October 26, 2008

The Mirror Speaks, the Reflection Lies

Justin Katz

Mark Levin is concerned that media brazenness and the various vague endorsements of Obama indicate that "this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue":

I've been thinking this for a while so I might as well air it here. I honestly never thought we'd see such a thing in our country - not yet anyway - but I sense what's occurring in this election is a recklessness and abandonment of rationality that has preceded the voluntary surrender of liberty and security in other places. I can't help but observe that even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical. And the pull appears to be rather strong. Ken Adelman, Doug Kmiec, and others, reach for the usual platitudes in explaining themselves but are utterly incoherent. Even non-conservatives with significant public policy and real world experiences, such as Colin Powell and Charles Fried, find Obama alluring but can't explain themselves in an intelligent way.

The matter could have more weight than just a gamble on a chief executive. Enough fair-weather libertarians of the left may prove that what they've hated about the last eight years were not the president's methods (as exaggerated as their characterization may have been), but that it wasn't their guy employing them. Such is inevitably the case: In the service of your objectives, bending the rules is a risky abrogation of fail-safes; in the service of mine, they are necessary, well, over-interpretations.

There are good reasons especially to lament the final plunge of the mainstream media. If Obama wins the election, the media will have played a significant role in putting him there. Do you think that will make journalists more or less likely to report and excoriate abuses of power?

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Ah, I see. The election explained. The voters are just blind idiots. Well, at least now we all know where conservatives are headed: into their cave to sulk for a while and complain about the ignorant masses.

Sure, Obama's success (so far) couldn't possibly have anything at all to do with:

1. The stunning embarrasment of a campaign waged by John McCain, especially the Palin pick.

2. The disastrous Bush presidency, which is a disaster for conservatives more than anyone else.

3. An inspiring campaign, that largely stayed out of the muck, by Obama.

Nope. None of those. The voters are just stupid.

Posted by: Pragmatist at October 26, 2008 9:54 PM

None of those things contradict the "charismatic demagogue" thesis. Indeed, they are arguably all either part of or helped to set the stage for it.

And, by the way, "blind idiots" is your characterization. Plenty of intelligent people are susceptible to a thorough con.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 26, 2008 10:16 PM

So your theory of this election is that Obama is a con man?

Justin, I suggest that when one is resigned to arguing that a majority of the electorate -- and a supermajority of the highly-educated electorate -- has been conned, one might want to reconsider accepted beliefs.

The "con" thesis doesn't even make sense. What about Obama is a con? Have I missed something, despite the hundreds of hours of reading from across the spectrum of publications? Obama is an admitted liberal. He plans to raise taxes on the rich, be more circumspect with the use of military force, and promote "green" policies. It seems rather straight-forward to me.

He wraps it all in an appealing message of change and hopeful energy. His techniques aren't any more of a con than Reagan's were. He certainly is better at messaging and imagery than McCain or Bush or Kerry or Gore or anyone else of my lifetime, including Clinton, who was pretty good at it. I suppose Reagan was better, if only because Obama hasn't actually won anything yet, let alone two elections.

Obama is a liberal who is a supremely skilled politician, which means he wins people and their votes. Why is that a con? Isn't that what our electoral system is all about?

Of course, it's easier to brand the opposition a con than to grapple with your own side's problems. And by side, I don't mean party.

Posted by: Pragmatist at October 27, 2008 12:31 AM

Some people who see the fraud in what Obama is saying are amazed that others do not. But Obama knows what con men have long known, that their job is not to convince skeptics but to enable the gullible to continue to believe what they want to believe. He does that very well." - Thomas Sowell


Posted by: Tom W at October 27, 2008 12:58 AM

His entire "new politics" schtick is a con. His record is doctrinaire, and he's shown no interest in working with people who substantively disagree with him.

Indeed, the entire structure of identity politics on which he's built his campaign is a con.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 27, 2008 7:10 AM

It is no more of a con than "compassionate conservatism" and Bush's pledge to be a uniter back in 2000.

Posted by: Don Botts at October 27, 2008 12:49 PM

His new politics schtick isn't a con. It's a campaign message. You see, in America, politicians often generalize and symplify key messages that they think will resonante with targeted voter groups. You may have heard about this. In fact, you may also have heard of the business field of "marketing." Indeed, they are related.

In this case, Obama's schtick is, partly, that he is a change agent. Not a crazy message to have when the world seems to be crazy and our current president is reviled by a majority of the electorate.

His marketing is a con? No more than McCain's "maverick" schtick is a con.

Posted by: Pragmatist at October 27, 2008 8:37 PM
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