Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Barack Obama to the contrary...

"I still haven’t found what I’m looking for." (Apologies to U2.) Bill Kristol is the latest to note that Barack Obama and his wife have a certain this-worldly messianism about them.

Obama has long noted that "we" (or at least some of us) have a hole in our souls, but in earlier speeches (such as the one I discuss here), he described the hole as one "that the government alone can’t fix." The implication was that the loving efforts of religious congregations could help heal what ails at least some of us. (This, by the way, is a view that George W. Bush shares.)

But the new faith healer Obama, as Kristol points out, seems to think that his election will begin a process of healing. This is, of course, a much less modest view of government’s role, let alone his role.

Discussions - 3 Comments

So this is the approach Republicans and many conservatives will take. (I thought Peggy Noonan did it better.) Obama will have to respond or adjust to this line. It is effective because it competes directly -- and respectfully -- with who Obama says he is. No, THIS is who Obama is.

It's worse than that for him, Steve. It's saying that and adding, "If you want X, you really don't want what Obama says he is to go out and try and get it for you. It's not an effective way of getting X and, besides, it is unworthy of you to want what Obama says he is." In the words of my favorite Dominican priest, "It's your soul and only you can save it."

On the whole, I agree that Noonan's piece last week was slightly better. But she's not everyone's cup of tea and there's room for several versions of this same argument to appeal to different audiences. I do think that this bit from Kristol is original and needs to be explored more deeply by the McCain camp:

So we don’t have to work to improve our souls. Our broken souls can be fixed — by our voting for Barack Obama. We don’t have to fight or sacrifice to help our country. Our uninvolved and uninformed lives can be changed — by our choosing Barack Obama. America can become a nation to be proud of — by letting ourselves be led by Barack Obama.

Part of what people like about Obama (particularly young people) is that he gives you the sense that he's asking you to do something . . . to feel as if you're part of something larger than yourself. Of course, what he's ultimately asking is an easy and non-committal thing (i.e., vote for me!). But McCain is uniquely positioned to ask for more than just a vote. He has actually done some things on behalf of the country he loves--as Kristol points out. And he is--or seems to be--pretty humble about it. So he can suggest ways that we can think about being more responsible for our own lives (i.e., not turning to government) and speak with some moral authority. He can talk about sacrifice (because many people now view living without government assistance as a kind of sacrifice) without blushing and without implying that you have to be a superman to do it. And he can make that seem noble--as, in a way, it is. He can talk about what it means to be a free man or woman and all that. He really could say, "Ask not what your country can do for you . . ." without inserting a new twist to make it mean paying more taxes.

To a liberal, the medium is the message. Obama, the black man, will be America's first black president. It really is not any more complicated (or deeper) than that.

The healing is real, at least to liberals who are moved by such symbolism. The actual policy liberalism is incidental. Besides, McCain the deal maker is not someone who can legitimately confront a liberal. Well, perhaps he can for those who take conservativism as a symbol. You know Julie, Red is on to something when he describes you as a neocon. It does not explain everything, but it fits part of the way at least...

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