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During the 2008 presidential campaign and for a while afterwards, it was common to hear pundits and news commentators say, even conservative ones, that Obama was a pragmatist merely exploiting a bad economy and “Bush exhaustion.” Have you noticed we do not hear that talk anymore?

That illusion of pragmatic idealism didn’t last long once Obama took office, and his genuine radicalism is now widely acknowledged. What is not widely understood is how profoundly radical he really is – not merely in economic policy but in his willingness to destroy the pillars of American prosperity for the sake of his ideology.

Barack Hussein Obama is a radical in at least three political dimensions. By now, millions recognize that in economic policy, Obama is a European-style socialist. As such, he is impatient of gradual change and tends to push American progressivism to its logical extremes. In foreign policy he is an “anti-imperialist” of the Howard Zinn variety who thinks American military power has been used mainly to protect dictators and oppress the world’s downtrodden masses.

But it is the third dimension of Obama’s radicalism that actually powers his agenda: his cultural radicalism. He rejects “American exceptionalism” in every sense of the word. In his view, as in the view of any Saul Alinsky radical, America’s self-image is flawed. America is a corrupt nation, tainted by the manifold sins, which Jeremiah Wright catalogued so eloquently in his Chicago sermons at Obama’s chosen church. Our Constitution is flawed at the core – because it accepted and perpetuated slavery, second-class citizenship for women and other 18th-century imperfections – so we are a nation of sinners morally as well as politically.

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This cultural radicalism, shared by so many of our university-educated elites, is what gives Obama his attitude of moral superiority toward traditional American values. It energizes his army of cultural warriors and gives them a peculiar immunization against programmatic failure. If one of Obama’s programs fails to get the results he predicted – such as the catastrophic failure of the $800 billion dollar “stimulus package” to generate new jobs – it is not because it is bad policy, it is because wicked capitalists sabotaged the program.

Obama has been continually underestimated, and one of the ways he is underestimated is in thinking that Obama only succeeds because his radical aims are part of some conspiracy. Any plan made by three or more people can be called a conspiracy if it’s not published and proclaimed for all to see, but in that case, all of politics is a battle of conspirators.

Yet, in truth, it is hard to call Obama’s political agenda a conspiracy when it is shared – in all of its radical perversity – by about 25 million citizens of the socialist faith. This is about 20 percent of the active American electorate, and it is a radical viewpoint that now dominates and controls the Democratic Party in most states. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s an open policy agenda. This is the cultural legacy of the 1960s, just as 1950s liberalism of John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey was the cultural legacy of the Great Depression.

The one part of the socialist agenda that almost qualifies as a conspiracy is the sinister desire to wreak as much havoc as possible in the nation’s financial institutions as a way of generating public distrust and cynicism and thus a political opening for more government control of those institutions.

This maniacal strategy was certainly the policy underpinning of the ruinous housing bubble, which owes its origin to the Community Reinvestment Act and related mandates imposed on the banking and home mortgage industries. While most politicians who voted for those “innovations” thought they were being “compassionate” toward low-income families, radicals like Obama understood that such programs were designed to fail: They are designed to bring more government control in the wake of that planned failure.

The current debate over the debt ceiling is in realty a debate over whether we as a nation can continue down the path of socialist economic boondoggles funded by never-ending deficit spending. In the socialist dream world where Obama lives, there is no day of reckoning when, as Margaret Thatcher explained, “you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Only by turning off that magic spigot, the “unlimited debt limit,” can the socialists’ bluff be called. That is why the debt-ceiling debate signals a critical tipping point for America.

Obama’s radicalism lies not in a blindness to the danger of driving over the cliff of economic catastrophe. His radicalism lies in welcoming that catastrophe.

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