Caleb Maupin, small-town Commie

Caleb Maupin

On May 19, we took a brief look at a collegiate Communist named Dakotah Lilly who, defending chavismo on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, was identified as a representative of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA). In the article we mentioned one Caleb T. Maupin, who, on SYNA’s website, also championed Chavez-style socialism, actually claiming that “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

We were curious about this Caleb T. Maupin, so we looked into him. Born around 1988, he grew up in Orrville, a town of 8000 in Wayne County, Ohio, where, according to a 2010 profile in Cleveland Scene, he was converted to Communism in fifth grade – yes, fifth grade – after reading The Communist Manifesto. He soon “began contacting local socialist groups about how he could get involved” and before his teens were over had joined the Workers World Party.

Adam Gluntz

Studying political science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, a Cleveland suburb, Maupin met Adam Gluntz, a fellow student who was then a conservative, and argued politics with him until he had turned Gluntz into a fellow Communist. Maupin thereupon “founded the local chapter of FIST,” a nationwide radical organization whose full name is Fight Imperialism – Stand Together. A 2008 article in Workers World recounted his participation in a recent debate at Baldwin-Wallace on the subject of “Socialism vs. Capitalism.” During the debate, Maupin argued that “socialist countries, particularly Cuba, have dealt with and rid themselves of the products of capitalism—including racism, sexism, homophobia, unemployment, and lack of healthcare, education, housing and social programs.”

Reinaldo Arenas

Anyone who knows anything about any socialist countries, especially Cuba, would be able to knock down every one of these assertions with dispatch. Just to choose one: to claim that Cuba has rid itself of homophobia is to spit on the lives of all the gay people whom the Castro regime imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Has Maupin, we wonder, ever read the late Reinaldo Arenas’s autobiography Before Night Falls, about the torment of being gay in Castro’s Cuba?  

At some point, Maupin “dropped out of school to focus full time on activism.” It was shortly thereafter that the piece in Cleveland Scene appeared. It begins as follows:

Caleb Maupin would like you to know he’s not a super-villain, despite what you may have seen on TV. A communist? Sure. But he’s not out to indoctrinate your children. Not yet.

The 22-year-old is chatty and affable, a skinny pale kid with a burning bush of unruly red hair. When it comes to talking politics, he’s obviously done his homework: facts, dates, obscure legislation, the fates of forgotten labor leaders, snippets of protest songs — in conversation he drops all forms of arcana from the annals of the American left. In part, he’s learned the game as a careful student of history, but he also sees himself as an inheritor of the radical tradition.

The article described Maupin and Gluntz as “a straight-faced Laurel and Hardy of liberal radicalism” who “attend nearly every public demonstration held in the area, from immigration rallies to protests against police brutality,” and had thereby “quickly become fixtures in this crowd.”

But that was only the beginning. Maupin was about to leave the small pond of Cuyahoga County for the big time.

Birth of a baby chavista

On May 16, Tucker Carlson welcomed a guest on his Fox News TV show who looked as if he was about twelve years old. He was, in fact, a 19-year-old college student named Dakotah Lilly who was there to defend chavismo in Venezuela and to deny that any of that country’s current problems – including the collapse of food supplies and medical services – were caused by socialism.

In the interview (which begins at about the thirty-minute mark in the video below), Carlson asked Lilly to address the fact that wherever socialism has actually been tried, it has been a disaster. Sidestepping Carlson’s list of Soviet bloc countries whose modern histories prove his point, Lilly simply parroted Maduro administration propaganda. “What Venezuela is currently facing right now,” said Lilly, “is terrorism at the hands of the opposition” – an opposition that, he insisted, is deliberately destroying “the progress Venezuela has made over the past few years.”

From beginning to end, Lilly’s portrait of Venezuela today was Alice-through-the-looking-glass stuff. The real victims of violence in the country, he charged, are supporters of the Maduro government. The real causes of Venezuela’s economic problems are (a) sanctions by the United States and (b) “hoarding by multinational corporations.” He even defended the Supreme Court’s closing, on Maduro’s orders, of the National Assembly. Carlson asked whether Lilly could speak Spanish or if he had actually ever been in Venezuela, but never got an answer to either question.

Dakotah Lilly

Who is Lilly? He’s currently a student of political science at Eugene Lang College (a unit of the New School in New York City) and a member of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), whose website makes it clear that it’s basically a bunch of junior Communists. Lilly isn’t the only SYNA member who has drunk the Kool-Aid on Venezuela: the group’s site features an article in which one Caleb T. Maupin (a frequent contributor to Iran’s Press TV) sneered at the idea that the downfall of the Venezuelan economy confirms “clichés [Americans] heard in elementary school about how ‘Communism just doesn’t work.’” Maupin claimed that, on the contrary, “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

Cindy Sheehan giving a hug to everyone’s favorite race hustler and shakedown artist, Jesse Jackson

As for Lilly’s own oeuvre, in September 2015, Cindy Sheehan (a famous antiwar activist during the George W. Bush administration who all but disappeared from the media once Barack Obama became president) posted on her website a “guest article” by Lilly entitled “Socialism, A Love Story.” Excerpts: “Capitalism isn’t working and it never has….Capitalism is a system that has run its course, much like slavery and feudalism. The future however is optimistic and a new system is on its way to being established, that system is Socialism.” As to the argument that socialism “never works in practice,” Lilly confidently asserted: “This could not be farther from the truth. Humans are naturally co-operative beings and to suggest that exploiting each other for valueless paper is somehow embedded in our genes is ludicrous.”

Caleb T. Maupin

What about China or the USSR? These weren’t really socialist countries, argued Lilly, although “Socialist elements of the USSR and Cuba, have led to the launching of the Sputnik and the eradication of homelessness and hunger. Imagine what the potential of Socialism is in a nation as rich and developed as the USA.” At the time he wrote that article, Lilly was, according to his contributor’s note, the 17-year-old “leader of Lehigh Valley Youth Democratic Socialists” whose “first mass action was joining Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox and other organizations in March in WDC for Spring Rising; in his spare time he likes smashing patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism and defending the oppressed.”

Those now-iconic empty Venezuelan grocery-store shelves

Why would such a callow and obscure character as Lilly be invited on Carlson’s show in the first place? The answer, one suspects, is that all the heavy hitters who were standing up for chavista economics as recently as a couple of years ago have either changed their tune or changed the topic. You might suggest that the best way to respond to the puerile views of a Dakotah Lilly is to ignore him; but this is the sort of person who, in a couple of years, will be out of college and in a first-rung position at some think tank or NGO or congressional office in Washington, D.C., or some other power center, using his twisted opinions to help set the nation’s future agenda. Best to be aware of these people as soon as possible, and to remember to track them as they move from the classroom into positions of authority.