Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Continuity We Can Believe in?

Pat Deneen complains that Obama’s speech was predictably modern or Machiavellian. It was mostly ambition, greatness, hard work, freedom, and economic growth, with only a glance in the direction of sacrifice and self-restraint. There’s no deep difference, the point is, between Obama and Reagan. What troubles Pat--that Obama is just another modern boss--might reassure some readers of NLT.

Discussions - 8 Comments

Not quite--consider Obama's quotation of Washington: “Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive … that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet … it.”

"Virtue" is very much an ancient term (to be sure used by Machiavellian moderns. Obama uses ancient amd Christian rhetoric, even the Latin language, to argue for Progressive causes. His communitarianism can be indistinguishable from socialism, even as it can be taken for old-fashioned patriotism. Thus, many conservatives found much to agree with, even as they sense a foreboding about "remaking America."

Perhaps you overlooked the fact that the substantive part of the speech, in a speech mostly lacking in substance, dealt with global warming and "sacrifice." Now when "sacrifice" and global warming are mentioned together, that usually means hairshirt economic and energy policies.

But while commentators and academics may not have picked up on what that betokens, --------------------- Wall Street got the message loud and clear, which is why the market plummeted.

I agree with Ken. Looking around the web, alot of people are giving Obama bad to mediocre reviews for his speech. I also became annoyed in places, but I think people are misunderestimating the things that made yesterday's speech work. Sure there were a few flourishes that sounded like Aaron Sorkin on crack (but I repeat myself). But what will linger will be Obama's abiltity to connect himself to America's history and orthodox religiousity. For someone that is neither liberal nor conservative, there was little in the speech's themes that were objectionable.

I would suggest that one of Obama's greatest rhetorical accomplishents is his ability to heal the long breach between liberalism on the one hand and unashamed patriotism and public orthodox religiousity on the other, without having to move his liberalism to the center. Many liberals became very ambivalent about patriotism after the events of the 1960s and the critiques (often internalized by liberals) of the New Left. The culture wars made liberals deeply hostile to faith in politics unless the people doing the appealing were clearly on the side of the Left (the Father Drinans). All other religous people were guilty of being dagerous fanatics until being proven innocent.

Maybe it helped that Obama is a post boomer whose father was a black immigrant to convince liberals to finally get some perspective on America's sins and become enthusiastic about our virtues and accomplishments. Maybe it took someone who had sat listening to Reverend Wright to be able to show liberals (well most of them) of the need to show real respect to the orthodox faithful even when they might differ in politics from the more secular parts of the Left.

Contrary to Pete's statement in # 3, Obama's father was not an "immigrant" to the U.S. He was here on a student visa, and returned to Kenya after his studies.

DJF, good point and thanks for the correction.

"Virtue" is very much an ancient term (to be sure used by Machiavellian moderns. Obama uses ancient amd Christian rhetoric, even the Latin language, to argue for Progressive causes. His communitarianism can be indistinguishable from socialism, even as it can be taken for old-fashioned patriotism. Thus, many conservatives found much to agree with, even as they sense a foreboding about "remaking America."

I should hope so, conservatives have been agreeing with it for the past 8 years and way before that in higher circles. When you answer questions by repeating the question how is it good? How will America's economy come back- America's economy will come back through sacrifice ect(I think loosing 50% of life savings is sacrifice enough). No mention of who is sacrificing so the listener can assume that it will be others sacrificing more for his gain. The speech was just more vague manipulation.

I would suggest that one of Obama's greatest rhetorical accomplishents is his ability to heal the long breach between liberalism on the one hand and unashamed patriotism and public orthodox religiousity on the other, without having to move his liberalism to the center Care to explain to me how this happended, or in what way it has? I think people supported him because he said he would end the war(and implied the other wars we are one pawn away from getting into) but now thats not the case. Be careful relying on terms like patriotism because that word does not have a strict definition. patriotism under Obama, could mean taddling on your parents for their eco crimes. It could mean supporting all sorts of crazy evil. Loyalty to the state is fine, but when the state changes direction and you stay loyal to the state then you have betrayed yourself.

Dream of a world state. who here believes that this is not a nightmare. You really think you can police all the peoples of the world and it will turn into the jetsons and not 1984. the current state is this country is due to our leaders selling out their own people in the hope of achieving this goal. If you take your religion seriously, how can you ignore the bible's thoughts on this idea? Pure Madness.

Brutus, actually a good example of what I was talking about. The belief that patriotism is simply a cover for evil or a denial of past evil.

This feeling that patriotism is especially dangerous and must ever be balanced with explanations of our country's past and present misdeeds has shadowed American liberalism since the mid 60s. What caused it? Lots of things. The delayed accounting with the moral evil of racism. The urban rioting and the failure of the Great Society to prevent increasing social divisions. The Vietnam War. The New Left critique of the US and the plausibility of its assault on America's historical legitimacy. The assasinations. No doubt other stuff too. The key to remember is that most liberals did not stop loving their country, but many did lose alot of confidence in their country, and they felt the moral need to balance expressions of love with expressions of shame. This shows up in news broadcasts when anchors disparage the "flag waving" that comes with American Olympic vitctories. Celebrations of America that did not include the proper quota of critiques of America (regardless of whether the critiques were appropriate in time and place)were suspect and crude. Simple patriotic displays were dismissed as unthinking patriotism. Many nonliberals (who were also nonconservatives) were distressed by these kinds of tics. Obama just does not give off that vibe. He can celebrate what is great without having to attack to prove his own sophistication or that his is the higher (because more critical) patriotism. Not that Obama doesn't know the bad chapters in our history and doesn't take them into account. There just seems to be a balance in him that is missing in many liberals of the last forty or so years.

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