The great election of 2008 is finally upon us. On Tuesday, Americans will decide whether they want to go forward into the future or back to the past. Nearly everyone agrees on that statement. What we can't agree on is which candidate wants to go where.
The media and a large segment of voters seem to agree that Barak Obama represents "hope for change" in America. He certainly represents change - as most presidents do - but this is not quite the same as going forward with new ideas. Most of Mr. Obama's "new" ideas that look so attractive to young voters are really old socialist ideas from Socialism's Golden Age of the 1930s-‘70s that have been (unsuccessfully) tried at various times and various levels.
Mr. Obama's premise is that the country's economy is fundamentally broken and must be "fixed" by government intervention and management and by redistribution of the nation's wealth. His claim has been awarded a certain credibility by the dramatic events of the past month. Were he Irish, we should be saying Mr. Obama has the Luck of the Irish to be running at a time when a great banking crisis - much of it produced by political meddling - has shaken the foundations of our financial system. A return to socialism looks attractive to many disgruntled voters - perhaps enough to elect him.
Mr. Obama evidently believes the economy can be "grown" by taking money from one group of citizens and giving it to another group. He and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, call this a fair "redistribution" of wealth. This Marxist idea has been tried, repeatedly, since Franklin Roosevelt's time, but never with demonstrable success.
Arguably, Roosevelt's policies actually prolonged and deepened the early 1930s recession into the Great Depression that lasted until 1940. It ended when people went back to work in great numbers for war production. Historians agree that FDR encouraged and held the country together with his optimistic, avuncular style, but economists overwhelmingly agree that his economic policies were a failure.
Socialism, however - like second marriages - is famous for representing the triumph of hope over experience. Its true believers always say it surely will work, if only it can be properly applied - which never seems to happen. It sounds wonderful to young people weren't around to see how it destroys incentive and kills hope for personal achievement. This appears to be the case now, as young voters seem enraptured by Mr. Obama's message of hope and his wonderful new plans for change. But it is all "old wine in new bottles", as more than one observer has described it.
Mr. Obama also believes our Constitution should be regarded as a "living" document whose meaning can be construed to match contemporary fashions and political desires. This will permit interpretations that would reshape the fabric of the country. He has openly spoken of appointing judges whose decisions will favor poorer people and selected ethnic and racial minorities. This radical concept is utterly foreign to our country, but Mr. Obama has not hesitated to make it a pillar of his political advocacy. It is an important part of his "change" for America.
Finally, Mr. Obama represents a solid choice for the politics of death. (Supporters might object to my wording, but if the shoe fits, I say wear it.) As a legislator, he showed that he will brook no compromise on abortion - repeatedly opposing legislation that would have protected the lives of children who survived medical attempts to abort them. In the Illinois Senate, he opposed such legislation (which passed anyway), and in the U. S. Senate he opposed the federal ban on partial birth abortion (which also passed). He has tried to cast himself as a "pragmatic moderate" on abortion during his presidential run, but the cat is out of the bag. He is far over in the pro-abortion corner - far enough to be fairly described as "radical" on the issue.
Mr. Obama is indisputably the farthest-left candidate for the American presidency in history. FDR was far left, but even he did not advocate abortion or mainstreaming of homosexuality. Moreover, FDR was a hard-liner on national defense, who did not shrink from global engagement of nations that threatened our security. Mr. Obama is quite prepared to draw down the defense budget to fund social programs he advocates. With foreign enemies, he promises to talk, not fight.
Mr. Biden has "guaranteed" that adversaries will spring a "manufactured crisis" on Mr. Obama, within six months of his inauguration, to "test his mettle". Even Obama-devotees seem disquited by this possible event in the context of Mr. Obama's advocacy of mild-mannered diplomacy. Here is where his candidacy is clearly weakest. He will win only if he can convince enough Americans that his approach to national security will keep us safe and out of war.
The media and the Obama campaign like to call Mr. McCain a continuation of George W. Bush and his "failed" policies. They say he is the past - the old way - not the future. In this, they are both right and wrong. It is true that Mr. McCain would retain and protect traditional American attitudes toward business, incentives for personal achievement, and protection of private property. Mr. McCain believes in the economic system that has built the greatest nation in history. We are not - as Mr. Obama implies - a deeply flawed country that keeps people from achieving success and building wealth, but a beacon of opportunity that draws millions to its shores for a chance at its matchless opportunities. This is America's "past", but it is also the key to its future. With its bedrock values secure, there is no limit to what America and its people can achieve.
Nevertheless, Mr. McCain understands that everything is not perfect in the political and financial garden. To the extent that politicians have meddled in financial matters - especially in the mortgage business - there is certainly room for some serious weeding. Mr. McCain's record as a U. S. Senator includes attempts to rein-in the runaway practices of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that eventually brought our banking system to its knees. His failure to get controlling legislation passed can fairly be laid at the door of Democratic senators (e.g., Mr. Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Chris Dodd) and representatives (e.g., Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi) who opposed all attempts to curtail out-of-control lending and bundling of high-risk loans into flawed securities. These are not simple matters, but clearly Mr. McCain tried to control the situation.
The average voter cannot be blamed for failing to comprehend the complexities that caused the banking and stock market crash and for misapprehending who failed to do what. But it should be easier to see that Mr. McCain has genuine bona fides in national defense because of his military service and command experience. During the Vietnam War, Mr. McCain flew missions as a naval aviator. He was shot down and captured, and suffered cruelly as a prisoner of war for over five years. Offered early release because of his father's rank of admiral, Mr. McCain chose to remain in prison with his comrades until they were all released. His opponent - a Harvard-educated lawyer, whose entire career consists of "community organizer", state senator and U. S. senator - claims close identification with working people, but Mr. McCain is the real deal. He offers genuine credentials as a seasoned warrior who has seen the face of the enemy "up close and personal". War is a very serious business, and Mr. McCain has seen it first-hand. If voters want hands-on experience, Mr. McCain is the man to look to, not his opponent.
At the tail end of seven years free of terrorist attacks on our homeland - for which President Bush is unlikely to receive credit - it is easy to forget, momentarily, that we are at war with worldwide forces that would destroy us. Mr. McCain comes from a long line of American warriors - traced back to an officer on George Washington's staff - who knew that you fight wars to win. You don't try to sit down and have "tea and talk" with your adversaries.
If it were not for the potential damage to the country, I would almost prefer to see Mr. Obama thrown into the deep end with the sharks, just for the entertainment value of the thing. This may, indeed, turn out to be the result, as Joe Biden has already predicted. Terrorism is not going to go away just because we elect a cool, hip guy who wears impeccable suits and can talk the hind leg off a mule. It's a wicked world - made even more dangerous by people who don't think it is or who think charm and talk can make it less so.
Many other issues that differentiate the candidates have been tossed about during the campaign, including who owns how many houses or is how rich, who hung out with which unsavory characters during his past life, who did what with drugs or booze, whose marriage broke up, whose relatives are living in poverty somewhere, etc., etc. Voters tend to wave these away because they seem to have nothing to do with them and their "pocketbooks". Another issue that seems to be in this category is the incendiary, highly polarizing issue of abortion.
The two major candidates have staked out distinctly opposing positions on abortion - Mr. McCain being opposed to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, and Mr. Obama in favor of keeping abortion an entirely legal and uncontrolled "right". The latter has attempted to nuance his position by claiming that the determination of when life begins is "above my pay grade". But he let his true attitudes slip out when he said he didn't want his daughter "punished with a baby" if she should make a mistake resulting in an ill-timed pregnancy.
Mr. McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, has attracted criticism and rancor from the Obama camp for her decision not to abort her Down-syndrome child, Trig. Her daughter, Bristol, is carrying a child conceived out of wedlock, which she refuses to abort. To his credit, Mr. Obama has not commented on Mrs. Palin's life or family situation. But his attitude toward abortion is clear beyond peradventure of misunderstanding.
Voters who think the abortion issue touches only women capable of conceiving a child are mistaken. The issue is both deeply moral and socially and economically profound. I venture to say that a society capable of destroying a million-plus of its offspring each year is - to paraphrase Mr. Obama's mentor, The Rev. Jeremiah Wright - "capable of anything". We love to watch films about the evil Nazis, who rounded up innocent people and shipped them off to their deaths in a highly organized program of genocide. I think these films help us convince ourselves that we are morally superior, and that the Nazis were a special anomaly of evil in the human equation. Yet Hitler, on his best (or worst) day, never managed the destruction the goodly American people are managing every day. In 35 years we have killed over 50 million future citizens - a historical calumny that outranks the work of Himmler, Eichman, Mengele, Stalin, Dzerzhinsky and other Nazi and Soviet butchers.
Our quiet American genocide also has had (and will have) profound social and economic consequences for the country. It means that 50 million people who should be participants in American life simply aren't there. They are not creating and building and working - having families, caring for elderly parents, buying homes and cars and refrigerators, serving the country, enriching its life, inventing its new technologies. Those who wonder why this great flood of immigrants - both legal and illegal - is among us need look no further than the "missing 50 million". Somebody has to do the work they would have done, had they been permitted to live.
Voters who can't decide between the candidates on any other basis can do a lot worse than decide with reference to their respective attitudes toward this defining issue for America. I urge my readers to look deep into their souls and ask if a continuation of this calamitous destruction of our unborn is really good for the nation. May we all choose wisely.
As Tiny Tim famously said, "God bless us all, every one."