In a column in this morning’s Washington Times, Gary Andres notes that with several months to go before the Democratic convention Sen. Barack Obama has already achieved a considerable distinction. He cites the results of a recent Rasmussen poll which shows that 25% of Americans regard themselves as politically liberal. The poll also states that 67% of Americans regard Obama as being politically liberal, as opposed to 53% who regarded Sen. John Kerry as liberal in 2004. With numbers like those, it’s a safe bet that a lot of prospective voters view the gentleman from Illinois as being more liberal than any major-party presidential candidate since Sen. George McGovern, 36 long years ago.
This perception is not diminished by the fact that Obama has resided for about a quarter-century – except for his years at Harvard Law School – in Hyde Park, the Chicago neighborhood which probably has more bona-fide Nation- or Mother Jones- or Progressive-subscribing liberals per capita than any other place between Cambridge, Mass, and Berkeley, Calif. (Although Madison, Wisc., may run it a close second. And it must be admitted that on the other side of the Windy City, Wicker Park may have even more leftist residents per capita, though it’s probably that nearly all of them prefer to surf websites reflecting their political preferences than to subscribe to such magazines.)
At the Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson discusses the Hyde Park mystique at considerable length. He does note that from the ’50s through the ’80s, the presence at the University of Chicago of such figures as Milton Friedman, Leo Strauss, Allen Bloom and Saul Bellow counteracted the overall liberalism of Hyde Park to some degree. But he points out that all these figures are now gone, and that the Olin Center, the local meeting-place for conservative and neoconservative minds, has closed.
Nonetheless, Thomas Frank, the Wall Street Journal’s man on the left, insists that Hyde Park’s liberal rep is somewhat undeserved, though his main argument to that end is that the University of Chicago is naming a building for Friedman – as if any American university would hesitate to name a major structure for its resident Nobel laureate.