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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Consequences Of Vacuous Hope

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I have just come back from a very special place, a wondrous place. It is a land in which the fortunate step on the less fortunate with impunity, where old folks and young jockey for the same low wage jobs, where no people feel united with their fellows, where hope is lost. But wait: there on the horizon in this magical land is one special man who brings change and hope, who shoulders the burdens for all the rest of us, the man who has the answers. He is a man of such sure character we don't have to ask him questions, we just let him open the doors to all that can be. Our only responsibility is to close our eyes and say, "Yes we can. Yes, we can change. Yes we can."

I have just spent an hour reading Senator Barak Obama's campaign speech transcripts.

Watching Obama on TV delivering these same speeches is a very different experience from reading them. Listening to his voice rise and fall and watching him react to the crowds reacting to him, his words take on a heft and weight that they totally lack when reading them on the page. Watching him deliver such lines as, "Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future. ... as we leave this great state with a new wind at our backs and we take this journey across this great country, a country we love, with the message we carry from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire, from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast, the same message we had when we were up and when we were down, that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we will hope", one feels the excitement of the moment, of something waiting to happen. But in reading the speeches the lines take on shallowness, a lightness as they almost seem to effervesce off the page, forgotten the second your eyes move on.

The speeches, meant as they are to be performed, dramatically repeat themes, two themes really: change and hope. But while they provoke our emotions, they do not provoke our thinking, quite the opposite; they require our suspension of thought. Barak Obama already has the answers. He'll carry the load. There are people and forces standing in the way of these answers. He just wants us to stand with him as he shoves those forces out of the way and then he can pass on his received wisdom: more money from the government, more government regulations, and more money taken from those who greedily have taken what they do not deserve. And this is the kernel of the problem of Barak Obama's call for hope.

Obama is asking us to hope that someone else (Obama himself!) will take the reigns of our lives. Ask people you know who support him why they do. In most cases they'll tell you what has now become a cliché: they're for hope; they're ready for a change. Generally specifics will be in very short supply. Ronald Reagan was known for his optimism too, but Reagan's speeches were always about returning responsibility for people's lives back to the people themselves. He wanted to be the agent to give the government back to the people. Obama wants to be the agent of the government which will take responsibility for the people. Now this is typical of liberalism, it is part and parcel of its appeal but what sets Obama apart from most liberal politicians is his ability to make the man and the message one and the same. He is the answer. He is the hope.

He is a most peculiar character to have so successfully convinced so many people to unquestiongly drop their skepticism. He is the least accomplished man to offer himself up as a presidential candidate in generations. A US Senator since only 2005, he's spent much of that time running for President, having little time to accrue much in the way of a legislative record, should he have the ability to do so. Although his speeches are rife with references to bringing people together, his record indicates no special ability in doing this. And although he seems to believe he possesses the answers to almost all our problems, new answers, he is in fact a perfectly traditional far-left politician. All those "new" answers are not new at all, of course. They have been ruining economies and nations for decades. The dying husk that is modern day Europe appears to be Obama's idea factory. If you like modern-day France, you'll love Barak's America.

Obama's ability to change the subject from the consequences of his ideas to his emotional state and then his ability to transfer that state to the public is nothing short of masterful. His audacity has been in thinking that he could make what he would actually do as President less important to the electorate than the fact that he is the one doing it. So far that audacity has paid off for him. I hope it no longer will come this November.

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