Friday, February 08, 2008


Don’t be surprised if many of the young people enthusiastically supporting Paul today wind up crossing the line in a general election and using some of that enthusiasm in support of Obama. I’m sure there are many who gravitate to Paul because of individual issues or out of anger against the establishment. Those followers will drift to third-parties or sit out the election altogether. But there are more, like me, who gravitate to him because of his faith in personal freedom and in the fundamental belief in the human spirit such conviction implies. Obama may not satisfy our thirst for liberty, but he certainly appeals to the human spirit.
A mighty fortress is Obama,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.

I am blessed to be standing in the city where my own extraordinary journey began. A few miles from here, in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant, is where I learned what it takes to make change happen.

I was a young organizer then, intent on fighting joblessness and poverty on the South Side, and I still remember one of the very first meetings I put together. We had worked on it for days, but no one showed up. Our volunteers felt so defeated, they wanted to quit. And to be honest, so did I.

But at that moment, I looked outside and saw some young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street. They were like boys in so many cities across the country - boys without prospects, without guidance, without hope. And I turned to the volunteers, and I asked them, "Before you quit, I want you to answer one question. What will happen to those boys?" And the volunteers looked out that window, and they decided that night to keep going - to keep organizing, keep fighting for better schools, and better jobs, and better health care. And so did I. And slowly, but surely, in the weeks and months to come, the community began to change.
Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Barack that brought us safe thus far...
and Barack will lead us home.

We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope of those boys who have little; who've been told that they cannot have what they dream; that they cannot be what they imagine.

Yes they can.

We are the hope of the father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake with doubts that tell him he cannot give his children the same opportunities that someone gave him.

Yes he can.

We are the hope of the woman who hears that her city will not be rebuilt; that she cannot reclaim the life that was swept away in a terrible storm.

Yes she can.

We are the hope of the future; the answer to the cynics who tell us our house must stand divided; that we cannot come together; that we cannot remake this world as it should be.

Because we know what we have seen and what we believe - that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored; that will not be deterred; that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest - Yes. We. Can.
Just one touch and He makes me whole,
Speaks sweet peace to my sin sick soul,
At His feet all my burdens roll,
Cured by the Healer divine.

That is who we are. That is the Party that we need to be, and can be, if we cast off our doubts, and leave behind our fears, and choose the America that we know is possible. Because there is a moment in the life of every generation, if it is to make its mark on history, when its spirit has to come through, when it must choose the future over the past, when it must make its own change from the bottom up.

This is our moment. This is our message - the same message we had when we were up, and when we were down. The same message that we will carry all the way to the convention. And in seven months time - right here in Denver - we can realize this promise; we can claim this legacy; we can choose new leadership for America. Because there is nothing we cannot do if the American people decide it is time.

So I run to Obama
Please help me Obama
Don't you see me prayin'
Don't you see me down here prayin'

I ask you to take this second path - this harder path - not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

I ask you to take it because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on our collective salvation. And because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.
When Barack's folk was in Red State land
Let my people go!
Disenfranchised so they couldn't stand
Let my people go!

I've now listened to and read dozens of his speeches, on television and in person and in print. Tonight was, in my judgment, the best. He was able to frame the attacks on him as a reason to vote for him. He was able to frame his foes as the status quo - beyond the Clintons or the Bushes, Democrats or Republicans. He was able to cast his candidacy as a rebuke to the Balkanization of the American public, a response to the abuse of religion for political purposes, a repudiation of the cynicism that makes all political commentary a function of horse-races and spin. It was an appeal to Democrats, Republicans and Independents to say goodbye to all that. It was a burial of Rove and Morris. And it was better than his previous speeches because he kept bringing it back to policy specifics, to the economy and healthcare and, movingly, to this misbegotten war. The diverse coalition he has assembled - including an ornery small-government conservative like me - is a reflection of the future of this country, its potential and its irreplaceable, dynamic cultural and social mix.

This is the America we all love. He is showing us how to find it again. That's leadership.

And, yes. We can.
Go, tell it on the mountain!
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain!
That Barack Obama is born!

It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so. Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power. Lots of people don't agree with this, of course, since it doesn't fit a coherent narrative of GOP ascendancy. Masking Reagan's true political underpinning principles is a central goal of the conservative movement, with someone as powerful as Grover Norquist seeking to put Reagan's name on as many monuments as possible and the Republican candidates themselves using Reagan's name instead of George Bush's in GOP debates as a mark of greatness. Why would the conservative movement create such idolatry around Reagan? Is is because they just want to honor a great man? Perhaps that is some of it. Or are they trying to escape the legacy of the conservative movement so that it can be rebuilt in a few years, as they did after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I?

I don't know. But if you think, as Obama does, that Reagan's rise to power was premised on a sunny optimism in contrast to an out of control government and a society rife with liberal excess, then you don't understand the conservative movement. Reagan tapped into greed and fear and tribalism, and those are powerful forces. Ignoring that isn't going to make them go away.
Obama, Obama, lama sabachthani?!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

When I was at RedState, there were only three bloggers who I felt should never have been given posting privileges of any sort, for different reasons. Each was a Josh Trevino addition -- but let me be absolutely clear about something here: So was I. (Er, that doesn't make anything better.) Let me try it this way: Josh scores so many hits, you'd expect a few misses along with them. Moreover, given that his intent in his part of the creation of the site was to create a broad coalition of center-right writers, you have to give him credit for actually following through, even though the results were uneven.

One, Sebastian Holsclaw, left after the changeover from the Scoop platform to the Drupal model RedState is getting ready to abandon. Sebastian's problem, as far as I was concerned, was that he was so out of touch with the community as a whole that his posts were like dropping a snare drum solo into a performance of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Bright fella, nice guy (from what I could see), decent-but-not-great writer, but just really out of step with the other writers and commenters.

The second, Charles Bird, still writes there. Frankly, I'm leery of sharing too many of my thoughts about him given his reaction to my departure, but that reaction is illustrative of two parts of the problem: Charles is and was a plodding, dim, extraordinarily conventional thinker, and his writing reflects it; but aside from comforting me that I wasn't the least capable talent on the front page of RedState, there's not much wrong with that. Bird's issues are two-fold, but inextricably intertwined: (1) Charles's blogging belongs first and foremost to that left-wing moron factory, Obsidian Wings, and it shows not only in his I-don't-expect-intelligent-reply style (and that he can't be bothered to change the hyperlinks in his work to redirect to his work on RedState), but also in the essential thrust of the work, which tends to be explicative to, for, and from the perspective of center-lefters. (2) Charles is more naturally comfortable with the Left, partially out of reflexive ideological sympathy, and partially out of the absence of two functioning prefrontal lobes; this in turn is why Charles has spent more than his share of time on his home site (the moron factory) taking shots at RedState. (I wasn't the one to whom he gave his cherry, if you catch my drift.) That post-semicolon part was the biggest reason I wanted him gone; sadly, as with my efforts to ban the (other) below-I.Q. 100 commenters at RedState, I was as much a miserable failure as Charles's teachers from kindergarten on.

(Yes, that's "not sharing too many of my thoughts.")

But I'm not here to address Sebastian or Bird. Instead, this is about John Cole.

A good friend of mine forwarded this a while back with the notation, "Pot, Meet Kettle." There's no point in excerpting it or commenting on it -- by now, anyone familiar with how John has degenerated will be able to sing along with it by knowing that he's upset with The Dread Rises for obsessiveness -- except to say that it's what prompted me to write this.

Flash back a loooong way. H.D. Miller -- remember him, anyone? Traveling Shoes? (H.D. has taken that blog private.) -- turned me on to him back in 2002 or 2003. Professor Miller would doubtless qualify as a wingnut in Cole's current lexicography, but back then, during an email exchange, he told me I should check out Cole's work.

I got a kick out of it. It was a fun read, he clearly didn't like my political priorities, but he clearly didn't like a lot of others', and he used to turn the odd good phrase. I was tickled when I found out I'd get to write with him at RedState, about two years later.

Now, this may surprise those of you whose experience with Cole is from mid-2006 on, but at one time, John was a fairly critical thinker. He pretty much always considered me a theocrat in waiting -- which isn't fair, I'm a monarchist if I'm anything -- but he was pretty up-front that (1) if I didn't bother him about it, he wouldn't bother me about it, and (2) that notwithstanding, common ground could make common fronts possible.

So: I recognize that abortion is murder, as is dehydrating one's wife to death; he thinks people should be free to commit these kinds of murder. Fair enough. At one time -- back before he voted for, and endorsed, Alan Mollohan and Bob Byrd -- we could agree that the growth of the Federal government is, ceteris paribus, a bad thing, and that efforts should be made to stop this. Of course, at one time, he wasn't actively opposed to winning in Iraq, either.

The critical issue, though, wasn't whether he and I agreed, so much as that you could tell he'd thought things through before he wrote, at least a large percentage of the time. Here in blog-land, that's a fairly rare event.

(Dark, funny secret: One of my posts that most set off the orangutans who inhabit the American Left was actually a composite work of the then-RedState crew, including, probably most heavily but for yours truly, John as the foremost contributor. Hint: Think late-summer 2005, and "yard ape.")

What's particularly hard about all this is that John is now just one more lefty. I can read the few bright lefties out there and think, Hm, maybe I don't agree, but that is a good insight, or even, Ya know, I think I agree with that. It says something that there is now nothing interesting about Cole except his on-again, off-again fascination with RedState. Basically, he's turned his site into a group-blog, slightly-wider-ranging version of B. Fred State.

John left around the same time Sebastian did -- sadly, Charles chose to stay after the switchover, and curiously, continued to post to the front through all of the 2006 and 2007, even though he now claims his work was purely in the diaries -- which more or less dovetailed with when I was agitating for him to leave. (There was no connection between my attempts and his voluntary parting.) The common theme for the three was that all spent a fair amount of their time shooting at RedState from their home blogs, only to turn up at RedState and pretend nothing had happened. At the founding of RedState, the operating principle was that only what's done on the site matters as to fronting privileges; however, I took that to mean that political positions taken elsewhere were not taken into account. Maybe it had changed two years later, and maybe it hadn't; maybe I was right, and maybe I was wrong. Regardless, it says something about a man if he'll tell one public audience something awful about you, then pretend in front of another public audience that there's nothing amiss.

Why did John go nuts? I dunno. I sometimes think it's ObiWi disease; sometimes, I think John's meds have failed; yet other times, I suspect he's simply grown senile.

For whatever reason, there's really no intellectual or substantive difference between anything he writes and the sort of pedestrian work you can find any time Markos Moulitsas writes for his page, or what the intellectual pin-cushions at Obsidian Wings spew at theirs. He's become an indistinguishable howl in the crowd, and I don't think his broken principles, such as they were, sting him any more.

Damned shame, really.