Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama the Cosby candidate?

This WaPo article points to facets of the Obama campaign that at the very least represent an effort on Obama’s part ot appeal to an older generation of African-American voters. It sounds a bit more like what Bill Cosby once said than like pandering. (Indeed, it might get Obama in trouble with some of the same people who went after Cosby.)

By contrast, as the article points out, HRC offers nothing of substance that isn’t at the same time statist.

Of course, there remains plenty of statism in Obama’s approach, as this LAT article shows. Contrast this:

"All of us know little shorties, and we see them when they are young. Something is happening to them around age 4 or 5. A darkness comes over them, and you can see the loss of hope in them," Obama said [in response to a 2006 shooting]. He added: "There is a reason they shoot each other, because they don’t love themselves, and the reason they don’t love themselves is we are not loving them, we’re not paying attention to them, we’re not guiding them, we’re not disciplining them. We’ve got work to do."

With this:

"We have now spent half a trillion dollars on a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged," Obama said. "We could have invested that money in SouthCentral Los Angeles, or the South Side of Chicago, in jobs and infrastructure and hospitals and schools. Why is it we can find the money in a second for a war that doesn’t make any sense?"


"There’s a little bit of money that folks piece together to send it into the community to make sure that folks are quiet and go back to the status quo, but we never take the bullet out of the arm," Obama said. "We don’t need panels and reports and commissions. We need some surgery on the indifference to poverty in this country."

The question that Obama needs to address is whether he thinks government can be an instrument of love. As someone once said,
"Government is law and justice; government isn’t love". Does he agree or disagree?

Discussions - 27 Comments

While there is surely some truth in the suggestion that a lack of love can lead to violence, it is awfully simplistic to suggest that this is the whole truth. The violence and the lack of love actually feed off of each other and, in fact, come from the same place--moral deficiency. Does Obama want to suggest that moral deficiency comes from poverty too? Or does poverty come from it? His comment here: "The tragedy struck New Orleans long before the hurricane hit," Obama said, citing low performing schools and high levels of violence and poverty. "There's a reason why the planning to evacuate them was ineffective — because the folks who were making the planning assumed that people had cars," seems to suggest that he thinks poverty does indeed come from a moral deficiency--but not from the moral deficiency of the poor themselves. Rather it is our moral deficiency that causes and allows their poverty. That is the crux of the issue, for me. If you can't buy that bit of his argument (and I can't) then the whole thing crumbles like a house of cards. But there is nothing new in this old myth perpetrated by the Democratic party.

Can we please drop this on-again, off-again Obama tease? I understand this to be a site for conservatives. ("No Left Turns." "Ashbrook Center.") Last I checked, the Democratic Congress has not yet fastened the so-called Fairness Doctrine on us. Why, then, this compulsion to find rays of hope in an utterly conventional liberal Democratic candidate? Please, stop with the Obama mooning and focus on the viable choices for conservatives -- the REPUBLICAN candidates.

David: never neglect to understand your opposition--or your allies, for that matter. I see no defense of Obama here. Indeed, I see an attempt to understand him and his appeal that is serious and--if undertaken by those in a position to really use it--seriously devastating.

Bottom line, this site gives him too much ink. Going on and on about how appealing people find him just perpetuates the fraud, even though that's not the intention.

Julie, I was criticizing Knippenberg, not you.

My beef is that the man will never win the Presidency. Peoria ain't gonna vote for anyone named "Obama." Moreover, his novelty candidacy is only threatening to Hilliary and the other Democrats...Obama has the black vote in his back pocket, and so the other candidates will be forced to deal with him.

In short, Obama will be the VP candidate, without a doubt. David's right...let's start talking more about the GOP ticket.

Why not play up Obama now? Why let Hillary simply coast to a nomination? Remember, the longer and bloodier the primary season is, the more difficult it will be for the Dems to hold together their party for November. We should give Obama plenty of encouragement, for right now he's the best friend we have.

John Moser is right. 100% right in this case. Moreover, whatever it is that seems to make Obama appeal should be studied by any GOP candidate who wants to win in November of '08. Obama and his appeal may be a short-lived phenomenon but right now they are like a virus in the HRC campaign. I say let's flare it up and study what it does to her. If it gives Hillary a hard time now when everything's on ice, wait until the spotlight heats it up. When Obama goes away or is taken on as a VP nominee, it will be useful. He will either have so alienated a segment of her base away from her that she'll have a serious turn-out issue or, alternatively (and this is wildly wishful thinking, I suppose) some smart Republican will have figured out what it is that makes him appealing and will be able to capitalize on that himself while exposing Obama as a fraud--or, to be more polite--deeply mistaken. That is what the GOP should aim for. In a democratic republic it is always a mistake to dismiss anything that or anyone who has this many people talking. There is always a reason for the commotion and--if not always enlightening or edifying--it is always instructive.

It is possible for Obama to win the nomination, and my guess is that he would be as strong a general election candidate as Hillary -- which is to say, very strong. The Republican nominee will be at a distinct disadvantage. We should be trashing BOTH of these Democrats (and Edwards), not reading tea leaves to decide which one might possibly be marginally less obnoxious if we close our eyes and use our imaginations.

Harry Truman said this the day after Germany invaded the USSR in 1941: "If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible." Doesn't that sound like a valid Republican strategy for the Hillary-Obama contest?

Should I be checking with dain and David on the day's talking points before I start blogging?

This is a relatively diverse onservative site, but it's neither merely partisan nor merely ideological, so far as I can tell (though I don't pretend to speak for PWS). There are plenty of merely partisan and merely ideological sites (some of them very good and very interesting), but I've always wanted to be a bit more theoretical and a bit more analytic, which is how I've tried to carve out a very modest niche here and in the blogosphere altogether. I don't think I'll be mistaken for an Obama supporter, and if and when I become enthusiastic about a Republican candidate (have to confess I'm not there yet), I'm sure to have more to say about his virtues and vices and those of his opponents.

Joe (comment #11): your self-description is quite accurate; and this regular reader reads NLT in signficant part because of the qualities that informing your posts and comments. Keep up the good work.

I sense something of a divide between us academics who have political affiliations but whose main interests are 1) a theoretically accurate description and assessment of the political scene and 2) want to make an informed, prudent choice of actual political options versus people who don't have quite a gap between their partisan or party allegiances and their theoretical positions. I could be wrong, of course.

As in, all the non-academics are just too pragmatic for this website? No, I suspect the difference here is not between academics and non-academics, but between hard-nosed realists (some in and some outside of the academy) and people who have been tutored in an overly-philosophical version of political science. Seriously, how many of you Ashbrook-Claremont academics actually engage in number-crunching (i.e., quantitative social science)? How many of you publish in, say, the American Political Science Review? My point? You folks have a professional "club," but I suspect even those in your discipline would find you a bit...esoteric? The outsiders among you (like David and me) sometimes find the neo-Platonic talk (and the small-school Christian confederacy) a bit surreal. You folks seem to think of NLT as a 'Net version of a professional meeting, while many of us 'outsiders' think of it as a (high-quality) political blog. Silly us.

I have on occasion crunched a few numbers in a relatively non-professional way (no models or regression analyses)--see, for example, these two post-election analyses. And I don't mind reading polls, as many NLT posts surely demonstrate. But if that's what you want, I recommend reading Jay Cost over at RCP. I'm not in his league as a reader of numerical tea leaves. But I can read texts and parse arguments, which is at least a bit of a contribution to our understanding of political phenomena.

Yes, I have a particular interest in religion and politics, and in higher education, both areas where I arguably know at least a little more than the average political blogger. I know we have a lot of "academic" readers who have some professional interest in the latter topic. And I hope that I can persuade some of our "non-academic" or "non-liberal arts" readers that a conservative politicization of higher education is as undesirable as its left-wing counterpart.

As for religion and politics, I would generally defer to first-rate numbers crunchers like John Green and James Guth, but again, I think that as a textual and rhetorical analyst, I can add at least a little to the conversation.

Please indulge me as I pursue these interests. You've clearly found (and doubtless will continue to find) other things to stimulate you here.

Finally, just to be clear: I have never been in Claremont, California (though I would not refuse an invitation to visit).

Joe, I was actually responding to Paul. I don't think crunching numbers is necessary to be a useful member of this or any of the many blogospheres out point was that NLT's "clubbiness" is something many of us can't share, and this probably explains differing views of NLT's purpose. When I re-read my post, I see a harshness I didn't really intend (too much butting heads in the blog-ether, perhaps). I did not mean to offend.

And, I am honestly glad that the small-school Christian "confederacy" seems alive and well. I find it refreshing most of the time, so don't read hostility into my comment. It's just another world I can't belong to.


FWIW, the school at which I teach isn't Christian, though it is small.

I didn't know. Still, you are clearly "out" religiously and yet completely accepted by your colleagues, I guess? That suggests that your institution isn't hyper-secular, at least.

Many of my colleagues are grown-ups, and I have tenure.

I think the latter was dependent on the former. And, from what I hear, finding grownup colleagues isn't something to take for granted in higher education.

Dear Dain, I didn't take exception to your post. As I said or suggested ("I could be wrong"), my distinction wasn't a considered view - and it certainly didn't intend to account for all the divisions that show up here. For the record: I've never been to Ashland or Claremont, I am not a Jaffite (a chief link between the two places), and I share Joe's professional and civic interests in religion, politics, and higher ed. And like him I respect numbers-crunchers and read them with profit (and sometimes pleasure). No animus on my end against quantitative analysis. Except when it pretends to be the entirety of things, or when it patently serves an ideological or partisan agendum. As for your suggestion concerning the "pragmatism" or "realism" of certain posters, I find that truth (arrived at with effort and humility and usually incrementally) and prudence are better than a lot of soi-disant "realists"'s views, including in the conservative camp (and I use the term "camp" advisedly).

So, then, how did people who don't have a link to the Claremont/Ashland Axis become central to the enterprise (or at least the blog)? I am genuinely curious.

The answer to that one is simple: Peter Schramm is a great and generous guy.

It's also the case that not everyone at Ashland has a direct Claremont connection: David Foster, for example, was a classmate of mine in grad school at the University of Toronto. (I remember him, among other things, as the monster inside force on an intramural basketball team, for which I could generously have been described as a defensive specialist.) Jeff Sikkenga as at Toronto some years after David and I left.

Schramm, I should add, is to my knowledge the only Claremont PhD at Ashland University. The idea of a "Claremont/Ashland Axis" is absolute nonsense.

The thing I have always loved about both Peter Schramm and most of the people I have met in Claremont, is a disposition to take seriously the arguments from anyone who is, in fact, serious--whether their views are shared or not. Moser is right that this "axis" thing is preposterous. Besides Peter, I'm the only one here with any tangible connection to the two places and there is no mystery or conspiracy in that: I studied at Ashland (with Schramm) for my undergraduate degree and then I happened to attend grad school in Claremont in the mid '90s (after Jaffa stopped teaching, I might add). This is just silly that we have to go through this, but there's no secret to any it so if anyone is that curious--there it is. Shocking, isn't it?

OK, fair, besides "seriousness" and being a bit to the "right," what holds this "community" together (besides loving Lincoln)? And no, I'm not doing a study or anything...just curious.

Isn't that enough? Why must there be anything else holding us together? And why does it matter?

Because you folks are an anomaly...perhaps you don't see that. I personally think what holds you together is the overall hostility of the broader academy -- your in-grouping seems to be a function of the environment more than internal agreements (although you folks try very hard to agree with one another -- us outsiders don't have a vested stake, which explains our "deviation" from NLT norms).

It matters because if you ever succeed in turning a good bit of the academy to the Right, your specialness will be lost, and your group will splinter.

Why does it matter? I don't know...I find it interesting. And, unlike the Mormon Church, where internal questioning is strongly discouraged (according to PBS, at least), I think it's important for any ideological group to question the source of its coherence. NLT is very philosophically-oriented, after all.

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