Update: After thinking over Sen. Obama’s speech again, I’ve changed my mind. I focused too much on what Sen. Obama wanted us to think he was doing and not enough on what he was doing. One particular line stuck out and I can’t get beyond it.
This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
That line is a specific repudiation of the message of unity – based on individual liberty – that Sen. Obama tried to sell. He’s not transcending Us versus Them. He’s merely changing the players. He’s only interested in closing divides if doing so can be used for short-term political advantage, even if it means opening a new divide. Without that potential personal benefit, he doesn’t seem to find the principle worth respecting.
I modified my original entry to reflect my revised opinion.
I’ve been paying attention to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright story as nothing more than background noise to my interests. But I know Sen. Obama spoke today on the subject. Having read it, it’s
decent enough insufficient in its attention to race and politics and the question of his implicit endorsement of Wright’s ridiculous opinions. There were some off-notes for me, but it’s a step (or four) forward and I think those overwhelm whatever good he could’ve had in the speech. However, I can’t get past the unnecessary stuck inside his attempt at the necessary. Such as:
… Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. …
… distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. …
And politicians exploit fears of economic outcomes for their own electoral ends. Sen. Obama’s (and Sen. Clinton’s) strategy leading to March 4th, full of anti-NAFTA rhetoric and boiler-plate economic stupidity that he certainly understood as stupidity, exploited the fears of voters in Ohio. It was expedient political crap then. It’s expedient political crap here.
If Sen. Obama means inside corporate dealing between private parties, so what? If he means to include public parties, then say so explicitly. Leave out the anti-corporation idiocy, which he could’ve done by hitting solely on the problem of (readily-embraced) rent-seeking in Washington. But that would mean accepting that all parties have a legitimate claim to their own interests, demanding that Washington stay out of picking any winners and losers. Sen. Obama isn’t saying that. He like economic policies that favor the few over the many, as long as the groups are selected to his preference.
I see nothing new or noble here.
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
Why quote the Preamble to the Constitution if you’re going to call on religious impulses for the way forward? Not everyone shares the same faith, or any faith. I’d rather focus on an idea like the Fourteenth Amendment and its requirement that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The context of this speech required the classical liberal (i.e. libertarian) approach to public interactions in America, not the liberal (i.e. Progressive) approach. Less “do unto others (with government)” and more “We hold these Truths to be self-evident”.