Monday, February 25, 2008

A political Rohrschach test

Doesn't the way that you respond to this quote from Michelle Obama say something about your underlying political philosophy?

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

I'm not talking about partisanship. Oh yes, it's good to be informed and involved and out of your comfort zone, but is getting you there a proper function of the state? Doesn't this suggest that much of life ought to be politicized? Doesn't it endorse a revolution from above? You won't push Obama; he will push you.

I understand that he is talking about politics, but should politics change your life?

I know that some of the readers of this blog are nonplussed that anyone would think that the Obama campaign has anything approaching a messiah complex or that it is hard left (two different, although related, propositions). But there seems to be a creepy statement supporting one or the other of these propositions every other day.

15 comments:

Sam Sarver said...

Professor:

You make some good points, but your insinuation that Obama equals government intrusion to change your life reminds me of a quote that didn't get nearly the attention it deserved from conservatives when it was first uttered:

"We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move."
-George W. Bush, September 2003

So, government should (and, implicitly, can) cure all the hurt in the world, and Obama's the messianic one? I understand your concerns about Obama's supporters. In fact, as an Obama supporter myself, I find some of their antics embarrassing. Heck, I'd give real money if Michelle would pipe down, since she's about as inept at crafting her remarks as anyone I've seen. But to suggest that this is something new or wholly exclusive to the left side of the spectrum seems a bit of a stretch.

Another example - Former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card said this of his boss: "It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a ten-year-old child." So who's the real paternalist here?

Or how about this gem from Powerline a couple years ago: "It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile." So who's got the messianic following here?

Besides, since when does a conservative get upset at a politician expecting a degree of personal responsibility? Isn't that what conservatism is about? Isn't that philosophy directly contradicted by the Bush quote cited above?

Wouldn't your cult-of-the-personality claims be better directed at the candidate who is lauded with chants of "yes, she can," rather than "yes, we can?" I suspect Reagan would have preferred the latter.

James Wigderson said...

Suddenly I feel like the horse in Animal Farm.

Seth Zlotocha said...

In your last comment thread, Rick, you made a claim that's along the same lines as the suggestion you're making in this post: "I don't think that this type of politics is healthy and I think that, if carried too far, it is dangerous."

In response, I asked what, specifically, is dangerous about it. You didn't respond.

But if you're going to continue with this line of argument in subsequent posts, wouldn't you say it's important to flesh out for your readers exactly what we have to worry about?

Anonymous said...

Is it audacious to hope that Obama's supporters will temper their religious fervor with at least a dash of cynicism? Wretchard has a typically brilliant take:

...Obama understands what I think few contemporary politicians do: that people don't crave the little "gifts" that Hillary Clinton has to offer, the small packages of benefits and percentage improvements. They want comfort, salvation and meaning. And in a world where secular society has destroyed every tradition of transcendance, the world is a wide open market for anyone who can offer -- not national security, economic growth, or the right to keep and bear arms -- but Hope. Obama has this market all to himself and provides "shape and purpose to the lives of his congregants" in a way that his rivals don't even know is necessary.

Whether Obama leads his flock coldly and calculatingly -- as the article in Stranger suggests -- on his own authority using the structure of religion as a convenient organizing principle or whether like Moses in Exodus 17 he inwardly listens for a presence beside him as upon a rock in Horeb, is something we cannot know. At the heart of the Obama mystery lies a curious duality. He is man who self-identifies with a particular race on the way to achieving the vision of making all men brothers; a man who appeals to our better natures yet speaks to Tony Rezko; a man who would lead a brotherhood of the downtrodden but with George Soros at his side; a man who distances himself from Louis Farrakhan yet receives his accolades on Saviour's Day.

iT said...

It's all so confusing. One day, the left is espousing a virulently hostile secularism, bent on erasing all faith from the public sphere, and the next, a procession of religious disciples on a holy pilgrimage to anoint their Messiah.

Anonymous said...

What is most telling to me is how it magnifies a generation of people that have lost faith in themselves and are willing to place it in a mere human being and a system that opposes Christianity.

iT said...

a system that opposes Christianity.

What system might that be?

Anonymous said...

it -

you have demonstrated at times some knowledge of scripture. I do not know if your knowledge includes eschetology, but I think it's safe to assume you have heard the teaching that an anti-christ will rise someday.

I think it's safe to assume that if an anti-christ is going to rise someday that there must be an anti-christ system (goverment) that accepts him and his directives.

For the past 40 to 50 years there has been a persistent push to purge everything Christian from our goverment, thus, taking on an anti-christian position.

I'm not saying that Obama is the anti-christ, but what is happening I think is making it clear that there is a generation that already would be willing to accept an anti-christ. To give there power to a leader they think will save them in this world from whatever they think they need to be saved from.

iT said...

I don't know about "the anti-christ," but I understand the Johannine Epistles make reference to a number of "antichrists," described as those contemporaries of their anonymous author(s) who didn't share his/her/their views.

Perhaps you're mistaking the decidedly fantastic characterizations of a Roman emperor that appear in the Book of Revelation as intended to characterize Senator Obama.

Obama certainly wouldn't be the first "beast," and nor will he be the last. (Even Ronald Reagan was one, as I recall.)

Your etc.,
iT
668 E. Wisconsin Ave.
(The neighbor of the beast.)

Anonymous said...

Though I prefer the subject hadn't come up, FWIW my own nominee for the anti-christ is Jimmy Carter. But to veer back on-topic, Ed Morissey has some astute commentary:

Farrakhan's address exemplifies the irrational exuberance, to use Alan Greenspan's words, surrounding the Obama campaign. It doesn't come from the candidate's own rhetoric, but from his high-profile supporters, including his wife on one occasion. Obama's election can save America from itself; it can heal broken souls; it can do everything except show a track record of the candidate doing any of this at any level of government. We hear almost nothing of substantive policy on the stump from Obama or any of his surrogates, but plenty of themes of the dire straits in which we find ourselves and the call to faith that Obama can lead us from them.

That's not a political campaign; it's a secular revival. Regardless of how one feels about Obama -- and I think he's a good man with a very thin resume -- the kind of rhetoric surrounding his run feels dangerous. Voters have been asked to take a lot almost literally on faith, and the hyperbole has continued to increase as he sweeps to victory in state after state. It has gotten less rational, not more, in that period.

Anonymous said...

it -

As I said, I don't think that Obama is the anti-Christ and nor do I think he's similar to any Roman Emperor. Although, he may think he's a decended from a god with all the praise that he's receiving.

There are two parts to the campaign, 1)Obama and, 2)his supporters. I'm referring to the willingness of many people to accept him as a type of a savior.

Throughout history, Christians will not bow a knee or accept a man for being anything but a man. So, who are all these people accepting Obama? and why? This certainly symbolizes a move away from the Christian foundation of this nation and a move to (?).

I see your limits with scripture but in both the Old and New Testaments talk about the anti-christ and what will proceed his coming. I still think it's rather miraculous that the Jews are back in Israel after being dispersed for nearly 2,000 years.

The Apostle Paul talks much about the second coming and what people will be like preceeding the rise of anti-christ. The similarities cannot go unnoticed if you know of any of those teachings.

I do not understand the Wisconsin Ave. address where you said the neighbor of the beast. Explain?

Rick Esenberg said...

Sam

It's good to see that your comment was well before 10:10. ;)

Although I don't know that it rises to the level of Obama worship, that quote from Bush drives a lot of conservatives up the wall. Nothwithstanding the quote from Powerline (can't we find someone who says anything about anyone?), I don't think conservatives generally regard Bush as a genius. Many barely regard him as conservative.

As for Hillary, I think she might have presented some of the same concerns but, at least right now, it looks like the Age of Clinton is over.

Erik Opsal said...

"For the past 40 to 50 years there has been a persistent push to purge everything Christian from our goverment, thus, taking on an anti-christian position."

You realize that America is one of the most religious countries in the world right? Our government reflects this, which IMO, is a bad thing.

Publius said...

So, when Michele says,

“For the first time in her life, she is proud of her country…”

“Barack Obama will require you to work...”

Is she reflecting we have been sitting here for 232 years doing nothing, but waiting for the “Second Coming of Obama”?

I have a theory... Which if you’re still dumb enuff to be reading this I will share with you…
There are no Conservatives or Liberals, left or right.
There are Governmentalists and

Anti-Governmentalists.
Governmentalists believe people are selfish and so the Government needs to steal the people’s money and give it to the less fortunate, who they would not normally help, because the people are selfish. (Think Socialized Medicine).

Anti-Governmentalists believe the opposite. If you keep your money, you will invest and create jobs and help your neighbor, because you are not selfish. (Think trickle-down economics)

For a guy who every other word out of his campaign is CHANGE, Obama is just another Governmentalist in a long line of Governmentalists.

Herbert Hoover believed the Red Cross and other charitable organizations would help us through the Great Depression. He was swept aside by FDR, who gave us the NRA, WPA, and debt.

Getting a plain-talking Anti-Governmentalist voted in would be like giving teens a choice of voting for a Father who laid down guidelines and restrictions or a Laid-back Father who let them run as they may.
No Contest.

But, we may have to choose wisely, or someday the choice may not be ours to make.

Anonymous said...

So when one can effortlessly find statist quotes from Bush, "Dear Leader" quotes from his admin, and slavering worship quotes from his media supporters, the appropriate response is "can't we find someone who says anything about anyone?".

But for substantially less suggestive quotes from the Obama campaign, the appropriate response is "Hard left stalin messianic statist stalin leftist something stalin something".

Your latest response was the right one, Mr Esenberg. One can trawl for quotes and then torque the convenient ones by direct spin or by sly hints. But it's your dispositions, not Obama's, that are thereby displayed.