Some commenters to my earlier post on Obama said that I should listen again to his speeches, so I paid some attention to his talk at the Kohl Center. Nothing that I heard changes my impression that Obama offers a grand vision of politics as salvific and all encompassing. Consider thes lines:
Today, the change we seek swept through the Chesapeake and over the Potomac.
this movement won't stop
We have given young people a reason to believe, and brought folks back to the polls who want to believe again.
bringing together Democrats and Independents and Republicans; blacks and whites; Latinos and Asians; small states and big states; Red States and Blue States into a United States of America.
To reaffirm that fundamental belief – I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper – that makes us one people, and one nation.
they need to know that politics can make a difference in their lives,
I might add the tv spot that he is running which, channeling Ted Kennedy eulogizing Robert Kennedy, says something like the "world as it is is not the world as it must be." Obama promises Big.
This combined with the overwrought reaction of his supporters who seem to think that Obama offers a "New Creation" (a term that I have read he actually used in a speech, although I can't confirm that) strikes me as creepy and dangerous. Messianic politicians tend to make conservatives nervous. We know that the world does not so easily bend to our will. (And, just to preempt comments that miss the point, I agree that there have been huge ways in which Bush did not get that.)
But, as noted in today's Journal Sentinel, the campaign is moving into a period of providing more specifics and, as I suggested in my post (the positions aren't new), unity is exactly not what Obama has on offer. What he's selling is class warfare and scapegoating. Consider these lines:
overcome decades of money and the influence; bitter partisanship and petty bickering that's shut you out, let you down and told you to settle.
ExxonMobil made $11 billion last quarter. They don’t want to give those profits up easily.
He rails against NAFTA and the reality of global trade. He promises tons of new spending and a middle class tax cut. He paints a picture of the United States as a nation of economically disadvantaged folks who just can't quite get over because the rich have denied them. We don't need to make hard choices. We just need to fight the Power and take it back.
This is old fashioned economic demagoguery and brain dead economics. It tells people - not just poor people but the vast middle class - that their frustrations are someone else's fault and all that stands between them and what they want is Mean People. It assumes that money just exists and, if someone has too much of it, all we need to do is take it.
Now, I appreciate that, if you are a left liberal, you eat this stuff up. But tell me how it is about unity? Tell me how it unites red and blue states, Republican and Democrats.
If it is unity, it is a unity imposed by the state. You will be your brother's keeper whether you want to or not. More accurately, the state will be your brother's keeper and you will pay for it.
I know that, if you are a left liberal, you don't see the danger in that. You think that the state can assume responsibility for huge chunks of your life without making any untoward demands on you or having any negative impact on the behavior of people for whom security has, to a greater or larger degree, replaced responsibility and opportunity. Facts suggest otherwise.
You may object with the idea that Obama is not proposing anything as radical as my criticism suggests and, in the event, that will probably prove to be true. Even if he thinks he can remake the world, he will find out that a leader must often say "No, we can't."
But's that's not how he's running. This is a campaign mixing messianic politics with the politics of division and scapegoating. History doesn't teach us many nice things about that.
For those of you who are disappointed with John McCain, take note.