Elitist AND Paternalistic

I haven’t yet commented on Barack Obama’s statement about small town Americans, the one in which he said that they cling to guns and religion because the government isn’t doing anything about the economy. According to Obama, because they’ve given up on the government to help them with the important things, such as jobs and wages, they resign themselves to vote with the Republicans on other (presumably less vital) issues, such as gun rights, religion, a pro-life stance on abortion, and traditional marriage.

First of all, Obama is assuming that Republican governance has hurt the economy, while Democratic proposals will help it. He makes the same assumption as Thomas Frank in his classic, What’s the Matter with Kansas? Frank’s book asks how Kansans can vote with the Republicans when Republican economic policies so obviously hurt them. He says that they do so over issues like gun rights, abortion, and traditional marriage.

But who says that Democratic proposals are the answer? High taxes will help the economy? Trade protectionism will help the economy? More government spending on inefficient projects will help the economy?

“But the economy was good under Clinton.” True, but Clinton didn’t get everything he wanted. Liberals (and others) complain about all the spending on the Iraq War. Well, imagine how much the government would be spending if Clinton successfully got his government health care bureaucracies off the ground. Moreover, Clinton pushed proposals that are rather, well, Republican. He cut the capital gains tax, and he promoted the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“But the economy is bad under Bush.” Well, Bush should get credit for all of the economic growth that had occurred under his Administration. The economy is going down after having gone up. As far as the gas crisis goes, that could be alleviated if the Democrats didn’t block oil exploration in America.

So Obama and Frank assume too much when they say that Republican policies have obviously hurt Americans. But they’re Democrats, so I wouldn’t expect them to praise the Republicans all that much.

What strikes me about Obama’s statement is not just that it is elitist. It is that it treats the government as if it’s God. In Obama’s scenario, here are small town Americans, praying to Big Government to alleviate their misery. And when it doesn’t, they turn to some “God” to find a sense of comfort.

And Hillary’s no different. Remember her Christmas commercial, in which she was preparing to give out all these “gifts” to the American people, such as pre-kindergarten education? She treats government as if it’s Santa Clause. Or she presumes that it should be the provider of the American people. “The State is my shepherd, I shall not want.” That should be her motto whenever she speaks at churches!

I don’t often listen to Sean Hannity, but I happened to have him on while I was cooking myself some hamburgers. He said that he doesn’t like Hillary’s outlook on the American people, which assumes that they are grovelling at the feet of the government for sustenance. That contradicts Hannity’s vision of Americans as entrepreneurs, independent and rugged people who go out and create their own destinies. I don’t go as far as Hannity does, for I realize that we all need help every now and then. But he’s right about Hillary’s outlook. She acts as if we’re praying to her that she might take care of us.

Obama has criticized John McCain for not offering proposals on how to address the economy. If that is indeed the case, then perhaps that’s a plus for John McCain. Maybe the government tinkering with the economy is not what the economy needs. McCain reminds me of Arnold Vinick, the Republican candidate for President on the West Wing (played by Alan Alda). Jimmy Smits played the Democratic candidate, Matthew Santos, who always appeared shocked whenever Vinick said that he (Vinick) had no education plan, or that the government is not responsible to create jobs (since that’s the private sector’s role). I thought to myself, “If only the real-life Republicans talked like that.” Well, could that be what McCain is doing?

I know that I’m a hypocrite on some level, since I have received federal student loans. But Obama’s comments assume the liberal party line on economic policy, and they act as if Americans should look to the state as a divine entity.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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4 Responses to Elitist AND Paternalistic

  1. Felix Taylor says:

    James,

    I believe that we don’t need bigger government but better, effecient government—but at the same time not to do away with government completely.

    To tell thousands people who lost their jobs at an auto plant or who’ve lost their farm that you are not going to do nothing with a self-righteous glee is nothing just but a libertarian fantasy. To lend a hand is not socialism (as some on the hard-right would like to charge back) but for goodness sake it’s called humanity.

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  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Feelix! Overall, I think McCain has made sense in what he’s told people from auto plants. I’m thinking about what he said in Michigan. He says that they need job training in order to adapt to a changing world. And he promises to provide that. I just don’t think we can turn the clock back, as much as we may like to.

    I guess what I question is the notion that everything has to be the government’s responsibility. It’s become a mantra, and I like it when someone dares to question that.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Fair enough James.

    At least McCain wants to do SOMETHING, a hard-line libertarian would lecture them and say, “Pull youself from your bootstraps!” I admire McCain telling it the way it is that those jobs are NOT coming back and we need to be involved newer and progressive technologies. Again fair enough.

    I agree that government CANNOT do EVERYTHING and should NOT do everything. At same time what bugs me about those libertarians is that they want government to DO NOTHING! I am for a happy middle. What it is, that’s an excercise in itself—but all I can say if government is impeding innovation, aspiration,incentive and progress—it needs to get out of the way!

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  4. James Pate says:

    But what I like about libertarians, Felix, is that they have good arguments that most government intervention does inhibit these things. I’m sure you’ve heard and met libertarians who have said “pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps,” but there are many who think a lot of these problems wouldn’t even be that bad if government just got out of the way. As Reagan said, government is the problem. Idealistic? Maybe, but it’s worth thinking about.

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