The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

‘Fundamental change’: Obama, his mentor, and the Democratic Party

Photo of Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor
Professor, Grove City College

We’ve heard plenty about radical Obama influences and associates like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, but what about Frank Marshall Davis?

As noted in a Daily Caller profile of my book on Davis, Frank Marshall Davis was a literal card-carrying member of Communist Party USA — number 47544. He was unflinchingly pro-Soviet. Beginning in the 1940s, when he joined the Communist Party, he wrote propaganda for Party-line newspapers in Chicago and Honolulu. And most remarkable, Davis, by the 1970s, met and mentored a future president of the United States — Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Here, I’d like to focus on that word Democrat, because it contains some fascinating irony.

Because of this book I’ve done, I’ll be attacked by Democrats. Yet, Democrats who actually pause to read the book will find something they didn’t expect: a sustained defense of the Democrats that Davis savaged in his columns. Beyond that, they’ll discover a Davis who would one day use and infiltrate the Democratic Party. It’s a remarkable story worthy of our attention and memory.

In his writings at the start of the Cold War, Frank Marshall Davis’s targets were chiefly anti-communist Democrats, especially Harry Truman. Davis’s newspaper, The Chicago Star, for which he was the founding editor-in-chief, trashed Truman with headlines like “White House to white hoods: KKK hails Truman’s policy as its own” and “TRUMAN KNIFES HOPE FOR PEACE.”

Why target Truman? Because Harry Truman stood in the way of Stalin’s takeover of Europe. And so, Davis’s most bitter foe, who he tarred and feathered in his writings, was not a Republican but a Democrat, and likewise for the leading members of Truman’s administration, from Secretary of State George Marshall to Attorney General Tom Clark.

George Marshall, of course, is an American icon — as is the Marshall Plan that bears his name. Nonetheless, Frank Marshall Davis, toeing the Soviet line — as was his sworn duty as a formal member of Communist Party USA — denounced the Marshall Plan as “imperialism” and “colonial slavery.” In an even more hideous accusation, Davis (like the Kremlin) accused U.S. officials of handing West Germany back to the Nazis. He called the Truman administration’s policy of de-Nazification “one of the big jokes of the 20th century.”

In all, said Frank Marshall Davis, this was a new form of fascism. It was Trumanism, a Democratic Party fascism. It was “fascism, American style,” with “the silent backing of President Truman, Democrat.”

As for the Democrats, they certainly took notice of Davis. Indeed, the Obama biographers that mention Davis portray him as a victim of McCarthyism; to the contrary, Joe McCarthy never came anywhere near Davis. It was Democrats who pursued Davis, especially anti-communist Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In those days, the Senate was filled with anti-communist Democrats like Senator John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Senator Pat McCarran (D-Nev.), and Senator Thomas Dodd (D-Conn.), father of Chris Dodd. Some of the best work investigating pro-Soviet activity by American communists was done by the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by James Eastland (D-Miss.).

When Frank Marshall Davis was called to Washington to testify on his pro-Soviet activities, it was by Democrats. It was a Democratic Senate that, in an official 1957 report titled “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,” publicly listed Davis as “an identified member of the Communist Party.”