democratic process by concentrating wealth and political power in the hands of a small minority. Sound familiar?

Again, I concede that anti-colonialism and Marxism may have influenced President Obama’s political philosophy, but the idea that he wants to weaken the United States based on these influences is not proven by his actions as president. Obama followed the lead of George W. Bush by passing a second bailout for Wall Street, which I guess could be considered a form of socialism for the rich (our money being redistributed upwards). He then passed health care reform based on a Heritage Foundation plan (a conservative think tank), which simply increased the profits of the private insurance and pharmaceutical industries (Note: “socialized” medicine would be Medicare for All, which would be far more efficient and moral). Obama has increased U.S. drone strikes in Third World countries killing innocent civilians on a weekly basis, the same people that D’Souza argues Obama is trying to help. Obama has also expanded the government’s surveillance capabilities, both abroad and domestically (which helps the Third World, how?). Obama has also caved to the fossil fuel industry on climate change, which is already seriously affecting the Third World. Maybe if Obama was insisting that the United States radically decrease carbon emissions in order to save the Third World I would reconsider D’Souza’s argument, but even then I would probably just applaud the effort to save the planet.

The film concludes by asking the audience to consider, given all that D’Souza has now told them, what America will be like in 2016 if Obama is re-elected. Well, for all of Obama’s anti-colonial and Marxist influences, we actually already know what America will look like in 2016 if Obama is re-elected. President Obama wants to preserve Medicare and Social Security, invest in education and infrastructure, and reduce the deficit by cutting some military spending and raising some taxes on the wealthiest 1%. The real question is: what will America be like in 2016 if Romney is elected? The Republican Party has been so radicalized by the Tea Party that it no longer resembles the GOP of Reagan or Bush. In fact, if you want to vote for a “conservative” in 2012, the “radical” Obama is probably your best choice.