A List of What Conservatives Believe (according to Glenn Beck)

Glenn Beck is a silly person, so ordinarily I wouldn’t comment on anything he says. However, today he generated a list today of what conservatives believe to which I cannot help but respond. 

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights do not include housing, healthcare or Hummers. Hummers are not necessities. In fact, they are harmful to society. They should be banned. Shelter and medicine are necessities, therefore they are inalienable rights and should be available to all citizens. The rights to food, shelter, medicine, and education flow from the organic rights enumerated in the Declaration of the Independence and the mission of the US government as listed in the Preamble of the US Constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights DO include the pursuit of happiness. That means it is guaranteed to no one. Of course, the government cannot guarantee happiness. But it is required to maintain the conditions under which happiness is possible for every citizen. A right means it’s guaranteed. Therefore, the right to pursue happiness is a guarantee.

A conservative believes that those who pursue happiness and find it have a right to not be penalized for that success. This statement falsely substitutes the word “success” for the word “happiness.” An honest statement would read: “A conservative believes that those who pursue happiness and find it have a right to not be penalized for that happiness.” Who doesn’t agree with that? But what is at issue with the application of the right to pursue happiness is whether one person has the right to pursue happiness at the expense of other persons. The answer to that question is clearly no, since rights apply to everybody. What Beck wants to say is that those members of the social classes that organize the exploitation of the working class should not be taxed. This is indeed what many conservatives believe, and it’s what makes their politics so elitist and despicable.

A conservative believes that there are no protections against the hardship and heartache of failure. We believe that the right to fail is just as important as the chance to succeed and that those who do fail learn essential lessons that will help them the next time around. There is no right to fail in any document underpinning American civilization. Neither is there one found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beck is misusing the language of rights.

A conservative believes in personal responsibility and accepts the consequences for his or her words and actions. Everybody, whether socialist, liberal, or conservative, believes this. This isn’t a conservative belief, but a basic belief humans have held since time immemorial.

A conservative believes that real compassion can’t be found in any government program. If the government feeds a child who will otherwise go hungry, then real compassion is manifest. Beck finds virtue in a little girl’s government failing to look after her. That’s not conservatism. That’s social Darwinism of the rankest sort.

A conservative believes that each of us has a duty to take care of our neighbors. It was private individuals, companies and congregations that sent water, blankets and supplies to New Orleans far before the government ever set foot there. Right, because the government failed to meet it obligations to citizens living in New Orleans. The government represents its citizens. The government is the citizens’ instrument for taking care of the citizenry. Just as the government serves the interests of national security, it serves the interests of domestic security, and nothing is more central to domestic security that addressing catastrophe at home. Therefore, the duty that each of us have to take care of our neighbors—a duty only nihilists refuse to recognize—rightly occurs through the government. 

A conservative believes that family is the cornerstone of our society and that people have a right to manage their family any way they see fit, so long as it’s not criminal. We are far more attuned to our family’s needs than some faceless, soulless government program. This is not a conservative idea. Neither is it a liberal idea that the government should play some role in facilitating the optimal socialization of children. Conservatives are big on intervention of this sort. I call hypocrisy.

A conservative believes that people have a right to worship the God of their understanding. We also believe that people do not have the right to jam their version of God (or no God) down anybody else’s throat. This is a liberal idea.

A conservative believes that people go to the movies to be entertained and to church to be preached to, not the other way around. So what are conservatives going to do about it? Regulate Hollywood and the black church?

A conservative believes that debt creates unhealthy relationships. Everyone, from the government on down, should live within their means and strive for financial independence. Who doesn’t believe this—outside of the bankers who encourage and compel debt?

A conservative believes that a child’s education is the responsibility of the parents, not the government. In other words, conservatives oppose public education. But the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require an adequate education, and the only way to ensure this to everybody is through public education. So either Beck doesn’t believe in realizing organic rights in this country or he doesn’t understand the implication of his own arguments.

A conservative believes that every human being has a right to life, from conception to death. Or, to put this another way, the conservative believes that the government should have the power to commandeer a woman’s body and force her to bear children. Of course, the conservative also believes in strapping a man to a cross-shaped gurney and pouring poison into his veins until he dies. 

A conservative believes in the smallest government you can get without anarchy. We know our history: The larger a government gets, the harder it will fall. For neither conservatives nor liberals is it ever a question of the size of government, but always what the government does and for whom it does it.

Obama’s Religious Speech

Several days ago, I posted a video with clips of Obama speaking in 2006 on the subject of religion. The clips were from an address in Washington DC called, “Call to Renewal,” delivered on June 28, 2006. While I agree with a lot of things Obama says in this speech (as I asked in the earlier entry, “Where is this Obama?”), it is certain that a great many Americans won’t. Obama said,

Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

He cited these statistics in the context of arguing why secular Americans should not so easily dismiss religion. But the video shows an attitude that will make many Christians angry, especially the expression on his face when he said that more Americans believe in angels than in evolution. Along with the crowd reaction, it’s clear that Obama mocks this belief (it is a ridiculous belief). Since Obama believes in evolution, his choice of illustration is revealing. He explains the source of religious need, and it’s no different from the remarks he made a private fundraiser that riled so many people, except that here Obama is more explicitly Marxian in his analysis. He says that religion “speaks to a hunger that’s deeper” than “the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches” and that “goes beyond any particular issue or cause.” 

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness.

Recently Obama has emphasized growing up in a Christian household with a Christian mother which, he asserts, makes him Christian. But in the 2006 speech he says something very different. “I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were,” he said.

My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I’ve ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.

He goes on to tell his own story of conversion, and the story sounds like the depth of his Christianity is rather shallow. This is a different account of his religious upbringing that one gets from his recent pronouncements or especially the flier he distributed throughout Kentucky. Obama says, “I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality.” And this:

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

In the eyes of many Christians, the most damning of all things in speech are these words:

Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

The implication is that if people were reading their Bibles they would have less enthusiasm for scripture, since the Bible advocates and indeed requires all manner of immoral behavior (I have documented many more examples on Freedom and Reason). Obama claims the Bible is not inerrant (can anyone vouch for any claim the Bible makes?) and, moreover, belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is a major barrier to the rational practice of democracy – that to base policy on the Bible would be dangerous.

At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

He then gives an intriguing example: the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded. Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion. But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

Since we cannot see or hear God, then it would be dangerous to base our policies on it. That’s perfectly rational. However, this is a rather curious argument in light of another statement he makes in the same speech that “secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.” And “to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Obama frequently contradicts himself in his speeches. This is one of the reason why his speeches aren’t very good.

Ideologically-Convenient Constructions of History: Denying the Racist Character of America.

Comment, January 18, 2020. This essay was penned nearly twelve years ago. While my politics have been for the most part consistent over the years, I have substantially changed my thinking on the question of racism in American history. I used to subscribe to arguments hailing from the critical race theory perspective and from that perspective I produced arguments like the one you will encounter here. I confess that I cringe when I read the stridency in my voice in the final two paragraphs.

I would revise my argument in the following manner: First, the United States no longer represents a system of white supremacy. The system of racial apartheid that privileged whites was dismantled more than fifty years ago. Second, I would explain that the United States was founded in the context of a racially segregated society and that patterns of de facto segregation today are in part a legacy of that initial situation. While racial inequality has not disappeared, racial oppression as a material fact of existence has. This material fact is why blacks continue to trail whites in every significant social category is not evidence for racism. There are a number of arguments that may explain such disparities. One is not defending white supremacy by saying this, and this is the most strident statement in my essay. I embarrass myself when I write, “I know the truth irks folks because it is inconvenient, but if one is rational person, he will prefer truth over ideology.” Yes, this is true, but what I was asserting as truth is ideology and I regret having written these words.

Just encountered a comment that claims that racism doesn’t exist in America today, that black people enjoy racial privilege, because slavery only existed in North America for 88 years. 

How did this individual arrive as such a preposterous claim? By arbitrarily setting the clock at 1776. If the idea was to make some technical point about slavery in the United States of America, the United States of America did not exist in 1776 and would not exist until more than a decade later. But whatever the idea was, it was either a deliberate or ignorant distortion of the history of slavery in North America. What is more, the unspoken premise is false, namely that racism is reducible to slavery.

First, on the question of slavery, owning Africans in North America existed in the colonies of North America at least as far back as the early 1600s. By the time independence was declared in 1776, slavery had been in existence in the colonies for more than 150 years. By the time the United States became an independent country, if we take 1619 Jamestown as the start of slavery in the North American colonies, and set the birth of the United States at 1789, the year the new government was seated, then slavery was in existence for 170 years. Slavery would continue until December 1865. That means that after the founding of the first government and the adoption of 13th amendment to the Constitution, 76 years had passed. That’s a total of 346 years.

Second, chattel slavery is only form of racial oppression and exploitation in existence throughout the history of the United States and the colonies that formed its basis prior to 1789. After emancipation in 1865 (the Emancipation Proclamation did not emancipate the slaves, but only freed those slaves in states in rebellion against the Union), racial violence at the hands of white people saw the mass murder of thousands of blacks—more than five thousands blacks were killed by lynch mobs alone. Throughout the post-emancipation period the criminal justice system was expanded to accommodate the reality of millions of free blacks with the predictable consequence that racial disproportionality in punishment sharply increased. 

Systematic racism followed slavery. In 1896, the US Supreme Court formally sanctioned legal apartheid. In other words, 32 years after slaves were emancipated, the US government established a national system of apartheid, or legal segregation, barring blacks from access to educational, occupational, and political institutions and resources. Blacks and whites were even forbidden to marry one another. This system of legal apartheid lasted well into the 1960s. In many states, blacks and whites couldn’t marry until the US Supreme Court overturned such laws in 1967. After the dismantling of the legal system of apartheid, the physical and cultural system of apartheid remained in place, what we know as de facto segregation, and this system of white supremacy continues to this day.

It is a brutal truth, a rationally undeniable reality, that the United States was founded as a racially-segregated society and that it remains a racially-segregated society to this very day. While the forms of racial oppression have changed—slavery, de jure apartheid, de facto apartheid—racial oppression as a material fact of existence has not disappeared. This material fact is why blacks continue to trail whites in every significant social category.  When one denies this essential truth of our society, whether out of ignorance or malice, one is defending white supremacy. What one is advancing when they deny systematic racism in America is ideology, not the truth about America. I know the truth irks folks because it is inconvenient, but if one is rational person, he will prefer truth over ideology.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas

Karl Marx writes in The German Ideology (1845):

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an “eternal law.”

If now in considering the course of history we detach the ideas of the ruling class from the ruling class itself and attribute to them an independent existence, if we confine ourselves to saying that these or those ideas were dominant at a given time, without bothering ourselves about the conditions of production and the producers of these ideas, if we thus ignore the individuals and world conditions which are the source of the ideas, we can say, for instance, that during the time that the aristocracy was dominant, the concepts honour, loyalty, etc. were dominant, during the dominance of the bourgeoisie the concepts freedom, equality, etc. The ruling class itself on the whole imagines this to be so. This conception of history, which is common to all historians, particularly since the eighteenth century, will necessarily come up against the phenomenon that increasingly abstract ideas hold sway, i.e. ideas which increasingly take on the form of universality. For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones.

This truism must be the starting point for any rational analysis of how beliefs are formed, transmitted, adopted, modified, resisted, and overthrown. Indeed, Marx’s observation supplies us with quick answers to outstanding questions about the way our world works simply by focusing our attention.

Consider, for example, the major media corporations operating in the United States – ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC. Who owns them? Capitalists. Who controls them? Managers working for capitalists. The result of concentration of the means of communication in the hands of a small number of families is that the ideas transmitted by the major media represent the interests of those families via such ideas as “capitalism is the best economic system ever,” “inequality is inevitable and natural and even useful because it motivates people to work hard,” “socialism is inefficient and oppressive,” “anything is possible for an individual living in the United States if he works hard enough and plays by the rules,” and so forth.  

The other dominant institutions are controlled by the same ruling forces. The prevailing ideas presented by the major churches in the United States are supportive of the status quo of patriarchal capitalism. The subordination of women is justified by the dominant religious teachings. Religion also covers attitudes about capitalism. The flock are taught that however inadequate their lives are on Earth, a better life awaits them in an imaginary place called “Heaven”—as long as they perform the rituals and never question the veracity of the myth. Moreover, the inadequacies they suffer in the present are the result of a lack of faith and not following the rules.

The reality is that the problem for most individuals is not that they fail to following the rules, but rather result from the rules themselves, as these rules are established by the elite in order to advance their interests over against the interests of the majority. The real problems for capitalism begin when the majority recognizes that capitalism is the source of its problems.

Obama and Marx On Religion

Many conservatives are comparing Obama’s comments about bitter Pennsylvanian rural and working class voters clinging to guns and religion with a young Karl Marx’s discussion of the logic of criticism, which he sees as having its embryonic form in the criticism of religion (see Ludwig Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity, presented in his “Contribution to the Critique,” published in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher in February, 1844. They say that Obama is using Marx’s argument.

Since this is the subject of so much discussion, I thought it would useful to write a blog entry on the matter. First, here is some of what Marx said:

The foundation of irreligious criticism is this: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed man’s self-consciousness and self-awareness so long as he has not found himself or has already lost himself again. But, man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, it enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.You will note, first of all, that Marx is criticizing the conditions of existence, not those affected by these conditions. He does not suggest there is some psychic or emotional defect in persons who are raised to believe in the supernatural. Alienation is not a individual phenomenon, but an objective condition in which individuals collectively exist.

Second, religion is a consequence of historical forces that affect virtually everybody in segmented society, not just for those living in small towns or in some other location. Obama’s own faith in Christianity – assuming he isn’t lying about that, too – is, according to Marx, ultimately the result of the general conditions of the present state of existence human beings experience. Many liberal elites believe in a god or have adopted some form of supernatural belief and spiritual analysis as a consequence of living in a social formation where alienation is fundamental to its character.

Third, this general problem of existence in segmented society is not reducible to economic troubles under capitalism. It is, in capitalist society, the problem of capitalism itself. Under feudalism it was the conditions of feudalism, not, say, a bad harvest. Obama can’t wean small town voters from their belief in god by improving their economic conditions. The way to create the possibility for movement away from belief in the supernatural is to, as Marx would have it, turn the social order upside down. You have to put working people in charge. The more democratic a country – that is, the more control working people enjoy over their lives – the less religions they become over time. It’s not about being bitter over economic troubles but about being alienated from history and the means to make history. It’s about a fundamental level of control over one’s existence.

If we are to believe that the origin of Obama’s argument is Marx’s critique of religion, then we must emphasize that Obama got Marx very wrong. Marx wasn’t talking about small town America. He was talking about the totality of alienated society. Marx wasn’t suggesting that we find some way to make capitalists bring their factories back to small-town Pennsylvania. Marx was talking about overthrowing the conditions of an alienated existence. He was talking about overthrowing capitalism. He was talking about revolutionary socialism.

Finally, the argument Obama did make is wrong. Small Americans do not cling to religion because of poor economic conditions. Obama might have avoided this problem if he had simply asked himself why he believes so strongly in god. After all, he has made his Christianity the centerpiece of his biography.

A Ticket for Speech

According to the Associated Press, Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski, a trustee in the Chicago suburb of Carpentersville, was issued a 75 dollar ticket for disorderly conduct after neighbors complained to police. 

Here’s what happened. Two children were playing in a tree next door to her house. She told the boys to get out of the tree because she was worried for their safety and because the magnolia tree was small and the boys were damaging it. 

The father, who evidently doesn’t understand what a trustee is, told her that it was none of her business.

This was her response: “I calmly said the tree is not there for them to be climbing in there like monkeys.”

The boys happened to be black. The mother of one of the boys called the police. In Illinois, there is an ordinance that bans conduct that disturbs or alarms other people. The police said that one boy was scared and a mother was disturbed. 

Why isn’t everybody in a panic over calling a black male “boy”? Could it be because context is everything?

Ramirez-Sliwinski says she will fight the ticket—as she should—but that she will not seek re-election to the board.

Turns out that there’s more to the story. Ramirez-Sliwinski is an Illinois delegate for Barack Obama, a position which she has resigned. The resignation was announced by Amy Brundage, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign. 

The AP story irresponsibly states that she was “using the word ‘monkeys’ to describe black children playing in a tree.” No, she wasn’t. She was using the word “monkeys” to describe boys playing in a tree.

Meanwhile, poverty among black children is still much greater than it is among white children. When are we going to do something about that?

Obama Cruising to the Nomination

Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC, the man who is supposed to be looking out for Democrats, says, “I think there is 800 [superdelegates], and 450 have already said who they are for. I would like the other 350 to say who they are for at some point between now and the first of July, so we don’t have to take it to the convention.”

Mort Kondrake, who would love to see an Obama candidacy, says, “The only way out of this that I can see, since there is not going to be a re-do in Michigan or Florida, is for somebody, and Phil Gretason [sic], the governor of Tennessee is trying to organize this, is a pre-convention of the super delegates—get them all together and have them decide.”

A “pre-convention”? Conventions are not supposed to be public relations affairs where the party parades around looking as if it’s unified. We don’t want stage-crafted “democracy.” Conventions are where issues are discussed and the candidate that stands the best chance of being elected president and who best represents the interests of Democratic voters is selected. Liberal elites are desperate to bring the election to a close because they’re scared witless that, by August, Obama will have self-destructed, denying them the claim of the first African American presidential candidate. 

Clinton and Obama debate

Ending the primary is not what Democratic voters want. As Clinton has pointed out, two-thirds of Democrats in a recent poll want the primary process to work itself out through voting. There are millions of people who haven’t yet voted, and they want their say. Of those who want the race to end, the same percentage of Democrats want Obama to drop out of the race as want Clinton to drop out of the race. The party should take note of this fact, because, coupled with the one-third of Clinton supporters who say they will switch to McCain if Obama wins the nomination, it signals how many Democrats are worried about an Obama candidacy.

* * *

Very interesting story out today by ABC news on Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I greatly admire his standing up for substance over symbolism. He says in no uncertain language that he would have left Trinity United over Jeremiah Wright’s teachings. “I could not sit and tolerate that kind of language, and especially over a very long period of time,” he said. “If I were in my own church and heard my pastor saying some of those kinds of things, we’d have a conversation about what’s going on here, what is this all about, and then I would have to make my own personal decision about whether or not to be associated or affiliated.” When asked if he would have quit, he answered, “Absolutely.”  

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter

He talked about the pressure from the black community, pressure that has already caused prominent members of the black community to switch their vote to Obama. The most disappointing defector to the Obama camp was House member John Lewis, who admitted that he switched because of anger and harassment from the black community. Nutter said that he hears all the time, “Why not support a brother?” He answers, “Somehow, someway, for some people there’s an automatic assumption that a mayor who is African American or some other elected official has to support another African American.”

As for the possibility of an historic moment, he added, “Certainly the opportunity to demonstrate to my 13-year-old daughter that there is a bright future for her, that a woman could get elected president of the United States, is equally compelling.” This historic possibility has been lost on the press. Black men got the right to vote in 1870. It would take another fifty years for women—all women—to get the right to vote. There’s no rule that says race comes before gender in “historic firsts.”  

Nutter said, “Either candidate will clearly make history. But you only get to vote for one. The most important thing is winning in November, putting a Democrat in the White House.” He continued, “I’m a great fan of history. I don’t know that when people are struggling to pay the bills, that they ultimately conclude that, ‘Well, if we can just make history with this vote, then all of my problems will be solved.’”  

Nutter condemned the Democratic Party for disenfranchising voters in Florida and Michigan, two states Clinton won by large margins. The Democratic Party is refusing to seat those delegates. “Think about who we are in the Democratic Party and the country we are in,” Nutter said. “That we would somehow leave out any of our citizens in this process, I think, would be an absolute disgrace. We need to be a bit smarter about it.”

Many in the black community are confused by Nutter’s endorsement. They thought for sure that he would support Obama. Instead of scratching their heads, however, they should listen to what he said and realize that his endorsement is rooted in reason, a commodity in short supply among those caught up in Obamamania. What Nutter says about electability is on point.

* * *

A great many democrats have been sucked into the Obama cult of personality, and, with virtually every media outlet claiming that Obama’s speech on race was historic and satisfying in terms of addressing the outstanding problems of his association with Jeremiah Wright (without going into detail about Obama’s close association with James T. Meeks and Salem Baptist and other black leaders of Wright’s ilk), it’s not particularly surprising that a majority of Democrats have come to this conclusion. After all, Obama is winning the election. Democrats needed a reason to justify their vote and the corporate media handed it to them. It’s all hunky dory now.

As for Republicans, their responses are for the most part a combination of subconscious fear of being perceived as racist by interviewers (many respondents, especially those who perceive interviewers as having reason to suspect them of racialized politics, are deceptive with interviewers in polls when race is a factor), a deep-seated hatred of Clinton that has them convinced that there is no way Clinton can be a strong candidate (they don’t know anybody who would vote for Clinton, so how could most Americans?), and a press so completely in Obama’s camp that they are convinced that McCain won’t be covered fairly in the general election if Obama is the candidate.

Given everything we can plainly see about the circumstances surrounding this poll, the results are predictable. More accurate are polls asking Clinton supporters whether they will support Obama or McCain in the event Clinton doesn’t get the nomination. The finding that one-third of Clinton supporters will support McCain given such an outcome is a much clearer indication of the possible consequences of an Obama candidacy. Numbers to this question put to the Obama side have risen of late because Obama supporters, frustrated by Clinton’s reluctance to quit in the middle of the fight, have turned on her (when the question was first asked, only a small proportion of Obama supporters would switch parties given the opposite scenario).

If the polls ever switch in Clinton’s favor, it will happen despite the overwhelming force of the corporate media’s surreal push for an Obama’s candidacy. Moreover, with Obama contributing so much money to the campaigns of superdelegates, who, more than 80 percent of the time support the candidate who contributes the most money to their campaign, it looks bleak for Clinton.

Disloyal Obama’s Duplicity

Bill Burton, a key Obama adviser, when asked why Obama disinvited his spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright to speak at Obama’s presidential race kick off, said, “Senator Obama is proud of his pastor” and that Obama wanted to “avoid having statements and beliefs” of Wright show up on blogs and conservative talk shows. So Otis Moss III was asked to speak instead. Of course, Moss’s statements and beliefs are no different from Wright’s, but then the media hasn’t pursued that. They have made this about Wright, because they believe they can—as Obama has done—dismiss him. But it’s not about Wright; it’s about Trinity United Church of Christ and black liberation theology.

At the time, Al Sharpton criticized Obama over the disinvitation saying that blacks were rightly distressed by Obama failing to stand by his pastor. Sharpton doesn’t make this criticism any more, even though Obama has failed to stand by his pastor in even more dramatic fashion as of late.

Wright understood why Obama distanced himself from church teachings. “When his enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli [to visit Muammar el-Qaddafi] with [Louis] Farrakhan,” he said, “a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell.” Wright also knew that such statements as the following one could prove fatal to Obama (if, of course, the media ever harped on them): “White America and the Western world came to realize [in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks] that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns.” (I guess I don’t really need to point out that this quote hasn’t been discussed at all in the current discussion over Wright’s teachings, even though it is a well known among those who are paying attention.)

Obama knew full well the character of Wright’s language, telling Wright during the disinvitation conversation: “You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public.” For those slow on the uptake, this means that Obama is lying when he says he was unaware of the controversial remarks. Clinton’s misremembering of events during one hour 12 years ago in a war zone goes to the heart of her trustworthiness, we are told, but no similar claim is made about Obama’s continuing and deliberate deception in hiding his spiritual mentor from the public and denying that he heard controversial remarks (a story Obama can’t keep straight).

This really is the story: Obama’s lying. But the media isn’t reporting the story this way. The corporate media angle is that his speech was the best speech ever on race and Americans for the most part believe he addressed their concerns. The media doesn’t provide the proper angle because, as it is as obvious as anything could be at this point, their goal is to see to it that Obama gets the nomination. Whether their overwhelming support for Obama stems from the desire to ameliorate the guilt they feel as whites over racism or sabotage Hilary Clinton’s chances is a matter of interpretation. (Maybe it’s both.)

Wright has cancelled many of his appearances of late, one suspects because the attention they would receive would prove embarrassing to Obama. But one wonders why Wright, who once said that Obama was “the hope of the world,” continues to do Obama’s bidding. Wright warned both Obama and Moss years ago that an Obama presidential campaign would make criticism of Trinity inevitable. I’m sure he didn’t expect Obama to turn his back on the church and reduce its preacher to a crazy old uncle who says bizarre things when that inevitability manifested itself in the clips of Wright’s sermons shown on YouTube.

Obama now says he would have quit the church if Wright hadn’t retired. “Had the reverend not retired and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn’t have felt comfortable staying there at the church.” But that’s not what Obama said in the “greatest speech ever.” Remember what he said then? “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” 

Obama can’t get his story straight. He says he never heard controversial remarks despite being a member of the church for twenty years. Then he says in his speech he did hear controversial remarks. Then he says after his speech that he didn’t hear controversial remarks, that he wasn’t there those days. Then we learn that he didn’t let Wright speak at the ceremony announcing his run for the White House because of Wright’s controversial statements. He says Wright is family and he can’t disown him and that’s why he didn’t leave the church. Now he says that had Wright not retired he would have left the church.

Obama knows that, if white America ever realizes that for two decades Obama faithfully, willingly, and enthusiastically attended a church where the minister preached the things Wright preached week in and week out, Clinton will likely be the nominee of the Democratic Party. But the truth is that this is exactly what happened. So rather than simply admit it and take this opportunity to explain to America what Trinity United is all about, Obama lies. And the media covers and spins.

Wright and Trinity United got attention a while back when another member of the church, Oprah Winfrey—who says that “Obama is the one we’ve been waiting for” (The Matrix?)—actually stopped attending the church (she hasn’t been a member for nearly a decade), because she didn’t like Wright’s rhetoric—again, rhetoric Obama has always known about but which he denies knowing. Wright didn’t take Oprah’s leaving well. When asked about it, he said, “She has broken with the (traditional faith)…. She now has this sort of ‘God is everywhere, God is in me, I don’t need to go to church, I don’t need to be a part of a body of believers, I can meditate, I can do positive thinking’ spirituality.’ It’s a strange gospel. It has nothing to do with the church Jesus Christ founded.”

Although Obama never left the church, he has turned his back on the church’s teachings. As readers of my blog know, Wright advanced what he called a “Black Value System,” one of the tenets of which is the rejection of “middleclassness.” This value issues from the Marxist character of black liberation theology. Obama has fully embraced the middle class lifestyle, pitching his campaign specifically to the middle class voter—the white affluent college-educated liberal who wants desperately to vote for any black man to prove to themselves that anything is possible in America. Working people (except working class blacks, who are tragically voting on the basis of identity politics and not on the basis of their objective interests during this campaign season) get this and therefore are supporting the candidate with the practical policy and program proposals (who has the added bonus of potentially beating McCain in November).

You can’t trust Obama. He has either sold out completely or he was always lying to the south side of Chicago. In any case, he has been lying to Americans all along and he won’t stop lying about all of this.

Obama is getting a free ride from the corporate media. Obama tells the public that any statement his preacher made that offends them he did not personally hear (because he wasn’t in church on those days) and he categorically condemns and denounces it. Then he says he heard controversial statements made by Wright while sitting in the pews of Trinity United. Then he says he didn’t. Now Obama says he would have left the church had Wright not retired. But Wright was making these remarks at least throughout the present decade.

Did Wright tell Obama he was going to retire in 2008 way back in 2001 when he gave his “Chickens coming home to roost” sermon and Obama rode it out until then? Oprah left because of what Wright said and there was a public war of words over the matter. Why didn’t Obama do the same? Is the new minister (Otis Moss) acceptable to Obama since Obama remains a member of the church? The press is not pressing Obama on any of these things. Nobody who gets anywhere near him is openly challenging his obviously absurd answers to the questions he asks himself. 

Electability is the central issue in this campaign, yet the media is too busy piling up Democratic voices on one side calling on Hillary to step aside and marginalizing those voices that point out how close the contest is. They want to stop the fight before the final bell because they the fear that Obama will stick out his chin and Clinton will land a knockout blow. They suspect there’s more in Obama’s past hanging over his candidacy and they desperately want Clinton to concede before that information gets out. They couldn’t contain the Wright sermons and they don’t want a repeat of that debacle before the big primaries coming up. While they were able to make a confusing speech appear to the public as a special speech by hyping it, there’s no guarantee that they can spin future speeches in the same way. 

The problem is not so much with what Reverend Jeremiah Wright has said, but with how Barack Obama has reacted to the controversy. For twenty years, Obama was a member of a church that preached black liberation theology, a Christian worldview with roots in Marxism. Yet, when he needed to appeal to white voters, Obama denied he knew about the character of Wright’s theology, denounced church teachings, and reduced Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his spiritual advisor, the man who put him in touch with his black identity, to a rough-and-tumble style preacher. Obama didn’t stand up for the black community or for black liberation theology. He gave a speech in which he treated racism for the most part as a thing of the past. He depicted the radicalism of Wright and others as anger and frustration held over from the 1950s and 1960s. It was a remarkable moment in which a politician believed to be something different was revealed as little more than a superficial and willing pawn of the establishment.

There are some who are claiming that Barack Obama is being subjected to a Willie Horntoning. They defend the reverend, but also cast Obama as the victim. He’s not. Obama is pulling a Sister Souljah. The progressive community should be out front in condemning Obama for this. The media’s reaction to Wright’s comments was predictable. Obama’s reaction to Wright’s comments were despicable.

Recently, The Washington Post interviewed Peter Paris, professor emeritus of Christian social ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary. Paris worries that Obama’s condemnation of some of Wright’s words could hurt him in some black churches. It is interesting that, instead of condemning Obama for his betrayal of the church, many progressive theologians are concerned about how Obama’s speech plays among black church goers with respect to how it helps or hurts Obama.

“So many black churches understand the role of prophetic speech alongside of pastoral speech, and I don’t think that Obama helped…communicate that strongly enough,” Paris said. “I hope that he doesn’t find black churches moving away from him in that respect.” Paris said that Wright’s comments about past slavery and modern-day segregated schools are not, as Obama claimed, “distorted.” “Jeremiah Wright is seen as a major prophetic voice in the black community,” Paris said, “and there are many people who adore him.”

Yet Paris, who was a divinity school classmate with Wright in the 1960s, is an Obama supporter. Why, if Paris and others realize that Obama’s characterization of black liberation theology as distorted is wrong, do they support him? Do folks still think Ferraro was wrong to say that the reason why Obama is doing so well is because some Americans are caught up in the idea of a black president?

I think people have to understand Obama’s motive. Either he joined Trinity United because he believes in black liberation theology and its black Christian Marxist roots or he used Trinity United to find his black identity and build a constituency. It doesn’t appear that Obama ever believed in black liberation theology. He used the church as a stepping stone and then when he got to where he wanted to be—at the threshold of the Democratic nomination—he turned his back on them.

Even if Obama still holds to black liberation theology and is denying it because he knows he couldn’t get elected otherwise, then he’s perpetrating a fraud of mega-proportions. If you know people won’t like you because of what you believe, and you have the courage of your convictions, then you don’t pretend to be something else; you tell them what you believe and let the chips fall where they may. Obama is too busy feeding everybody what they want to hear to have any convictions.

As an aside, I wonder how much press this latest thing about Italians with their “garlic noses” will get. Wright is big on this metaphor of Rome as the United States. No way did Barack Obama not know about this thread. It pops up over and over again. Two days ago Obama discussed the “very objectionable things [said] when I wasn’t in church on those particular days.” How convenient. If Wright says anything objectionable, just assume that Obama wasn’t in church that day. That may work for Obama true believers, but to rational persons it’s ludicrous.

If the press was going after Obama the way it’s going after Hillary this race wouldn’t be close. Seriously, I would really like to see a video of Obama laughing and clapping in the pew over one of Wright’s objectionable comments. Trouble is, they’re likely hiding that evidence. For some reason or another, even though Obama threw Wright and Trinity United under the bus, they’re still protecting him.

Sometimes There Really are Just Two Ways of Looking at Something

If you are a person who believes that what Jeremiah Wright said about 9-11 and white America is false and wrong, then you probably should not on principle support Obama since he approved of those statements by not leaving the church or by encouraging the removal of Wright as its pastor. Folks who sit in church silently while their minister is damning America for tolerating homosexuality endorse those statements when they fail to sack the minister or leave the church. Obama can offer no justification for why he did neither. He has admitted he lied when he claims to never have heard the statements.

If you are a person who believes that what Wright said about 9-11 and white America is true and right, then you probably should not in principle support Obama since he condemned those statements, denigrated Wright the person, and turned his back on the community. Obama gave a speech in which he came out in favor of the convenient understanding of racism, a speech aimed at making white people feel good about his presidency by making racism appear for the most part as residual anger among older black Americans. Obama betrayed Wright’s teaching. So if Wright is somebody you admire, then Obama offends you. And you see the speech for what it was: a superficial, self-serving attempt to confuse the issue.

Obama sought to walk a tightrope, as the media was constantly reminding us. But there is no tightrope to walk. There are only two ways to feel about this if you operate on principle, each rooted in your political worldview. These worldviews are represented by the establishment standpoint, on the one hand, and the popular standpoint on the other. If you are of the former, then Obama’s failing is that he is a member of a radical black anti-American church. If you are of the latter, then Obama’s failing betrays your core values as an advocate for social justice.

Following Obama’s lead, the media used empty words to make a speech that couldn’t possibly work appear as if it did. They manufactured an illusion, one that millions of the believers sitting at the feet of the Obama cult of personality needed no prompting to believe. Why can I see the speech for what it is? Because I am consistently justice oriented. I can see what Obama is up to. He’s the establishment’s black candidate.

But others who adhere consistently to the establishment standpoint also see through the speech. They can see how he changed the subject from the problem of his minister’s anti-Americanism to the problem of racism in America, a switch he exploited to gain traction among liberals seeking satifaction on the question of race. Obama’s speech was an object lesson in the importance of developing a consistent worldview rooted in principle, as well as why bipartisanship is an undesirable goal and centrism is an extremist ideology.

By the way, have you noticed that white Christian ministers can say all sorts of nasty things about America, but when a black Christian minister does it he is a racist anti-American demagogue?

Descent into Relativism: The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism

The communitarian critique of liberalism rests in essence upon the argument that one cannot derive a moral theory from the position of individualism. Morality must exist beyond the individual, say communitarians. Communitarians locate morality in normative actions rooted in community and tradition. This means that morality usually comes rooted in religious rules, or at least religious-like rules.

However, whether religious or secular, communitarianism ultimately leads its proponents into relativism. This is not accidental; communitarians challenge the liberal claim of universalism. The problem of particularism versus universalism has already been solved (albeit the solution is pending), and this solution issues from the historical materialist conception of the relationship between the individual and society.

Specific moralities, whether rooted in religious or secular notions of bad and good, right and wrong, are, to a substantial degree, expressions of alienation under power. While concrete moral systems sometimes reflect universal morality, rules and values are articulated through the commands of estranged and oppressive systems. The objective core of alienation and oppression is the unequal condition of human existence in segmentally-arranged societies. Whenever the individual is prevented from performing the definitive role in shaping her destiny, and a social system is prevented from working to each individual benefit—that is, when some individuals, alone or organized into groups, systematically enjoy advantage and other individuals or groups suffer disadvantage—then the moral system will always be constrained and distorted.

Now I come to the solution: the elimination of segmentation and the creation of a substantively egalitarian social order, one in which benefit to the one comes with the benefit to all. Only when such an order is established—or, more precisely, restored—will an undistorted universal morality exist.

To put this another way, liberty and universal morality are achieved through equality. It is in the demand for justice that liberalism, at least as currently articulated in all its many forms, is revealed as inadequate, as the emphasis on negative freedom and minority ownership and control over the means of production runs counter to the establishment of a social order based upon democracy and personal liberty.