Obama and the Abdication of Reason
What can we deduce about the state of mind of those who rally, sometimes with remarkable fervor, behind a man they know nothing about?
Abdication of reason.
In the Emory Wheel, the student newspaper of Emory College, Josh Prywes reported, “Pollster Frank Luntz asked college students at a recent focus group to name the candidate they were going to vote for. All of them said Obama, but when Luntz followed up by asking them to name a single accomplishment of the senator, they couldn’t name one. Nobody could name a single accomplishment that Senator Obama has achieved” (emphasis mine throughout).
Barack Obama is an unrivaled political sensation, a political phenomenon on pace to become the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
Senator Obama’s success is spectacular not just for its scale, but for the means by which it has come about. The strategy employed by the Obama campaign, as commentators—including some on the liberal bench—have observed lately, has been one of substituting rhetoric for reason, and style for substance, in an effort to win the hearts of supporters with a syrupy message of change, hope and inspiration. It’s the same style as that adopted by many a Pentecostal preacher, and it seems to be having the same spellbinding results.
But though the senator’s message of “change” may be enthralling—especially when delivered Obama-style, with a big toothy smile, vibrant body language and the perpetual use of emotionally inclusive language—there is no particular agenda offered for that change, no goal mentioned to hope for, no laid-out strategy. Obama’s message is geared to obtaining one climactic, emotionally inspired action from his enraptured audiences: vote for Obama!
It’s a campaign founded on the abdication of reason in exchange for the embodiment of emotion.
So far, it has worked. In his column last Friday, Charles Krauthammer assembled a disturbing montage of the feverish support behind Senator Obama. Despite the stark contrast “between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda,” saidNewsweek columnist Robert Samuelson, “the press corps—preoccupied with the political ‘horse race’—has treated his invocation of ‘change’ as a serious idea rather than a shallow campaign slogan. He seems to have hypnotized much of the media and the public with his eloquence and the symbolism of his life story. The result is a mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation’s problems when, so far, he isn’t.”
Campaign Obama is beginning to undergo some scrutiny. But what about the millions of supporters who have allowed themselves to be deluded into following this esoteric dream? The future of America is at stake in this election. Candidates are not campaigning to become president of the pta, or coach of the Little League team. They are campaigning to become the next president of the United States, the most powerful nation on the planet; the one who will have the unique responsibility of guiding that nation through a time of unprecedented global disorder.
That’s a weighty responsibility, and the decision as to who—among the limited choice of candidates—will play this role falls, for the most part, on the shoulders of the American electorate. It’s a responsibility that demands from the electorate a keen sense of reason, intelligent choice, a willingness to judge character, and the ability to make decisions based on reality rather than on emotion.
What then, does the spectacular success of Barack Obama, an untested, inexperienced freshman senator whose campaign is more style than substance, reveal about the American psyche?
British commentator Melanie Phillips likened the feverish euphoria for Obama sweeping America to the irrational euphoria, which she coined Diana Derangement Syndrome (dds), that swept Britain after the death of Princess Diana:
The main characteristics of dds are the replacement of reason, intelligence, stoicism, self-restraint and responsibility by credulousness, emotional incontinence, sentimentality, irresponsibility and self-obsession. Political icons to which this disorder gives rise achieve instantaneous and unshakeable mass followings of adoring acolytes because they grant permission to the public to suspend the faculty of judgment and avoid making any hard choices, indulging instead in fantasies of turning swords into plowshares ….
That millions of Americans have abdicated intelligent reason for a feel-good message as empty as it is vague—“change”—exposes critical deficiencies in the psyche of the average post-baby-boom, post-hippie, post-Cold War, post-subprime-meltdown American of today.
First, that Obama supporters are willing to marginalize reason in an effort to subscribe to the emotional but vague message of hope and inspiration reveals a wanton failure to face up to reality among many Americans.
Although Obama feigns moderacy, and his supporters buy it, he is in practice a hard-left liberal. Here’s a summary of the senator’s record from the National Journal:
Overall in NJ’s 2007 ratings, Obama voted the liberal position on 65 of the 66 key votes on which he voted; Clinton voted the liberal position 77 of 82 times. Obama garnered perfect liberal scores in both the economic and social categories. His score in the foreign-policy category was nearly perfect, pulled down a notch by the only conservative vote that he cast in the ratings, on a Republican-sponsored resolution expressing the sense of Congress that funding should not be cut off for U.S. troops in harm’s way.
Of course, it’s not as if political campaigns are fountains of cold, hard, honest reality. Campaign promises are known to be overstated, empty, ethereal and, more than anything, just plain out-and-out lies. But campaign Obama has taken this to a new vague, bizarre level. And a vast proportion of the American public are swallowing the bait, hook, line and sinker!
Obama’s success also reveals a widespread ignorance of what comprises effective leadership, let alone true statesmanship. It reveals an electorate unwilling to take the time to investigate, think, analyze and judge based on reality and not on emotion. On Saturday, the National Postquoted one woman at a rally saying, “Are you kidding me? I’d walk over hot coals to vote for this man. I mean, oh, he’s just … he’s a man that can change not our country, but the world.” This is but a reflection of a shallow mind that prefers vague generalities and promises of change over real facts and that is unable, even unwilling, to think, analyze and judge based on cold, hard reality.
How many Obama supporters have thoroughly investigated their candidate’s foreign-policy objectives? How many have analyzed his team of advisors, those who could soon be guiding the United States’ relationship with the rest of the world?
An educated electorate that values reality, the proven facts of any issue, over smiling platitudes is the hallmark of a successful democracy.
In some circles, Barack Obama has been hailed as an American messiah. Some have, unbelievably, even paralleled the junior senator with Jesus Christ.
What an unbelievably inane comparison! Jesus Christ was an icon of real, tangible, proven hope in a real, tangible future of unbelievable proportions—literally out of this world. After all, He was the literal Son of Almighty God!
Jesus Christ didn’t just preach a visionary, hope-filled message to His followers; He lived it, and He backed rhetoric with substance. He performed spectacular miracles: He healed the sick, He cast out demons, He turned water into wine, He multiplied a handful of bread and fishes to feed thousands, and the list goes on. The gospel message, as taught by Christ, was practical—it took into account reality and gave people real-life solutions, promising them the chance to fulfill their incredible human potential.
Jesus Christ’s message was about government. It pointed positively toward the future, but it was based on immutable, concrete law and towering accomplishments of eternal proportions. That is how His “campaign” injected people with real hope and true vision.
In Matthew 7, Christ instructs His followers to evaluate others based on their fruits, or actions (verses 15-20). During His ministry Christ condemned the religion of the Pharisees, which was all appearance and no substance, rhetoric but no works (Matthew 12:33).
There is a lesson here for not only all Americans, but for all who would place their hope in men to deliver a just and peaceful society. There is nothing inherently wrong with rallying behind a message of hope and inspiration. But when supporting such a message demands the abdication of reason for a short-lived emotional sensation, then it’s time to start asking some hard questions.
To learn how you can avoid being duped by the pseudo-hope-filled rhetoric of political candidates, and instead find real hope and direct your support to the only true and lasting vision of an eternally inspiring future, read Mystery of the Ages.