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Faith and Politics War and Its Moral Equivalent

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The Big "O"

by Christopher Chantrill
June 12, 2008 at 11:36 am


LIKE PEGGY Lee in “Is That All There Is,” conservatives keep wondering if they are missing something about the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Meanwhile, we hum to ourselves, in a rich contralto,

If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

It seems tailor-made to be a McCain campaign song, especially if, as everyone thinks, Republicans are going to get hammered anyway this November. Of course, these days, my friends, “binge drinking” is frowned upon by educated, evolved people and only practiced by bitter people after a Saturday afternoon trip to the gun club.

The song makes sense. There’s nothing in Obama’s “Blueprint for Change” except the usual liberal laundry list of new programs and subsidies for Democratic interest groups. But then you’d expect that in a document prepared for the Democratic Party primary season.

Now that Obama’s the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party it is time to check his agenda for a heartbeat, and figure out if there is anything there beyond the Big O.

You’d think his big speech of Tuesday, June 3, 2008 would give us a clue, and it did. On Iraq, he’s beginning to walk back towards the center:

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in - but start leaving we must. It’s time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future.

It’s an artful statement that could mean anything, but is certainly meant to reassure independent voters, hinting that an Obama administration would continue the Bush policy of standing-up the Iraqi government.

Then, on health care, Obama in his speech wants to:

pass a health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it.

To understand what that means you need help, and the June 6, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal has an analysis of the candidate’s position (available online) that mandates that large companies provide health insurance for their employees. Obama would “increase regulations and spend tax dollars” to guarantee health insurance to every American.

On education, the Journal says that Obama would add more money to support No Child Left Behind but relax its punitive aspects. Says Obama:

[W]e owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support... a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American.

In other words, on education it’s liberal business-as-usual. There will be more money for the liberal education blob and more subsidies for liberal colleges.

It’s on energy that Obama most closely honors his promise of “unity,” but that’s only because Republican John McCain buys into the liberal “consensus” on global warming. Obama “supports subsidies for solar and wind energy,” and doesn’t want nuclear power before “storage and safety issues are resolved,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Many conservatives are anxious to paint Barack Obama as a radical left-winger, and maybe he is. But plenty of liberals have flirted with the left, in a youthful experiment with a bit of radical rough trade. They return in their years of political viability to the liberal mainstream, and they propose a new top-down expert-led program here, or ratchet up a subsidy for Democratic voters there, just like every other liberal. Radical or mainstream, the difference is merely one of degree.

Sooner or later, after you’ve brought more and more of American life under the knout of compulsion and after you have provided every Democratic voter with a four-course dinner of government services you’ll get to the day where the American people cry Uncle, break out the booze, and decide they can’t take it any more.

Until then, here’s an audacious hope. When you listen to Obama’s rhetoric you may think: I’d have to be born yesterday to believe this! No taxpayer could buy into the notion that this is

the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,

or that college is a “privilege for the wealthy few,” not when government in the United States spend north of $900 billion a year each on health care and education.

Maybe there’s a clue here. Maybe Obama is the candidate for people born yesterday and the people that don’t pay taxes. For the rest of us, the meaning of Obama seems to be symbolized in his ubiquitous “O” logo. He seems to add up not to “change,” not to “unity,” but to a Big Zero.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values


Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion

Government Expenditure

The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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