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August 1, 2004 - Cain's Question

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Barack Obama, the rising star of the Democratic Party, gave the one speech that turned heads at the Boston convention this week.  Most everyone has commented on it.  And he hasn’t been elected to any office yet, although he is now running unopposed for the open Senate seat from Illinois.  His opponent dropped out after it was revealed that his glamorous Hollywood wife divorced him partly because he kept insisting she would really enjoy naked hot monkey sex with him in front of large crowds at sex clubs.  She suggested she wouldn’t like that at all.  Oh well.  Obama was far ahead in the polls anyway.  The Illinois Republicans then tried to the run Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears football coach with the notoriously short fuse.  But Ditka stepped away.  There was some talk of the Republicans trying to get Ted Nugent to run – the former rock star, avid hunter and NRA guns-for-everyone enthusiast.  He hates wimps and girly-boys too.  But that went nowhere.  So Obama will win the seat.

Barack Obama is the son of black African exchange student and a white woman, and a bit of an overachiever – as in Harvard Law School and President of the Law Review.  His paternal grandfather herded goats in Africa.  Beat that story, Horatio Alger!  Now he is said to be presidential material – articulate, charismatic, generous, thoughtful, and positive - maybe our first black president somewhere down the road.  That is possible.

The speech itself was amazing – but so many have dissected it that a review seems unnecessary.  The meme of the day is that Obama managed to appeal to everyone, and to everyone’s better nature, whether lefty liberal Democrat or born-again gays-are-evil Christian Republican.

The full text is here:
Barack Obama's Remarks to the Democratic National Convention
The New York Times - Published: July 27, 2004

If there is one part of this speech that merits some comment it is this:


If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief, it is that fundamental belief, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.


I suspect that is where he lost the conservative Republican folks.

Cain kills his brother Abel – and asks God if he is, really, his brother’s keeper.  The answer is clear-cut.  Yes, you are, you fool.  What were you thinking?

I suspect that is one part of the Biblical narrative where a lot of the conservative right says, well, sometimes the Bible is wrong – not often – but sometimes it is.

How can you blast those who propose a “mommy government” with all sort of freebie benefits keeping people feeling like victims and dependent and lazy - when they should get off their fat asses and take care of themselves – if you buy into this idea that you might actually be your brother’s keeper?  This does not match up with the concept of “personal responsibility” very much at all.  And how can you propose “tough love” - cutting welfare and stopping unemployment benefits for the good of these losers, so they actually are forced to do something productive – if you are, in fact, your brother’s keeper.  My conservative friend has told me all these laws about fairness in hiring and education – all that civil right legislation that started with the 1964 Civil Right Act – is stupid.  Good people with ambition will rise to the top anyway.  They don’t need such laws.  And those who aren’t good people, who are not assuming personal responsibility for their own lives, then, because of such laws, just feel entitled to stuff everyone else has to earn on his or her own.  It’s not fair.  In addition, such laws just hobble business and schools that want to be, simply, what they want to be, no matter what “big government” thinks they should be or says how they the think these business and schools should act – such laws take away their rights, to hire or admit whomever they want.  It’s not fair.

Barack Obama didn’t win over these folks.  He cited the wrong part of the Bible.

In general, the right immediately had problems with this speech, as reviewed here by Jeanne at Body and Soul -


You had to work hard not to fall under the spell of that speech.  Kevin Drum caught one fool at The Corner trying out the spin that, sure it was a good speech, but liberals don't really believe all that stuff, they're just trying to put a nice face on their real beliefs.  Tucker Carlson tried essentially the same spin last night on CNN -- it was "nothing like the typical Democratic speech this year."  In other words -- a sham, even if it sounded good. By the end of that segment, even Carlson had figured out his spinning top had tumbled, so I suspect that argument will disappear. A kinder, somewhat more rational version, however, is already taking its place. Andrew Sullivan's spin: What was great about the speech is that it was so Republican.

I love it. First you make up some nonsense about liberals being faithless, irresponsible and politically correct, and then when a liberal demonstrates that your stereotype is pure garbage, you don't question your stereotype, but instead try to create a world in which progressive values are really conservative ones.


Hey, whatever works.

But Thomas Frank has the last word here in the July 29 opinion pages of The Los Angeles Times.

Thomas Frank is the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?  How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" - discussed in Just Above Sunset - here July 18, 2004 - The Importance of Martyrdom to the Conservative Movement with a follow-up here.

The problem with Obama and the Democrats?  The party doesn't get it: Most voters hate what those people stand for.

Oh. That must be it.

Frank is arguing that whatever Obama says, folks just don’t like what is happening in Boston.

Why?  Too may celebrities in view, of course.  Blame Hollywood.


After all, as this party makes clear, when Hollywood stars decide to get out there and do their patriotic duty and stump for the candidate of their choice, the candidates they support are usually Democrats.

But somehow it never seems to help. Somehow this glitzy world of risque dresses, pseudo-transgressive stylings and velvet ropes (i.e., the things that make up "creativity") has precisely the opposite effect on a huge swath of the American public. They hate it, and they hate everything that Hollywood has come to stand for. After all, Hollywood stars are as close as America comes to an aristocracy, and being instructed on how to be kinder and better people by pseudo-rebellious aristocrats can't help but rub people the wrong way.

What the stars' Democratic allegiance illustrates for this segment of the public is not the glamour of Democratic candidates but their repulsiveness and shallowness and insufferable moral superiority; their distance from the historical Democratic base of average Americans. For them, Hollywood's superficial leftism only validates the ludicrous claims of the Republicans to be the party of the common man.


I guess Ben Affleck and Glenn Close should have stayed away.  Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Streisand did.

Bush is morally superior to them all?  I suppose one could argue that position.

So the upcoming election campaign will be self-righteous optimists claiming moral superiority against realistic cynics who say we should all be really, really frightened and not change horses in mid-stream because we all could die.  It will be Dopey and Grumpy – and the assorted other five dwarfs of fear – against the dull but earnest Lurch and the happy Breck Girl from North Carolina.

Barack Obama gave a good speech, but he doesn’t count.  It is not his time, yet.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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