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I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism Hardcover – September 11, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Politically timely and of permanent importance to the study of the American mind. A serious but accessible study of the thinking underpinning the modern liberal project…This is a title - and an author - with a long shelf life and much to teach.” (Washington Times)

“Drawing on his wide reading in philosophy and American political thought, Mr. Kesler argues that Mr. Obama has been shaped by the political tradition of Progressivism and that his 2008 triumph has helped, in turn, to reshape it.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Obama has earned what he now receives, the tribute of a serious intellectual exegesis by a distinguished political philosopher.” (George Will, Washington Post)

“Kesler is the reader for whom Obama has long been asking, in the sense of ‘asking for it’, and this book is the examination of the One we’ve been waiting for.” (Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review)

From the Back Cover

Is Barack Obama the savior of liberalism—or the last liberal president? Charles R. Kesler's spirited analysis of Obama's political thought shows that he represents either a new birth of liberalism—or its demise.

Who is Barack Obama? Though many of his own supporters wonder if he really believes in anything, Charles R. Kesler argues that these disappointed liberals don't appreciate the scope of the president's ambition or the long-term stakes for which he is playing.

Conservatives also misunderstand Obama, according to this leading conservative scholar, educator, and journalist. They dismiss him as a socialist, hopelessly out of touch with the American mainstream. The fringe Right dwells on Obama's foreign upbringing, his missing birth certificate, Bill Ayers's supposed authorship of his books. What mainstream and fringe have in common is a stubborn underestimation of the man and the political movement he embodies.

Reflecting a sophisticated mix of philosophy, psychology, and history, and complemented by a scathing wit, I Am the Change tries to understand Obama as he understands himself, based largely on his own writings, speeches, and interviews. Kesler, the rare conservative who takes Obama seriously as a political thinker, views him as a gifted and highly intelligent progressive who is attempting to become the greatest president in the history of modern liberalism. Intent on reinvigorating the liberal faith, Obama nonetheless fails to understand its fatal contradictions—a shortsightedness that may prove to be liberalism's undoing.

Will Obama save liberalism and become its fourth great incarnation, following Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson? Or will he be derailed by his very successes? These are the questions at the heart of Kesler's thoughtful and illuminating book.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadside Books (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006207296X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062072962
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #772,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Kesler is Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont-McKenna College and editor of the Claremont Review of Books.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 77 people found the following review helpful By RBSProds TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Charles R. Kesler takes a very intellectual, sometimes caustic philosophical look at Barack Obama and the liberals in his book "I Am The Change". That title belies the fact that, despite the author's early statement, it is also a trenchant treatise on the history of Liberalism, tracing it back to the end of the 19th Century and then tracking Liberalism as it advances forward in 'waves' towards its current status under the likes of Barack Obama, the Clintons, Reid, Pelosi, et al. He begins with the "Audaciity of Barack Obama" examining the background, early influences, political motivations, successes and failures, current goals, and future political probabilities of Barack Obama and his philosophy. Dr. Kesler draws interesting parallels between Obama and Martin Luther King, and gives a highly effective dichotomy between the Grant Park of the raucous, riotous anti-war crowd outside of the August 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention and the "well-mannered pandemonium" of the crowd in Grant Park at the Obama victory speech on Election Day, four decades later. But then he gives us riveting chapters on the eras of Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Movement (he even backs into the 19th Century for an excellent look at the genesis of the Populist Movement), Franklin Roosevelt's weighty New Deal influence, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society era. Along the way we also meet the influence of Rousseau, Hegel, Darwin, and others. Although sometimes falling prey to the litany of Republican 'talking-points', it is when the author breaks free that the analysis becomes historically enlightening, very thought-provoking, and truly challenging to the progressive way of thinking.Read more ›
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Richard P. Bonine on October 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kesler's I Am The Change is a scholarly, sophisticated, readable book about the most important phenomenon in recent American history. I won't say it's an easy read. The dominant figures--Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Obama--do not identify themselves with a particular author or ideology such as Marx and socialism but Kesler leaves no doubt as to what they believe. The "living" constitution is a negation of the Constitution created in 1787. Kesler quotes liberally from all four. What Obama believes contrasted with what he has said during the present campaign is plain to see. Kesler shows in detail Obama's habit of leaving key words out of what sound like patriotic speeches. I have read at least ten books relevant to the current political situation and this is the best.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By sonny in ky on October 6, 2012
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The Book provides insight to the beginnings and evolution of liberalism and progressivism dating from the early twentieth century. It further provides insight into some of the inconsistancies and ultimate failures of those beliefs as well as how Barack Obama relates to them. The style in which the Book is written makes it hard to read without frequent rests.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James M. Baird on September 4, 2013
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During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney described his opponent as, "A nice guy who's in over his head." As it turns out, the description was more accurately that of Romney himself. Barak Obama as most definitely not a nice guy, and he's definitely in control of his main agenda as president.

But how can we say that, since virtually everything Barak Obama has touched since he was inaugurated in 2009 has come up short, usually disastrously so? The answer, as this valuable book shows, is that Obama isn't interested in tackling immediate problems such as employment or immigration reform. Instead, by his own admission, he's using his presidency fundamentally to change the essence of America. This process began more than a century ago, and Obama is the fourth president (following Wilson, FDR, and Johnson) to move this "progressive" project forward. Professor Kesler, using each man's own words--written and spoken--as source material, explains in detail where their ideas came from and the damage those ideas have done for generations of Americans.

Philosophical note: Another title for the book might well have been, "How Bad Ideas Harm Us All."

A partial list of the bad ideas:

People are essentially good, not fallen.
History exists as an actual force in the world.
Progress is always for the better.
Each era creates its own truth.
Government by experts makes things better.
There are no natural rights, just human rights.

How Progressivism/Liberalism Has Unfolded Under Four US Presidents:

Each starts with a crisis; Promotes government expansion; Is thwarted by a war (Except Obama)

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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By RLW in Helendale on October 11, 2012
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Professor Kesler's intransigent and unsparing analysis of the political thought (and in this instance the word has to be used quite loosely) of Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ and BHO shows that at its best, that is, in Wilson's writings, the ideology of Progressivism/Liberalism occupies an artificial pit beneath the floor of Plato's natural cave; that Wilson's three presidential minions have continued his original excavations; and that BHO's vacuous ruminations must be located in an artificial pit between LBJ's artificial pit, beneath FDR's artificial pit beneath Wilson's artificial pit. In short, Kesler shows that when set against the political wisdom of Lincoln and the Founders, progressive/liberal opinion must be understood as a downward and ever-accelerating spiral of intellectual, moral and political bankruptcy; so much so that today it has nothing to offer but the vacuous promise of "hope and change." Like any other institution whose resources have evaporated our reigning academic/media/political establishment must be forced into bankruptcy, and this book takes a much-needed step in that direction. My compliments to the author.
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