Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama and the infantilization of politics

By Rick Morris

While I oppose Barack Obama's presidential campaign on policy grounds, and have repeatedly expressed my dissatisfaction here with the Republicans' unfocused "kitchen sink" approach to taking him on -- believing that voters are only going to be persuadable on the correct premise that his ideas will have bad consequences for the country -- I do feel that it's worth noting one effect that the Obama candidacy has had on the country: escalating the decades-long descent of liberalism into an ideology enunciated perfectly by children.

Once upon a time, long before I was born, this country was governed by grown-ups regardless of who controlled the levers of power in D.C. Then, in the 1960s, the student protest movement materialized and it ended up taking over the Democrat Party permanently in 1972 due to rules changes instituted after the disastrous 1968 convention. Overnight, the credos of dope-smoking, flag-burning hippies were enshrined in the DNA of one of our two major political parties. "Make love, not war" might as well have been spelled out literally in the Democrat platform, as the Utopian bromides of spoiled, smelly protesters were adopted by that political party and the foreign policy bureaucracy that they permanently control whether in or out of power. The neocon takeover of Republican foreign policy in this decade has framed the decision that the American people will face this fall in stark terms: will they risk turning to a candidate who will preach unmitigated pacifism or one who will be too trigger-happy in a world full of complex and often contradictory challenges? In all likelihood, the candidate who can set more people at ease on this question will win the election.

And that matter is an important one, frankly. It deserves to be regarded by people as such, which is why it offends me greatly when our politics are dragged down to an infantile level by the stale mentality of what should truthfully be called the Sixties Party. When Jimmy Carter pronounced his middle-school daughter as a key adviser on nuclear control in the midst of the Cold War in 1980, that was not a mere outlier. The drug-induced slogans of 1960s student protesters were nothing if not able to be easily understood by children at an early age of learning and emotional development -- and when they became official Democratic policy it is no wonder that those who at their age could better understand emotion than reason were so in tune.

This development has been a constant over the decades, even if it has taken on different forms. When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 and made (all too short-lived) noises about reining in the size and scope of the federal government, Democrats immediately ran to hide behind the skirts of women and children. Reductions in the size of GROWTH of programs were cast as ruinous attacks on the helpless in society and liberals dutifully trotted out hapless urchins before the TV cameras so they could pose the befuddled question about why rich Republicans hated them and wanted to see them starving on the street. The media lapped up the images hungrily and feeble Republicans, predictably, had no semblance of a counter-attack. The most hilarious example of this came in recent years when Democrats were in a struggle with President Bush about massive expansion of a welfare health plan and they actually delegated their weekly response to the president's national radio address to a 12-year old!

Apparently, though, the age of those fit to weigh in and be taken seriously on the presidential election has dipped slightly in the Age of Obama, which is unsurprising given the constant childlike repetition of gaga like "hope" and "change" that my FDH Lounge colleague Tony Mazur regularly and correctly ridicules as meaningless. Now this woefully oblivious soul proudly belches to the world the alleged wit and wisdom of his 11-year old, who in a bit of political analysis that will doubtlessly be quoted throughout the ages pronounced John McCain a meanie for running negative ads during the Olympics.

Now, given what I wrote about the state of American politics above, I actually agree with this emotion-over-intellect "proud father" in the sense that McCain probably was a bit tone-deaf in his choice about what kind of ads to run when. But this is because of the Sesame Street mentality of our country in which a "Sunshine, Trees and Flowers" candidate like Happy Barry O should be allowed to propagate his image without a counter-narrative. As I've repeatedly said previously here, McCain has to be very careful and not use the "kitchen sink" but rather a stiletto in making his attacks because of the the degradation of our national capacity to do anything other than think and feel. In other words, it's a sad reality, but attacks on Obama during Olympic commercial breaks will backfire because they will make kiddies cry.

God help us all.

1 comment:

Jacob Rosen said...

There are many informed, passionate, young liberals out there in this country. I consider myself one of them, and I have met a large group of others on a "conservative" campus at the University of Dayton. I think you insult all of us who hope for better conditions for the lower classes of this country. The "Grumpy Old Party" has become the party of the rich, and wealthy in the United States, and soon-to-be 72 year-old McCain is their new figure head.