So, this weekend I have been reading up on Senator Obama’s recent remarks in San Francisco. (As I mentioned yesterday, I didn’t really follow the story when the news first hit.)
Just so you can have the words in front of you, here is what he said at a fundraiser there in response to a question about lower-class, white voters:
It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don’t believe they can count on Washington.
In today’s New York Times, Bill Kristol is pointing out that this argument sounds a lot like the Marx-Engels Readers that lefty students were embracing on elite campuses in the 1980s:
I haven’t read much Karl Marx since the early 1980s, when I taught political philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. Still, it didn’t take me long this weekend to find my copy of “The Marx-Engels Reader,” edited by Robert C. Tucker — a book that was assigned in thousands of college courses in the 1970s and 80s, and that now must lie, unopened and un-remarked upon, on an awful lot of rec-room bookshelves.
My occasion for spending a little time once again with the old Communist was Barack Obama’s now-famous comment at an April 6 San Francisco fund-raiser….
This sent me to Marx’s famous statement about religion in the introduction to his “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”:
“Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of a soulless condition. It is the opium of the people.”
Or, more succinctly, and in the original German in which Marx somehow always sounds better: “Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes.”
Now, this is a point of view with a long intellectual pedigree prior to Marx, and many vocal adherents continuing into the 21st century. I don’t believe the claim is true, but it’s certainly worth considering, in college classrooms and beyond.
But it’s one thing for a German thinker to assert that “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature.” It’s another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we “cling to … religion” out of economic frustration.
Whether you want to connect it right to Marx or not, I think it’s indisputable that this remark does evince a mindset very much linked to political correctness. One of the buzzwords at universities like the one I attended is “false consciousness” — the idea that the rabble out there think they’re okay, but they’re really not. Their problem? They don’t correctly understand their oppression. The solution? Well, they need a magnificent leader to lead them toward the light.
Why am I (gently) calling David out on this? In our previous discussion, he seemed a bit loath to concede that the Obamas seem to have imbibed deeply from their time in the Ivy League. As you’ll recall, I argued that their receptivity to the preaching of Reverend Wright suggested to me that they have some ideological beliefs — nurtured in their time on campus — that most Americans don’t exactly share. I’d suggest that this more recent brouhaha lends a bit of credibility to my point — and that it is altogether proper for us to take into account Senator Obama’s unguarded uttering in San Francisco.
It’s also clear that there is a pattern here. With the San Francisco remarks, just as with the Reverend Wright controversy, Senator Obama’s initial reaction to criticism was to suggest that there was nothing wrong with what he (or his minister) said. It was only later, under intense scrutiny, that he backed off. That’s pretty revealing as to his true beliefs. It means that he really didn’t see anything off key about what he said in San Francisco — and even if he didn’t buy Reverend Wright’s stuff hook, line, and sinker, he surely didn’t see it the way most other Americans would (namely, as being completely ridiculous). That is meaningful.
Okay, David — over to you.
One final note. This is fantastic:
UPDATE: Peter Wehner flags an interesting — and telling — choice of words on Senator Obama’s part:
Speaking in Muncie, Indiana, after the story broke, Obama said “Lately, there has been a little, typical sort of political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my home town in Illinois who are bitter.”
The flare-up, you see, happened because Obama is the Great Truth-Teller amidst the masses, many of whom can’t handle the truth. Once it dawned on Obama’s aides that expediency demanded an apology, the Senator offered a qualified mea culpa: “Obviously, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that.”
So if Senator Obama worded things in a way that made people feel offended (rather than worded things in a way that is offensive), well, he regrets that.
I’m not sure it’s our place — as Mr. Wehner does — to say that “[b]eneath the enormous charm and cool persona of Obama beats the heart of an arrogant man.” I for one can’t see his heart. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see — on the basis of his own sayings and choices — that he does have some beliefs that are worth noting, and there’s clearly a lot here of my old econ professors’ “false consciousness” idea.
Hugh Hewitt also has some good thoughts.