No, Obama is not an economic libertarian or a pro-lifer on the abortion issue. But he hearkens back to an America that once was. Here’s what he said on Meet the Press (see Read the transcript):
“The fact that I’m running for president right now is an indication of how much I love this country, because it has given everything to me. This country has been a great source of good. I’ve lived overseas and seen the difference between America and what it stands for and what other countries oftentimes stand for and where they fall short. I’ve, I’ve said before, my story’s not possible in any other country on earth. You know, when I think about this country, I think about my grandfather fighting in World War II in Patton’s army; I think about my grandmother staying home–staying back and, and working on a bomber assembly line while she was raising a kid in–as, as they’re coming out of a depression. And, and so this country is the–it defines, for me, what’s possible for not just me, but for so many people who see this as a beacon of good, including my father, who originally came here seeking an education in this country. So I love this country. It is what I have been fighting for, a–that America lives up to its values and its ideals. And that’s what I think the people of Indiana and that’s what the people of North Carolina are looking for right now. What, what–they love this country as well, but what they’ve believe is that the values that have built this country, the belief in–that hard work is rewarded, that you can raise a family and have health care, and buy a home and retire with dignity and respect, that those things feel like they’re slipping away. And what this campaign’s about, what I think this moment is about in America is whether or not we are going to fight for those ideals that make this country great, and, and if we miss that opportunity, then I think we will be doing a disservice to future generations. “
“Now, what I do believe is that it is important for the American people to understand my story and how it connects to theirs. I think it’s important for people to understand not only that I was raised by a single mom and, and my grandparents, and the values of hard work and decency and honesty that they’ve passed on to me, that those are values that are rooted in the heartland of America and small-town America. My, my wife, Michelle, you mentioned earlier, you know, when I think about her father, who worked as a shift worker for the city of Chicago, despite having MS, got up every single day and went to work, was able to raise a family and send his two kids to college and, and support a family of four on a single salary. I think about your father and the fact that, that your dad, Tim, looked nothing like Michelle’s dad, but they lived that same American dream and, and they had those same core values. And those are the values of millions of people all across the country. And my job in this campaign is to communicate the fact that not only are those values at the core of what this country’s about, not only are those values what make me patriotic, but those are the values that have to be fought for because that American dream is slipping away.”
As I heard Obama say this, I got the same feeling as when I heard Pat Buchanan’s 1992 address to the Republican National Convention (see 1992 Republican National Convention Speech – by Pat Buchanan … ). You could hear a pin drop as he said these words:
“My friends, in those 6 months, from Concord to California, I came to know our country better than ever before in my life, and I collected memories that will be with me always.
“There was that day long ride through the great state of Georgia in a bus Vice President Bush himself had used in 1988–a bus they called Asphalt One. The ride ended with a 9:00 PM speech in front of a magnificent southern mansion, in a town called Fitzgerald.
“There were the workers at the James River Paper Mill, in the frozen North Country of New Hampshire–hard, tough men, one of whom was silent, until I shook his hand. Then he looked up in my eyes and said, ‘Save our jobs!’ There was the legal secretary at the Manchester airport on Christmas Day who told me she was going to vote for me, then broke down crying, saying, ‘I’ve lost my job, I don’t have any money; they’ve going to take away my daughter. What am I going to do?’
“My friends, even in tough times, these people are with us. They don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they came from the same schoolyards and playgrounds and towns as we did. They share our beliefs and convictions, our hopes and our dreams. They are the conservatives of the heart. They are our people. And we need to reconnect with them. We need to let them know we know they’re hurting. They don’t expect miracles, but they need to know we care.
“There were the people of Hayfork, the tiny town high up in California’s Trinity Alps, a town that is now under a sentence of death because a federal judge has set aside 9 million acres for the habitat of the spotted owl–forgetting about the habitat of the men and women who live and work in Hay fork. And there were the brave people of Koreatown who took the worst of the LA riots, but still live the family values we treasure, and who still believe deeply in the American dream.”
You see in both an appeal to the values of small town America: hard work, family, love of country. Obama refers with favor to previous generations, as if such values were stronger in their day. Of course, Obama and Buchanan overlap and differ on the ramifications of their traditionalism. Both see America’s current economic situation as problematic, for we no longer live in the days when a man could support his family by working at the same job for most of his life and retire with a good pension. Both favor some sort of trade protectionism to take America back to the good old days. Yet, on economics, they differ in that Obama views government programs as a solution, whereas Buchanan sees government as an institution that has afflicted the middle class.
They also differ on culture. Buchanan appeals to the culture of small town America, which includes a belief in school prayer, guns, and traditional marriage. Obama, trying to recover from his comment that seemed to look down on those ideas, continues to talk about his faith, and he says that he’s not really that liberal on gun rights. But, in some way, shape, and form, both are appealing to a traditionalism, which romanticizes the past, or at least acknowledges the quality of past generations.