Yeah, Obama’s Radical, and The Right Should Be, Too

The political lexicon relies in large part on buzzwords, like “patriot” or “socialist.” And then there’s “radical,” which the right wing applies more tenaciously to President Obama than almost any other term. The most recent usage stems from the word that Sean Hannity will soon publish a new book, Conservative Victory. Not surprisingly, it’s being billed as a guide to defeating Obama’s “radical agenda.” In light of this news, let’s take a moment to look at the myth of radicalism, which consistently misses the mark because every American, including Republicans, needs to be more radical, dude.

There’s no shortage of sound bites describing the President as “radical.” It’s not as common as “socialist,” although definitely remains a favorite for the Obama’s ideological enemies. Right-wing websites, blogs, and leaders, like Dick Cheney, have a fondness for using the term when denouncing his tactics, allies and general mindset. Usage reached a peak in the months leading up to the 2008 election, but has held steady ever since.

The epithet “radical” has become so commonplace, in fact, that it’s barely noticeable: the word has become the political equivalent of white noise. In actuality, however, it’s quite the misnomer, for the President’s policies are more centrist than what people consider “radical.” Semantics aside, hearing about Hannity’s book made me take a closer look, and it also made me realize that all political leaders, Democrat, Republican and otherwise, need to be more “radical” in the purest sense of the word.

Most often people associate “radical” with some severe break from tradition, as Obama himself has in the past. On the surface, they’re correct. But, etymologically speaking, “radical” means “going to the origin.” To be radical is to address the root of a problem; or, in this nation’s case, problems. Dissociated from its misplaced revolutionary aura, radicalism amounts to nothing more than an unconventional approach. That’s precisely what we need.

It’s no secret that our nation’s suffering at the moment: years of by-the-book politics and regulations – not to mention greed, ill-informed warmongering, and power-lust – have brought us to the brink. It doesn’t take a Harvard Law professor to realize that following these same routes will only lead us further into disaster. Regardless of one’s politician leanings, most Americans can agree that our political and economic cultures need a major overhaul – or, more precisely, a “radical” new approach that gets to the root of our collective woes.

Hannity, Cheney and other right-wing leaders’ use of “radical” undercuts their message. Like most of us, they want to see America move forward into a prosperous future. To fight radicalism, then, becomes counterproductive. Our survival depends upon radical change, a shift from the business-as-usual approach that dragged us down, and a look at the roots of our dilemmas. If these Obama opponents truly want to salvage the States, they too will embrace radical politics, albeit in a different form than the President’s suggesting.

If they President’s opponents are dead set on using code to smear Obama’s policies, perhaps they can think of something other than the word radical. “Revolutionary” may be too trite at this point, so, keeping with this social group’s histrionic and inflammatory tone, how about they just say “primitive?” That’s not only synonymous with radical’s original definition; it also plays beautifully on other sentiments bubbling under the some of the right wing’s frustration.

Image via Steve Rhodes’ flickr.