This article summarizes my feelings rather well. I have referenced Tony in a previous post and if you haven’t checked out his blog, please do. I highly recommend reading what he has to say. Whether or not you agree with him, he is quite intelligent and well written. ~Caron
Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama. So many had barely dared to believe this would come to pass. But it has and the winner of the election is not just the man who will occupy the White House from mid January. No, for the real winner is the politics of virtue over the politics of substance, because many of the people who voted for Barack Obama did so not because of policy or ideology but because of symbolism. Oprah Winfrey was quite candid about this when she said after the result was announced that:
“For every time that Barack has spoken about Red states and Blue states we have all understood that he meant black people and white people and red people and yellow people and the United States of America. I think for the first time we are going to experience that in a way that we could only have hoped for.”
It underlined that race was the central theme of this election. Yes, this was the choice of the American people and it was their sole right to make that choice, but that does not make the rationale for that choice satisfactory. But before I explain my concerns I want to note that whether or not the reasons for Obama’s success are satisfactory, his victory is historic, is understandable and it changes the status quo in American society.
Such is the terrible history of racial discrimination and segregation the United States, people felt the need to make a statement, to do something symbolic to demonstrate beyond doubt that a black person is an equal member of society and can rise without barrier to the top job in the nation. Because of this Obama’s election was an end in itself with race as a major determining factor.
For many white people Obama’s success allows them purge the collective guilt that has been heaped upon them for decades, for the racially driven crimes of the past. For many black people the victory is akin to compensation for the awful suffering of years gone by and something many believe validates them as equals, boosting their self respect and self confidence.
These should have been just happy by-products of an Obama victory, but sadly too many people have made these the primary drivers of the victory. Because of this there has been a disturbing lack of scrutiny of the Democrat agenda. It seems that only when the euphoria of this election night has subsided will people start to critically examine what Obama stands for and what he wants to do. Everyone is familiar with Obama’s promise of ‘change’ but no one can be sure what that will look like or what effects this ‘change’ will have on people’s lives, prosperity and prospects.
It is the latest shining example of the politics of virtue replacing the politics of substance. It confirms that the democratic world has moved into an Age of Virtue. While virtue is not a bad quality to possess, it should never be a substitute or replacement for substance and evidence based decision making and leadership. Too many politicians now clamour to be seen as more virtuous than their opponents.
The most clear and disturbing example of this is the man made global warming frenzy and the war on carbon dioxide. Despite there being only hypotheses and models and projections – all of which have completely failed to accurately predict the current absence of global warming and the attendant drop in global mean temperatures – it is seen as the virtuous thing to do mandate changes that will dramatically reduce the energy that can be generated at a massive economic cost which is being passed on to people who can least afford to pay the price. Obama embodies this orthodoxy and buys into it despite there being no scientific proof that what we are experiencing is anything other than a natural variation. The consensus against the orthodoxy is growing, but it is not considered virtuous to arrest the runaway hype and make decisions based on hard evidence.
Another example of virtue trumping sound decision making is in the field of international relations. There remains a body of people who still believe in trying to negotiate a settlement with those whose stated aim is the destruction of democracy, through violence if necessary and its replacement with a theocratic form of governance. The demands to withdraw western troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, thus making it possible for Islamists to flourish and supplant the weak governments that exist, will not be their final demands. Further demands will follow. Pressure will be maintained over the course of decades as each negotiation ends and new demands are made.
Talk can only achieve so much. It is not true that every difference can be resolved through negotiation. The worst thing that could happen is that the west – taking its lead from an Obama-led America – blinks and demonstrates weakness in the face of pressure. Obama has set an expectation of a weaker approach by America where appeasement is more rather than less likely. Where strength is resented yet respected by our enemies, weakness borne of a desire to be virtuous will be welcomed and accompanied by contempt. All that realists can hope for is that Obama comes to understand the dangers that will be associated with his ‘lets all be friends’ position and performs one of his regular U-turns. For the sake of America and the west I hope the U-turns come thick and fast as this inexperienced man is counselled that his current path is the route to failure.
Posted by Tony Sharp