May 8, 2008

Differing Perspectives on America

Marc Comtois

Historian Dale Light offers an interesting summary of how the candidates and their supporters view the country.

One benefit of this interminable Democrat nomination process is that fundamental issues do get discussed -- no I'm not talking about health care, or foreign policy, or the war, or any of those other transitory things; I'm talking about things that really matter in the long run, such as how the candidates and their supporters see America.

By now it is clear that "Hillary!" and her supporters see America solely in terms of competing interest groups. This is pretty standard for mainstream Democrats, has been ever since the rise of the "broker state" concept in the Roosevelt years. It's a social science vision of the country and in terms of electoral politics it consists of identifying and pandering to a sufficient number of interest groups to accumulate a majority.

Tonight in his North Carolina victory speech, "O-ba-ma!" went out of his way to disparage that sociological approach to America, emphasizing instead common approaches to common problems. This is at first glance similar to the unifying nationalistic themes on which Republican candidates have run ever since the party's inception in the middle of the nineteenth century. But there is a significant difference. Republicans love the country for what it is and what it has been as much as for what it might be in the future. Obama, with his strong liberal and radical associations, focuses almost exclusively on negative aspects of the American experience, and talks instead about an ideal America that has never been, but which he promises to bring into existence.

I think he's being a little too rosy with his description of Republicans, but his point is that, all in all, Republicans are more apt to view the country as a whole--the history, the institutions, the traditions--as being a net positive. (I include conservatives with this group, but they also view government as being naturally, and detrimentally, expansionistic. As the last few years have shown, not all Republicans believe this, too). I also understand Light's point about the Clintonian factionalism, but we also have a long tradition of that in our politics, despite the express desires of the founders. Finally, Obama truly is a Progressive with a belief that a group of experts--with Obama in charge--can lead our nation to a virtual (or, to some apparently, a very real) Heaven on Earth. We just have to trust him.

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Marc Comtois,
You mention "Unifying nationalistic themes on which Republican candidates have run ever since the party's inception in the middle of the nineteenth century." Do you remember the Civil War? Quite a divisive conflict as I recall my history. Do you remember the Abolitionists and their intransigent views that helped bring on the election of the Republican Party and the onset of the civil war? Do you remember reconstruction policies which divided the nation for 100 years after hostilities ceased? Some "unifying nationalistic themes" were ineffective and divisive.

Look again at history and you will find that Republican president Herbert Hoover was sufficiently embarrassed by the march on Washington called "Coxey's Army" that a full-scale investigation was launched against Cox. The Republican National Committee wanted to know how Cox was able to purchase enough gasoline to get the marchers to Washington, suggesting the Vatican, or Democratic supporters of Al Smith funded the operation.....So much for unifying the country.

Search your memory and you will find mention of The United States Progressive Party of 1912 Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose party) was a political party created in the United States by a split in the Republican Party in the presidential election of 1912. It was formed by Theodore Roosevelt when he lost the Republican nomination to Howard Taft and pulled his delegates out of the convention. So much for "Unifying Nationalistic themes on which Republican candidates have run ever since the party's inception".

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 9, 2008 8:37 AM


Marc is the one who said "I think he's being a little too rosy with his description of Republicans ..." and the quote to which you refer was made by Dale Light, not Marc.

So maybe you should respond to him.

Marc was being non-partisan and very fair referring to ideology rather than strict party affiliation.

It is you who responded in a strict partisan manner sounding a lot of like Rush Limbaugh as a Democrat (not a compliment regardless of party affiliation).

Posted by: msteven at May 9, 2008 3:13 PM

OTL, as msteven suggests, you really have to read a bit more carefully as to who is saying what. And I prefaced the quote by calling it "interesting", I didn't say I agreed 100%, as my post-quote remarks indicate. I fully recognize that making these sort of sweeping generalizations are risky: counter-examples are easy to find in 150 years of history, after all.

Sorry, gotta run.

Posted by: Marc at May 9, 2008 5:01 PM

I opened my comment by using the word "mention" rather than "said" so as not to cite you as its author. I suppose I failed in that.

However, I included the quote so as to be able to challenge its assertion. I stand by the challenge. It must be remembered that the Republican Party started as a radical party and that it was supported by radical movements like the Abolitionists. I don't agree with this 100%, but as you took a liberty by using the phrase, so will I, "All consevatives are worshippers of dead radicals."

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 9, 2008 11:07 PM

The truth is that all current radicals are worshippers of dead radicals, regardless of whether they are radical liberals or conservatives.

Shame on anyone who can't see the clear distinction between "You mention" and "You said".

Posted by: msteven at May 10, 2008 12:51 PM

... er, yes. Clear. Yes.

Posted by: Monique at May 11, 2008 8:33 AM

Judging from your posts not very much is clear to you.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 12, 2008 4:01 PM
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