January 22nd, 2008

Be wary of inspiration: the Age of Aquarius dawns again

Many liberals I know are enthralled with Obama.

In New Hampshire during the primary campaign, where voters get to see the candidates up close and personal, he made a very strong impression. As far as I could tell, this was based primarily on the feeling he gave his supporters: hope, trust, excitement. It was as though the optimistic part of the 60s had come back after a long absence and many dashed dreams.

A lot of people who went through the 60s keep yearning for that special feeling they’d gotten back then (when they weren’t stoned, that is, or maybe when they were stoned): a sense that wonderful things were possible and just around the corner, that all it would take was the right attitude and the casting off of the old and fusty, that charismatic leaders with inspiring words and good intentions would lead the way.

The way to where, and to what? The goals were fairly clear: liberty and justice—and equality of outcome, not just opportunity—for all. Oh, and the end of bigotry, war, and the economic exploitation by the nasty rich of the noble poor.

Not too much to ask.

Exactly how this was to be accomplished wasn’t as clear. Thinking it and saying it, and sweeping out the old (don’t trust anyone over thirty—that is, anyone with enough experience of the world to rain on this particular parade), and bringing in the new and pure of heart.

Pure of heart, yes, that was the ticket. That would be enough to reorder human nature and usher in nothing less than the dawning of the Age of Aquarius

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way, did it? And yet, to the aged ex-Sixties-hippies and their young friends (at least the latter have the excuse of not having lived through the earlier disenchantment) hope springs eternal, even if a bit diminished and tarnished.

The ability to exhume and tap into that feeling of generalized hope, long-buried relic of the 60s and perhaps its most seductive product (maybe even more so than sex, drugs, and rock and roll), is Obama’s great strength.

This fact was brought home to me when I read “The Choice” by George Packer in this week’s New Yorker, about the differences between Obama and Hillary. The word Packer uses to describe Obama’s effect on his Democrat supporters is “inspirational.” It’s a special sort of inspiration; the linkage to the 60s is clear and overt.

Greg Craig, old Clinton buddy from their Law School days during the early 70s, was head of Bill Clinton’s defense team during the impeachment fight. You might think Craig would be a Hillary supporter in the 2008 campaign. But if you thought that, you’d think wrong:

In spite of his long history with the Clintons, Craig is an adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign. “Ninety-five per cent of it is because of my enthusiasm for Obama,” he said last month, at his law office. “I really regard him as a fresh and exciting voice in American politics that has not been in my life since Robert Kennedy.” In 1968, Craig, who is sixty-two, was campaigning for Eugene McCarthy when he heard a Bobby Kennedy speech at the University of Nebraska, and became a believer on the spot. Since then, Craig has not been inspired by any American President. As for the prospect of another Clinton Presidency, he said, “I don’t discount the possibility of her being able to inspire me. But she hasn’t in the past, and Obama has.”

This is exactly the sort of comment I hear from friends. When I think about it, I realize not only how far I am now from this kind of thinking, but how far I was then, as well.

I often describe my earlier politics as having been typically liberal Democrat, although never Leftist. But I also had more than a dollop of political cynicism in my makeup. “Inspiration” is a word I would have rarely identified with in the political arena. I’d have to look either in the past for inspiration (Churchill, Lincoln) or in my childhood, the last time I really felt that sort of trust in a candidate.

In fact, I never understood the reverence and hope people invested in Bobby Kennedy, the political inspiration Craig cites. Had RFK lived I might even have voted for him, I suppose. But something in me was naturally wary of the sort of adulation that I saw others have for him—the hope that he could magically, by dint of his very personality and his rhetoric, heal the profound wounds of America at the time.

We’ll never know, because he was assassinated. Perhaps he could have been a wonderful President. But I saw nothing in his history that would indicate so except the fact that many people believed he had magic.

Maybe that would have been enough, because belief and trust can go a long way. But I tend to doubt it; Kennedy was charismatic to those predisposed to agree with him, but a polarizing and distrusted figure to those who did not.

In his New Yorker article, Packer continues with another friend from Clinton’s past:

Robert B. Reich, the Secretary of Labor in Clinton’s first term, who now teaches at Berkeley, told me that he believes political inspiration to be “the legitimizing of social movements and social change, the empowering of all sorts of people and groups to act as remarkable change agents.”

There’s that popular word again, “change” (the current use of which Gerard Vanderleun neatly skewers in this essay). Change for change’s sake is meaningless. What’s important is not the general but the specific: change what, change why—and, most tellingly, change how.

That’s a great deal more difficult to describe, and a great deal easier to criticize when the details are fleshed out. So inspirational candidates do well to keep their remarks general.

Inspiration in and of itself is not a bad thing, and the Right is not immune to wanting some and to bewailing the fact that their candidates are lacking in it. That’s probably part of what the current nostalgia for Reagan, the Great Inspirer of the Right, is all about.

But the Right tends to want more specifics as well, as the Anchoress points out, and to be miffed and unforgiving if inspiration doesn’t come with ideological purity of thought and action.

The Right is interested—very interested—in the details, and tends to require them before it will allow itself to be inspired. This can lead the Right to embrace candidates with the correct conservative doctrine who have no chance of winning—which proves that being on the Right is no guarantee of a pragmatic attitude towards politics.

Thomas Sowell has written a piece on the subject of inspiration, entitled “Dangerous Demagoguery: beware candidates who inspire but don’t inform.” He calls for specifics to ground rhetoric:

Uniting people behind the thoughtless mantra of “change” means asking for a blank check in exchange for rhetoric. That deal has been made many times in many places — and millions of people have lived to regret it.

It is not too much to ask politicians to talk specifics, instead of trying to sweep us along, turning off our minds and turning on our emotions, with soaring rhetoric.

Optimists might even hope for some logical consistency and hard facts.

Barack Obama says that he wants to “heal America and repair the world.” One wonders what he will do for an encore and whether he will rest on the seventh day.

“Heal America and repair the world.” I hadn’t heard those exact words before, but they perfectly illustrate my point. I tried in vain to find a link to Obama’s speech so I didn’t run the risk of misquoting him or quoting him out of context. The best I could do was this, in which an online community commenter writes that in Obama’s NH speeches he said:

…this is a defining moment for this generation. New Hampshire, if you will stand with me in four days, I promise you that not only will we win the New Hampshire primary, not only will we win South Carolina, not only Nevada, Florida and the democratic primary, not only will we win the general election and the presidency, but united with you, we will unleash the spirit and the strength to finally HEAL AMERICA AND REPAIR THE WORLD.”

And they say neocons are naively optimistic about what America can do!

Politicians always engage in hyperbole, so I don’t want to be too hard on Obama for his. But this is an especially over-arching sort of goal, almost religious in nature (as Sowell rightly points out), and therefore wariness is especially indicated.

Obama seems to be telling “this generation” (the one that missed out on all that 60s good stuff) that they will have their Age of Aquarius too, at last:

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revalation
And the mind’s true liberation.
Aquarius!
Aquarius!

54 Responses to “Be wary of inspiration: the Age of Aquarius dawns again”

  1. Trimegistus Says:

    The fervor with which liberals project their own desires onto Obama scares me. They want a savior, and they want revenge on their enemies, real and imagined. I worry that he may be the Man On Horseback that the latent fascism of the Left has been waiting for.

  2. anono Says:

    In that case, they’d better start arming themselves.

  3. anono Says:

    Lest they find that they have gone to a gunfight with a handful of hope.

  4. anono Says:

    Cue the Loving Spoonful:

    you ever have to make up your mind
    Pick up on one and leave the other behind
    It’s not often easy and not often kind
    Did you ever have to make up your mind

    Did you ever have to finally decide
    Say yes to one and let the other one ride
    There’s so many changes and tears you must hide
    Did you ever have to finally decide

  5. Attn GOP: Meet the Woodshed | The Anchoress Says:

    [...] writes about the dangerous attraction to “inspiration” and links to some good [...]

  6. stumbley Says:

    Neo, all you have to do is visualize world peace, and Tibet will be free!

    Imagine.

    It’s all fluff and emotion on the left. Fluff and emotion covering Darth Vader’s helmet.

  7. nyomythus Says:

    Ugh, Obama, I hope that rattle snake Hillary manages to put that blank slate, Jr. Senator, “let’s invade Pakistan” child back in his place — give him 10, 20 years to actually accomplish something of a political nature, mature a bit as a leader, then run for President, ugh, sounds unfair and ugly but the man’s inexperience and slogan-mongering and platitudes just leave me high (or low) and dry.

  8. Thomas Says:

    “”HEAL AMERICA AND REPAIR THE WORLD.””

    “And they say neocons are naively optimistic about what America can do! ”

    Actually, I figured that was code for getting rid of neocons and Bush. Gotta remember your dem base speak. :)

    Anyway, that touches on the dark side of all this inspiration (re: utopian yearning) dreck… when things don’t work (as they won’t, this is planet earth and we are human beings… things will never be perfect), you need people (and/or outside forces) to blame. It’s those conservatives I tell ya… evil republicans…

  9. Obama as secular messiah…. at Amused Cynic Says:

    [...] Neo-neon goes a step further, examining “inspirational” effect Obama is having on the very well-educated public figures who gush thusly (she quotes from George Packer’s New Yorker piece: In spite of his long history with the Clintons, [Greg] Craig is an adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign. “Ninety-five per cent of it is because of my enthusiasm for Obama,” he said last month, at his law office. “I really regard him as a fresh and exciting voice in American politics that has not been in my life since Robert Kennedy.” In 1968, Craig, who is sixty-two, was campaigning for Eugene McCarthy when he heard a Bobby Kennedy speech at the University of Nebraska, and became a believer on the spot. Since then, Craig has not been inspired by any American President. As for the prospect of another Clinton Presidency, he said, “I don’t discount the possibility of her being able to inspire me. But she hasn’t in the past, and Obama has.” [...]

  10. Bugs Says:

    I seem to remember Velma – sorry, Hillary – touching on the whole anointed generation theme in her college graduation speech. I was hoping that Barack, as a candidate seemingly too young to be infected with 68-ism, might offer something different. The “Heal America and repair the world” jive has almost put an end to that dream.

    “Repair the world?” That’s the liberal mindset in a nutshell. All we have to do is pull together and we CAN force the world to behave itself in accordance with our preferences. We can FEEL paradise just around the corner. So close we can smell it. All it will take is a little push and we’re there…

    I’m sure a lot of Bolsheviks felt the same way in 1917.

  11. njcommuter Says:

    (don’t trust anyone over thirty—that is, anyone with enough experience of the world to rain on this particular parade)

    It has long struck me that when you first heard that “don’t trust” motto, the people over thirty were just old enough to remember World War II, with its dangers, uncertainties, and sacrifices.

    Wars in which you nearly lose everything do tend to make you appreciate what you have. Is it Neo who quoted someone to the effect that Progressives know that things should be better, but Conservatives know that they could also be much, much worse?

  12. Salah Says:

    excellent column by Eugene Robinson

    Obama’s candidacy not only threatens to obliterate the dream of a Clinton Restoration. It also fundamentally calls into question Bill Clinton’s legacy by making it seem . . . not really such a big deal.

    ….

    Bill Clinton’s brilliance was in the way he surveyed the post-Reagan landscape and figured out how to redefine and reposition the Democratic Party so that it became viable again. All the Democratic candidates who are running this year, including Obama, owe him their gratitude.

    But Obama has set his sights higher, and implicit in his campaign is a promise, or a threat, to eclipse Clinton’s accomplishments. Obama doesn’t just want to piece together a 50-plus-1 coalition; he wants to forge a new post-partisan consensus that includes “Obama Republicans” — the equivalent of the Gipper’s “Reagan Democrats.” You can call that overly ambitious or even naive, but you can’t call it timid. Or deferential.

    There’s a battle to be fought against an upstart challenger who has the audacity to suggest that maybe the Clinton presidency, successful as it was in many ways, didn’t change the world — and that he, given the office, could do better. Some things, I guess, just can’t be allowed. Bill Clinton obviously has decided that history can wait.

  13. Vince P Says:

    Dennis Prager had a good article about this “unity” nonsense that Obama spouts:

    Sen. Obama’s Calls for Unity Are Not What They Seem

    Also in the American Thinker is a good article about the political godfather of both Obama and Hillary:

    Obama, Hillary and Alinsky’s Tactics

    These folks are dangerous.

    And in the times we live in, are woefully obsolete in their thinking.

  14. expat Says:

    California Dreamin is somewhat understandable in the young. In those of a certain age it is pathetic, like they haved lived a whole life without experiencing being alive. Maybe it has something to do with the bubbles so many have inhabited.

  15. harry9000 Says:

    I dont know why we’re even analyzing motivation here. We already know what it is. How are liberals going to change the world? One bumper-sticker at a time. Liberals want to feel good. They want to be numb. They want to “tune in, turn on and drop out”. Interjecting reality in that world makes you a fascist in their eyes. Why dont you just be cool and mellow out?

    How else do you explain the numerous conspiracy theories? Event A happens, temporarily punching a hole in their model for how they view the world, and they’re unable to come to grips with what they see. It must be another trick by “the Man”. As we’ve seen so often, no amount of evidence will sway them.

    So, what does Obama have to provide in the way of substance? Nada. Not a damned thing. And if you dont get socialized health care or peace on earth you can stand behind school children in a press conference and blame “the Man”. for it. Its a beautiful racket.

  16. strcpy Says:

    “But this is an especially over-arching sort of goal, almost religious in nature (as Sowell rightly points out), and therefore wariness is especially indicated.”

    This is also something not to be underestimated – for many liberals (and especially for leftists) politics *is* a religion.

    I can’t say I particularly fear Hillary becoming president – I generally think she will be a “strong Bill Clinton”. That is she will also mostly blow the way the wind pushes her except in a few cases. She wants the power and those people generally are not going to do anything to ruin it.

    Obama, however, is a Believer. His election will be seen as a Mandate From the People and go from there (no matter the margin too). If he gets the nomination and looses I rather suspect that it will be the equivalent of killing a Messiah (even though, of course, no one is going to kill him). I’m not sure how a defeat in the primaries will work out either – they are already starting the “Voter Fraud” thing.

    If the Republican candidate has any sense at all Obama will get stomped because of this also. That feel good inspiration stuff only works on other believers and when it comes down to what he is actually looking at doing then I think he looses the vast majority of moderates. But then Republicans aren’t known for having sense either so I can very well see them just ignoring that and letting him tell his “vision”.

  17. Matthew M Says:

    Obama says nothing very well. If elected, his superficiality would likely disable him from putting over much of a collectivist agenda. I think that makes him less dangerous than either Hillary or McCain, who both have a statist “solution” for every issue. If there is a revival of 90s gridlock (obstinate elephants checking the worst policies of a braying ass and vice versa), then in a sense Obama would be Bill’s spiritual successor.

    On the Republican side (McCain doesn’t qualify)… Romney’s glibness and executive experience are political assets, but his pragmatism is not encouraging. Unlike Bush Sr, he wouldn’t have a problem communicating “the vision thing,” but like Bush Sr, he wouldn’t know an uncompromisable principle if he sat on it.

    Giuliani, however, seems worth getting excited about. He seems to analyze issues before addressing them, and then evaluate results rather than intentions. He’s the best against Islamofascism; he successfully dealt with recalcitrant bureaucracies in New York; and he has traded the demagogic populism of his DA days for free market-oriented policies regarding the economy, health care and entitlements. He is appealing for his domestic and foreign policies. With luck, he stands a chance of disjoining the Republican party and the religious right by appealing to hawks and capitalists but not “values voters.”

  18. Occam's Beard Says:

    I think that in referring to “change” the Democrats are referring to what we’ll get back when send a dollar to Washington.

    For me the frightening thing is the impression that some are looking for meaning in their own lives in the choice of a President, apparently not grasping that we’re choosing a chief administrator, not a Messiah.

  19. Mitsu Says:

    This is the new meme: Obama is all flash and no substance. But Obama, while young, is thoughful and does have substantive policy positions in a number of areas. Belgravia Dispatch, once an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War and someone who voted for George Bush twice, is now an Obama supporter. He is a foreign policy wonk and has this to say about Obama’s foreign policy:

    http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/2007/11/post_112.html

    He quotes with some favor some of Obama’s statements about Iraq:

    [quote]

    …what I don’t want to do is to make our withdrawal contingent on the Iraqi government doing the right thing because that empowers them to make strategic decisions that should be made by the president of the United States.

    [end quote]

    Obama is more than style, and he is offering ideas which differ from both the standard Democratic line and the current Republican one. I personally find his views well-thought-out, he is the candidate who in my view has the closest foreign policy to my own views — so I am supporting him not just because he’s inspiring but because I think he is sensible.

  20. Synova Says:

    Uh… that video was making fun of it, right?

    Right?

  21. Gray Says:

    I personally find his views well-thought-out, he is the candidate who in my view has the closest foreign policy to my own views

    Betray our friends, reward our enemies, and kiss the ass of any Big Poobah strongman he can find.

    His idea of diplomacy is to bend America over every tyrant’s desk and ask them not to be to hard on us….

    It’s Carter all over again.

  22. Martin Says:

    I really hope that Hillary wins the Democratic nomination. (This is hard to say since I really don’t want her to be President.)
    For one thing, between her and Obama, she is preferable. For another she can be beaten in the general election.
    If she becomes President she will almost certainly do so after a closely divided
    election and will need to consolidate power by moving to the middle not to the left.
    She will almost certainly not have large coattails.
    She will be willing to negotiate and will have to. She will respond to attacks on the country
    , perhaps overpoweringly, because she will not want to appear weak.

    Alternatively, he is scary. If he wins the nomination I don’t believe the election will be in question. He will have arrived at the nomination carried by a flood of true believers. With the MSM running cover for him he will never have to answer the question, “What kind of change?” He if he has coattails, and I would expect him to. He will immediately move forward with the mandated “Change”. There would be little stopping him, and almost no looking at the outcomes only the desired change.

    Martin

  23. Gray Says:

    A lot of people who went through the 60s keep yearning for that special feeling they’s gotten back then

    AAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!

    Please, God, make it stop! I was born in 1968. This 60s nostalgia means nothing to me. I wasn’t there and I don’t care!

    Here’s your protest chant: “I wasn’t there and I don’t care!”

    Please make it stop. I ask this in the name of the Savior, Obama al Hussein (PBUH). B’ismillah!

  24. Gray Says:

    And those purple, purple Obama lips…. I can’t take it.

    At least he smokes, maybe some of the smoke nazism will go away and I can enjoy a cigar at the pub again….

    So much has been taken away from me by the 60′s generation.

    We are in some kind of weird baroque period in our history.

  25. Jimmy J. Says:

    Obama has, in my opinion, a fanatastic voice and is an excellent, even inspirational, speaker. As an African-American he is also the underdog. Those two attributes seem to make him a viable candidate in spite of the paucity of experience and accomplishment. He seemed able to give as good as he got in his latest debate with Hillary. So, he is combative and not afraid of being seen as too masculine.

    His book, “THE AUDACITY OF HOPE” seems to say, “Look, if a young African-American like me can dream big dreams and get this far, think what a nation of big dreamers can do.” Powerful imagery, no? A bit like Bill Clinton’s line as the man from Hope. Small town boy can dream of being President. I also remember Clinton’s theme song, “Don’t Stop…..Thinkin’ About Tomorrow.” Oh, what they promised!. Promised, yes, but with scant in the way of accomplishments.

    Bill Clinton’s latest book, “GIVING, How Each of Us Can Change the World,” is more of the same kind of feel good stuff. Charity is good, but there has to be production before there can be any giving. I’ve been thinking about writing a rebuttal entitled, “PRODUCING, How you can change the world by getting a job and making a good life for yourself and those around you.” But that wouldn’t sell because it would ask people to take responsibility for their lives. The dem plan is to feel good about taking money from the rich and redistributing it.

    I have no idea how this campaign is going to shake out, but I Obama looks very viable and, if elected, could be as bad for us as Jimmy Carter.

  26. goesh Says:

    I’m reminded of Janis Joplin and Cheap Thrills…. that ought to date it well enough

  27. Gringo Says:

    Obama reminds me of another era. In the Gershwin brother’s musical Of Thee I Sing, John P. Wintergreen gets elected on a platform of LOVE.

    Carroll O’Connor, better known as Archie Bunker, played Wintergreen in a 1972 TV special.

  28. goesh Says:

    “not afraid of being seen as too masculine” – what an absurd, sad and pathetic comment

  29. Sergey Says:

    Playing Messiah is a stunt of a very bad taste, but sometimes it works – in a society demoralized and desperate enough (like the last days of Roman Empire). I can not judge whether American public already reached this degree of moral and intellectual degradation, but some symptoms are worrisome. First, most of it never had good quality technical, mathematical or scientific education and so have problems with elementary logic and rational thinking. Modern technology and science are out of reach for most laymen, they’ll never understand how it works, so magical thinking prevails. Charlatans of every stripe enjoy popularity and huge commercial success: books exploiting conspiracy theories, like DaVinchy Code, are printed by multimillion editions.

  30. Tim P Says:

    In 1968, Craig, who is sixty-two, was campaigning for Eugene McCarthy when he heard a Bobby Kennedy speech at the University of Nebraska, and became a believer on the spot.

    There seems (to me anyway) to be a very close similarity in behavior between these types of 60′s liberals and fundamentalist evangelical Christians (or any other religion for that matter). The sudden ‘road to Damascus’ conversion and the blind faith. Proof yet again that those who believe in nothing will believe anything.

  31. Rich Says:

    People who remember “the Age of Aquarius” fondly tend to forget this one:

    “There’s nothing in the street
    Looks any different to me
    And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
    And the parting on the left
    Is now the parting on the right
    And the beards have all grown longer overnight

    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around me
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again
    Don’t get fooled again
    No, no!

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

    Meet the new boss
    Same as the old boss”

  32. harry9000 Says:

    Gray, when we baby-boomers leave the earth we’re going to take everything not nailed down. Do you hear me? We’re taking it all with us. We will leave you NOTHING! NOTHING!!! Do you hear me? NOTHING!!

    mmmwuUHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

  33. Talkinkamel Says:

    Another excellent post, Neo.

    Matthew M., yes, Giuliani is the only candidate, elephant or donkey, I can get behind. I hope he manages to stay in the race. If he doesn’t. . . I don’t know who I’m gonna vote for. Certainly not Obama, who has a number of things wrong with him. (For one thing—what is this weird fixation he has with declaring war on Pakistan? Why is he so determined to pick a fight with it?)

  34. harry9000 Says:

    “Giuliani is the only candidate, elephant or donkey, I can get behind.”

    The kamels arent running a canidate this cycle?

  35. Talkinkamel Says:

    Alas, no camels are running this election! (I think Rudy might be a camel at heart, though!)

  36. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    Fred dropped out of the Reps, he was my #2 choice…
    AFTER Huckabee.

    The Rep Christian –
    loud (?) Christian,
    proud Christian.
    (Similar to woman-Clinton, black-Obama as an identity, but one like American that everybody in the world could choose, if they wanted to.)

    Pro-life Christian.

    There will NOT be unity in America until the pro-abortion people give up their desire/ need to execute unwanted human fetuses, and accept some protection of every innocent human life from conception.

    Virtually none of the pro-unity Obama supporters will be “changing” to be pro-life, so unity ain’t gonna happen.

    Rudy — 3 wives, pro-choice, great against terror; maybe the next to drop out? The “big-gov’t pro-life” Christians who have been exorcised by the Dem Party elites are the Rep voters who make Reps win.
    The values voters: Faith. Family. Freedom — values that made America great. And strong. And rich.

    I’m reading reviews of Liberal Fascism, and Obama may be the Fuhrer that the PC thought-nazis are looking for.

    But I don’t really fear any of the top candidates getting elected, neither the Dems (whose policies I oppose), nor any of the Reps (whose policies I support). Thanks to the great US checks and balances, whoever is elected will be “better”, in policy terms, to the other party. Because whoever is elected will want to “get things done”, and the easiest way is to do what the others want.

    The exception is SC justice nominations, and that’s why the pro-life anti-Roe folk will vote Rep, and keep voting Rep, until Roe is overturned and returned to the states (where it belongs).

    My Jan guess: McCain – Huckabee in Nov 2008.

  37. Thomas Says:

    Sergey Says:

    January 23rd, 2008 at 8:32 am

    “First, most of it never had good quality technical, mathematical or scientific education and so have problems with elementary logic and rational thinking. Modern technology and science are out of reach for most laymen, they’ll never understand how it works, so magical thinking prevails.”

    The people who fall for that stuff tend to be very intelligent, educated, and from the middle class. It’s more of a political disease for the higher IQ introverted schizoids (who want to play out their personality issues, re: alienation, via politics) than the average Joe six packs (who are well adjusted enough to ‘just be’ and content / comfortable with themselves)…

  38. Occam's Beard Says:

    The people who fall for that stuff tend to be very intelligent, educated, and from the middle class.

    You’re both right. I think Sergey’s point was not the extent of their education, but rather the subject matter. Garden variety physicists and liberal arts graduates are both educated, but (to Sergey’s point) often differ wildly in their ability to reason and resist magical thinking.

    Put another way, a liberal arts graduate is a layman with respect to science and technology. I don’t believe Sergey meant “layman” implied uneducated generally, but rather uneducated with respect to technical matters.

  39. Jimmy J. Says:

    Goesh said,
    “not afraid of being seen as too masculine” – what an absurd, sad and pathetic comment.”

    When Hillary ran for the Senate in New York, her opponent was criticised for being “too masculine” and threatening. That criticism seemed to lay down a rule set that one could not appear too masculine when running against Hillary. The NOW ladies and their supporters just would not approve of such overbearing tactics against one of their own. That is the context of that comment, not as any comment on Obama’s masculinity or lack therof. Sorry if it offended you.

  40. Thomas Says:

    Occam’s Beard Says:

    Got it. :)

  41. nyomythus Says:

    I think Sergey’s point was not the extent of their education, but rather the subject matter.

    I’ve seen people in their mid-ages who act like masters of the universe, just because they only took 12 years to complete a associates degree in art.

    It’s crazy.

  42. Ymarsakar Says:

    “not afraid of being seen as too masculine” – what an absurd, sad and pathetic comment

    Run out of frags on Jimmy J?

  43. Occam's Beard Says:

    I suspect part of the problem with the liberal arts is that it prizes fanciful thinking.

    Simple, logical, linear reasoning from premises to conclusions probably strikes them as boring, because everyone using the same logical processes and the same premises will draw the same conclusions. Starting from reality and flying off in a fanciful fashion probably strikes them as creative, and therefore desirable.

    Just a guess on my part.

  44. Sergey Says:

    Occam, you are completely right. I know a dozen professors of philology who could not solve a simplest logical puzzle. But to pass exam in calculus you need know the difference between a neccessary and a sufficient condition, which is an arcane mystery to most bachelors of art in humanitarian “sciencies”.

  45. Occam's Beard Says:

    Thanks, Sergey.

    When I was single, I dated (once) a liberal arts graduate (from a distinguished university) who confessed she had no idea how a light bulb or an air conditioner worked.

    I nodded gravely, and didn’t let on, but I was shocked. Maybe she just said that for effect (playing up to male vanity, and/or trying to appear she had an inquiring mind), but I didn’t want kids that lame, and fervently hoped she didn’t vote.

  46. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sorry, an afterthought. Another reason fanciful thinking pervades the humanities may be because there’s no recourse to experimental reality. One can hold the silliest views, and never be slapped in the face by reality.

    Troubleshoot an electronic circuit, or a chemical reaction, or a computer program, and one quickly realizes that a quixotic, artistic approach doesn’t make it – only a logical systematic approach will work every time.

  47. Sergey Says:

    Once I was charged with an unusual task: edit a school textbook of Russian language for forth-graders. It was written by tenured philology professors, methodologists, supervising the Russian language education in the whole of Soviet Union. There were dozens of definitions and rules of grammatics, but none of them were correct. Some were outright false, others ambiguous and can be understood both rightly and wrongly, or lacking some additional condition to be correct. When I discussed them with the authors, I understand that they do mean right things, but could not express their understanding properly. If you already knew what these formulations meant, you could be able understand them properly, but little children for whom the book was intended would be completely embarrased by literary meaning of these formulations. Some wise editor proposed to make a mathematician to edit the manuscript – what I did. And they were ostensibly the most grammatical specialists in the field!

  48. Erik Says:

    So often these “inspirational” types effect the votes of the ill-informed. Meaning no disrespect to my mother-in-law, I can draw up an example:

    One day she spoke of how much she like Huckabee, but knew nothing (nothing!) of his evangelical beliefs. She was simply “inspired” in a sense by his rhetoric and personality. The next day she said the one candidate that seemed to have all the necessary presidential qualities was Obama. She had no clue what his policies might be, only that she got a really “good feeling” about him.

    She’s a really sweet lady, but just not up to speed. I’m afraid it may be the rule rather than the exception among so many voters…

  49. harry9000 Says:

    Tom Grey:
    “My Jan guess: McCain – Huckabee in Nov 2008.”

    Oh, heaven forbid! I’m not going to elect amnesty granting, AGW buying into, not-quite willing to do what it takes vis-a-vis terrorism acting, Bush-bashing RHINO’s on a single issue, especially not somebody else’s religious issue. Especially as it concerns limiting the rights of the citizens of this country. How selfish you sound.

    Constitution first. Thats what its there for.

  50. Vince P Says:

    I’m a Christian and I’l state flat-out. I do not want a self-professed born again Christian as President.

    We need a ruthless kick-thier-ass-till-your-foot-is-out-of-their-mouth President.

    “Their” being anyone who stands in the way of protecting the country

    This is not a time for compassion.. this is not a time for being a humble servant of God.

    So no way to Huckabee.. Romney or Guillinii is good enough for me.

  51. Kelly Says:

    Erik,
    Your mother-in-law is not alone, and hasn’t been for a very long time. Way back in 1980, when dissatisfaction with all available candidates had John Anderson making noises about a non-partisan independent campaign (sound familiar?), my surrogate grandmother landlady confessed she couldn’t decide whether to support Teddy Kennedy or Ronald Reagan. Took me a while to pick up my jaw.
    The more things change ….

  52. amr Says:

    Americans love the invigorating persona of the JFKs, RFKs and Mr. Obama over the Nixons, LBJs or Bushs of our country. I can understand that, but we live in a real world and the powers to be, outside of our borders, aren’t impressed by the magic of a Mr. Obama. I like him and could sit down and discuss all matter of subjects in a very civil manner, although I am a traditionalist/conservative. I just wouldn’t want to place the security, both economy and physical, of my family, friends and nation in his inexperienced hands.

  53. In search of the Conservative Unicorn. « Constitution Club Says:

    [...] essay but then one should go to her site to get the full text as it is very much worth it. She links to a fantastic article (as nearly all hers are) by neoneocon… Inspiration in and of itself is not a bad thing, and [...]

  54. Solarabsolution Says:

    I just don’t understand why “the world” in all of its news organizations are promoting obama as the savior of the world. HE IS JUST A POLITICIAN. no one finds this spooky? he’s touted as “the light bringer” “the messiah” “the holy one” “the chosen one”. Raising a politician up on that platform is nothing but trouble. How many honest and trustworthy politicians have you been witness to in your whole life? a handful perhaps not even?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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