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May 17, 2010 11:00 AM Socialist!

By Daniel Luzer

kagan.jpg

Note to aspiring statesmen: be careful about that college thesis. If at all possible, write it about mathematics or particle physics or something else journalists can’t understand (finance?). If you must write about political science, reach really far back and write it about the Glorious Revolution or ancient Greece. In a post titled “BREAKING: We Have Elena Kagan’s College Thesis,” RedState’s Erick Erickson writes:

This proves Elena Kagan is an open and avowed socialist. The woman declares that socialists must stick together instead of fracture in order to advance a socialist agenda, which Kagan advocates.

Well not really. The Supreme Court nominee’s 1981 Princeton undergraduate thesis, “To The Final Conflict: Socialism In New York City, 1900-1933,” is really more about social justice movements, not actually a piece that advocates for radical change, as Seth Colter Walls explains in Newsweek. But now that Princeton has, somewhat understandably, pulled the piece from the web, people are free to make whatever they can of the 29-year old document.

This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. In 2008 Christopher Hitchens wrote that we should be worried about Michelle Obama in part because of her 1985 Princeton thesis:

At… an early stage in the text, Michelle Obama announces that she’s much influenced by the definition of black “separationism” offered by Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton in their 1967 screed Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America. I have the distinct feeling that the Obama campaign can’t go on much longer without an answer to the question: “Are we getting two for one?” And don’t be giving me any grief about asking this.

The check-out-this-really-old-thesis-for-the-candidate’s-real-views problem is not exclusive to Democrats, either. In 2009 Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Virginia Governor was briefly derailed after opponents discovered the 1989 thesis he wrote in graduate school at Regent University. The 1989 McDonnell apparently thought feminism was one of the “real enemies of the traditional family.” More importantly McDonnell seemed very, very interested in putting a whole lot of Christianity into government policy. The 2009 McDonnell said that he hadn’t thought about the paper in a long time and “Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older.”

Yea, exactly.[Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer