I have a column in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel presenting an opposing view to the paper's endorsement of Obama.
One of the things that I hinted at but couldn't develop in a 700 word op-ed is concern with a full-throated return to the idea, not only that government does the most important work in our society, but that this work can change the nature of our lives.
I quoted a line from a recent column by Michael Gerson to the effect that, if Obama is elected, the "least responsible, least respected, least popular political institution in America - the Democratic-led Congress - would also be the most emboldened." Gerson suggests that Congressional Democrats will push for "divisive measures that punish and alienate businesses, seek backward-looking political vengeance and impose cultural liberalism."
Gerson says that Obama will need to stand up to him and suggests that he might, citing Obama's identification of Reinhold Niebuhr as one of his favorite philosopher. Niebuhr, who wrote in the wake of the second world war, emphasized the fallen nature of man and the reality of evil, arguing for a Christian realism that that recognized that the kingdom of heaven cannot be realized on earth. Gerson sums this up as a theology of "conflicted humility."
The problem is that I see little of this in Obama. I have blogged in the past about concern over the grandiosity of his rhetoric and the out-sized expectations of his supporters. Some readers were upset, pointing to the allegedly modest fine print in Obama's position papers and criticizing me for suggesting that anything about Obamamania was dangerous.
I know that Obama has said that "we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate" the pain and suffering in the world. He says, nevertheless, that we shouldn't trade "bitter realism" for "naive idealism."
Well, I agree. And that's why we shouldn't think that the state can heal the world and make the waters to recede. It's why policies that emphasize collective approached centralized in the state, particularly the federal government (see,e.g., his health plan) ought to be viewed with suspicion.
But this election is, I think, about whether we are going to hang on to that suspicion.
It's possible that Obama will stand up to the Barney Franks of the world. But I don't expect it.