Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Stephen A. Obama?

Over on the main Ashbrook site, I wonder whether the real Illinois precursor to our current president isn’t actually Stephen A. Douglas.

Discussions - 5 Comments

Er, wasn't it Stephen A. Douglas?

Yup, you're right.

This is an excellent article, which I have sent to many on my mailing list, largely Republicans who know little about the Lincoln-Douglas debate over slavery and popular sovereignty/judicial supremacy.

I agree with your general point, but I don't think that embryonic stem cell research or same sex marriage constitute the most "vexed and moral questions" of the day in the sense that slavery did in the 1850s.

Where is the Uncle Tom's Cabin for the embryo? Who is the John Brown for the traditional family? I'm not saying either cause needs either defender (and I hope no Brown emerges), I'm just saying that these are issues on the back burner for most Americans as they worry about the "economy." And unfortunately most of these Americans (while of course objecting to stem cell research and same sex marriage) don't want any direction to their own choice. They are "unencumbered" to borrow Sandel's unfelicitous term. They want all the stupid shit that everyone else allegedly wants, and they'd sell out a stem cell for an SUV any day.

So Obama is simply riding a wave of populism that has become the definition of the ordinary in American life. It will be a slow erosion, but all that is solid will surely melt into air.

Star Trek had the Borg, and they used to say, "resistance is futile." I speak of the Borg as I think of the typical jackass with his cell phone blue tooth (sp?) glued to his head jabbering away about some nonsense. This is an everyday occurrence--thoughtfulness has nothing to with it. It's part of the background noise.

It's time to be honest--make a politics for philosophy instead of a philosophy for politics.

"It's time to be honest--make a politics for philosophy instead of a philosophy for politics."

The most interesting thing you have said in a while John, and really the root of debate between "conservatives"...It is constantly tried but fails mainly on account of there being different versions of it(philosophy).

I some sense when Ron Paul ran for president he ran on making a politics for philosophy. I am also of the opinion that this is what Obama did albeit his philosophy was pragmatism of a sort of classical left Hegelian/Dubois sort...albeit he was able to suceed because pragmatism and his persona were able to reflect a host of different judgements as to who the real Obama was, and really to be hegelian is a great cheat because it only requires capturing the spirit of the age, or frameing oneself as a part of the dialectic, narrative or storyline whose time has come.

You are too cavalier when you say: "Where is the Uncle Tom's Cabin for the embryo? Who is the John Brown for the traditional family? I'm not saying either cause needs either defender (and I hope no Brown emerges)" I am not sure that you can will a broad social morality without willing a revolution. I am not sure that those who bomb abortion clinics aren't the only ones who really believe it is murder...now the folks who really believe this line are mostly on the left, and Obama as a hegelian put his stock in with terrorists like Ayers largely because of Obama's own sociological insights. Obama was willing to listen to the violence of the Rev. Wright, because in part he was uncertain how much blood one has to be willing to spill in order to will a moral position as a universal.

The last politics made for culture/philosophy was probably National Socialism, on the pretext of preserving a german way, having living space to preserve an agrarian view of the world and avoiding the factory farms of souless american/jewish capitalism. It turns out that drunk on an idyllic vision of Germany as it should be or rightly understood, the germans were willing to spill a considerable amount of "guilty" and "impure" blood.

A most radical view is that with the downfall of Nazi Germany a soulful or politics for philosophy/culture gave way to the souless american liberal democratic alternative.

As a liberal Obama can mediate the stronger voices of the radical left and hold them in check, and Change we can believe in or the Audacity of Hope is really a confidence in liberal democracy and american ideals and the peacefull resolution of disputes through a political process...Obama is like a Lincoln of the left in so far as he is mediating extreme elements...and convincing folk that John Brown action isn't necessary. The hypothetical existance of a radical left, allows Obama to mediate, just as the hypothetical existance of a radical right would allow a centrist Republican like McCain to do so. Ultimately the triumph of the center is ensured, but it is always a center with refference to the extremes.

There are some folks who believe that a centrist Aristotelian politics is possible, that what is reasonable is not "captive" to the extreme elements that define the bondaries of vice and excess...but there are also Aristotelians who believe that determining the mean between two extremes is always captive to the way the extremes are defined...For example that Europe is one extreme and John Galt's hideout in Atlas Shrugged the other.

By a certain logic if you want the republican party to move to the right you need within the culture more folks who make Rush look like a moderate...at the same time however an ideologically pure politics stirs folks to regard republicans as pragmatic compromisers, and enflames the debate over principle vs. prudence...as some might say: Fuck McCain.

Now the main obstacle to a politics for philosophy...cannot even be named as a main obstacle, because philosophy has a way of quickly atomizing itself over rarified disputes. In other words philosophy isn't a culture...and most philosophers and most theologians understand that they influence culture which influences politics. In other words: philosophy/religion directs culture and culture directs politics...rather than politics directs culture which directs philosophy/religion...This itself is a cause for anger and tension as some worry that the republican party must win to ensure the future of the pro-life cause, supreme court appointments, and unfettered bioengineering...while those who are philosophical by in large resist this view and regard it as an illusion.

I appologize that this is all very crude, and not altogether insightfull but in truth a lot hinges on how you structure the role of ideas/habits/manners/mores in sociology/society...On the one hand I don't want John Browns anymore than John does, I also don't mind the suggestion that we should all use forks and be gracious with a good sense of humor. But if we are too be so polite and lighthearted anyways might we not be much better off as the guy with the bluetooth John dislikes? And what is the matter with that polite and gracious Obama guy?

When folks can have a sense of humor and good manners isn't it the end of history?

Maybe the Rush question/divide is more important than some folks think.

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