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Obama’s Speech: Inspiring Indignation

I’ve been saying for a long time that one of the problems with the Left/Democrats in the US is that they have been attacking Republican/Bush policies for the past 8 years on the wrong front, questioning the morality of what the US is doing. The problem with that tack is that morality is abstract, and there are a good number of people who just don’t agree with the Dems positions on what’s moral and what’s not. And moral issues aren’t the sort of things voters change their mind on. Either you think torture is immoral, or you think it can be justified, but telling the guy who thinks it can be justified that he’s immporal isn’t going to win his vote.

The more convincing argument from my point of view is not that the Republicans are immoral, but that they are coming dangerously close to wrecking the country. They are foolish and irresponsible and careless, and possibly immoral. But the nice thing about 1, 2, and 3 is that you can point to example after example and say, you see: Foolish. Irresponsible. Careless.

Without making the appeal to morality, you can make the case, based on any in a great number of examples (Katrina, subprimes, Iraq/Afghanistan, gitmo, Gonzales and the “Justice” Department, tax cuts, climate change, Iran, Georgia, the list goes on and on), that the real problem with the Republicans is not that they are “immoral,” but they are just plain dangerous. That if you reelect them, we all might just see the USA driven over a cliff.

This is a substantial debate, and there’s a pretty good body of evidence that really the last 8 years have been pretty catastrophic for America, and another 8 years could well finish things off.

That’s a *real* debate, and one worth having. Some Republicans will disagree, but I’ve said here numerous times that the people I think who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the past 8 years are not the Democrats (they’ve been useless), but those on the Right who have watched this band of fools run roughshod over a couple of hundred years of experience running a law-based constitutional democracy, and perhaps the past 2,000 years of military and foreign affairs wisdom.

The Bush Republicans have been brilliant politicians, but they’ve been dismal at governing.

I still don’t quite know what to think of Obama, but he sure is one hell of a breath of fresh air. Instead of the same old pap and mush that you hear from the usually-spineless Democrats, here’s a guy who stands up and calls a spade a spade. He scoffed (as he should have) at Hillary’s stupid attacks on him. And he’s made McCain look like a fool. The guy knows his stuff, and he has an amazingly rare gift of not mincing his words. So it was refreshing to hear the tone of his speech, which I’d call inspiring indignation.

He conveys the sense that I’ve felt over the past 8 years, which is: “You’ve got to be joking. Come on, we’re better than this. This just isn’t good enough.”

Instead of whining, as most Democrats seem expert in, he does this funny thing of demanding more. Of his opponents. Of the country. Of all of us. From his excellent speech (text, video), this was my favourite line, and why I like Obama:

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

It’s powerful because even if you are a Republican, other than the most rabid, I think most people agree that whatever happened in the last 8 years, it just was not great. Just not good enough.

When was the last time you remember thinking a politician was demanding more out of us all? Not just saying the words, but actually having the moral force behind the words.

I don’t remember that ever, and that I think that’s the power that Obama has.

Whether he’d be a good president or not, I just don’t know, but I like the idea of having politicians who demand that we all, all of us, pull up our socks and start acting like adults.


  1. awesome post Hugh.

    All I have to add is this: can you Blog like this way more often?

    thank you!

  2. Maya Maya 2008-08-29

    Hugh, please do something about the clique-y-ness at ALCC. Volunteers by enlarge aren’t treated properly and since you can’t do without them you really must practically WORSHIP them. I suggest you invite any and all volunteers to attend board meetings and be open to their suggestions therein. Be the man to do the deed! Maya

  3. mir mir 2008-08-30

    Hiya Hugh,

    Unfortunately, even if your pragmatic suggestion is bang on the money, Americans by and large have been hoodwinked into thinking that morals should be at the root of their governance choices

    So I think the real risk of this election is that Republicans will continue to vote for the GOP despite it’s pathetic recent record because it will be impossible for voters to go over to the “other side”. There is just too much of a moral and ideological identification at stake regardless how misplaced that is.

    I think in Canada we are lucky in that our political fervor (sucha s it is) is much more measured and a lot of the time based on outcomes not deeply held beliefs. At bad times we get frothy about geography and nationalisms, not religious beliefs – thank God.

    Only now with Harper and his stooges apparently trying to model our system on the one to the south are we having to deal with ideologically manipulative policy decisions designed to split the country along moral lines.

    That’s right Harper keep this up and in 8 years we’ll look like the states. How embarrassing.

  4. Hugh Hugh 2008-08-31

    @maya: thanks for the note … i pinged you on facebook.

    @mir: i think part of the problem is that the dems have allowed that to happen. obama seems better than anyone i’ve seen in US politics at staring down stupid and irrelevant debate issues/media coverage. while kerry, gore, hillary etc always seemed to squirm and and look bad under the glaring lights of attack, obama seems (to me) to come out of each encounter looking stronger. he looks like he takes it on the chin, acknowledges the attack, answers it if it needs answering, but always finishes off by giving the impression that the attacker has wasted everyone’s time with silliness. i’m biased to the dems of course, but i never got that impression from any other democrat.

    we’ll see if he can keep it up, and how the american population will react.

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