Entry from October 20, 2008

Colin Powell was not the only person from the supposedly “conservative,” right-of-center side of the political spectrum who came out for Barack Obama yesterday. In the Sunday Telegraph of London, the writer and Conservative member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan did the same. Here is part of his reasoning:

The election of a mixed-race president who opposed Iraq from the beginning would substantially restore America”s reputation in the world. That this should be so is, of course, monstrously unfair. America is not guilty of the crimes with which its detractors charge it. And it’s only reasonable to point out that no election result could win over jihadis, South American anti-yanquis or Left Bank intellectuals, for theirs is the rage of Caliban. Then again, no one said politics was fair. An Obama presidency would cause at least some anti-Americans to reconsider their prejudices; and that must be good news for those who wish America well.

He also thinks that Senator Obama’s election “would falsify the Farrakhan-Sharpton-Jackson narrative of race relations in America.” As a result, “a generation of black children would grow up with a different sense of what was achievable,” and the country as a whole “would wrap itself in a warm duvet of national togetherness.”

Togetherness is the essence of Obama’s appeal. Recent presidential elections have been a Kulturkampf, in which two tribes attacked, not only each other’s policies, but also each other’s values and motives. Obama’s shtick, right from the start, has been that he can bring the two tribes together.

Mr Hannan makes some other mistakes, too, including the claim that John McCain’s hero, Teddy Roosevelt, wasn’t a true conservative because “in the name of wartime contingency, [he] seized powers that were never returned.” (He must have been thinking of cousin Franklin.) But of course the more interesting claim is this dewy-eyed expectation that Senator Obama’s election will usher in the millennium when swords will be beaten into plowshares and the lion will lie down with the lamb and all the rest of it. Just think, an end to the Kulturkampf! Who doesn’t find that prospect enticing? It may also have been what Secretary Powell was thinking of when he said, in endorsing his opponent, that Senator McCain’s campaign had been “too polarizing.”

In me, the prospect of an Obama presidency inspires exactly the opposite expectation: so far from peace and reconciliation, I see this as a further ratcheting up of the culture war. You can see this already in Mr Obama’s urging his followers to “get in the faces” of his opponents. Of course, they don’t need to do quite so much of that when the media are getting in their faces for them. Generally, the media are working hard to convey the impression that no decent person could vote for Senator McCain, and their frequent allegations of his “lies,” “nastiness,” “dishonor”, “smears” and all the rest of it ought to give us some idea of just how much togetherness we can expect from President Obama and his acolytes. Hints of legal action against McCain supporters from “Obama Truth Squads” and their apologists in the media are likewise straws in the wind. Richard Kim in The Nation cites as an example of “conservative hate speech” the undoubtedly true remark of Jeffrey Frederick, a Virginia Republican Party official, that Obama and Osama have more in common than just four out of five letters of their name, since “both have friends that bombed the Pentagon.”

I take it as axiomatic that whenever the charge of “hate” is raised in a political context, nine times out of ten, the person who raises it is the one doing the hating. Anyone who hasn’t noticed the truly toxic levels of hatred towards the Bush administration among many of the same people who are now accusing the McCain campaign — so delicate about giving offense that it has apologized for Mr Frederick’s remark — of hatred just hasn’t been paying attention for the last eight years. I don’t see that hatred going away just because President Bush won’t be around after next January. Nor do I think it will be forgotten even if the Democrats control both White House and Congress. It may get worse, once the means of suppressing ideas they don’t like are in the hands of our ever-more illiberal “liberals.”


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