Is Barack Obama like Al Smith?

At the Al Smith Dinner, Barack Obama said, “I feel right at home here because it’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.” That’s the best news I’ve heard all year. Because Al Smith was not only America’s most visible opponent of our first version of Prohibition, he was a leading critic of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Indeed, he was a founder of the American Liberty League, the leading organization in opposition to the New Deal.

As David Pietrusza wrote in Reason, the Liberty League grew out of the earlier organization Americans Against the Prohibition Amendment. And, he said,

In summing up the League’s philosophy, liberal author George Wolfskill (The Revolt of the Conservatives) outlined a remarkably coherent libertarian position. They believed, he said, that the New Deal was a threat to the Constitution and represented a danger of tyranny via centralization; that it was based on coercion, deceit, and false economic principles: that recovery was in fact retarded by government intervention; that government agricultural controls were “a cure worse than the disease”; that the New Deal combined aspects of socialist and fascist economic systems; that private enterprise was being damaged; that deficit financing and high spending threatened the nation with inflation; and that the banking community was now under the political control of the federal government.

So if Barack Obama indeed shares the ideas of Al Smith, maybe as president he’ll take on our current version of Prohibition, and get the government out of the banking community, and start to undo the unconstitutional excesses of the federal government that have merely accelerated from FDR to Bush and Cheney. We can only hope.