United By Victimhood

Having read Obama’s speech on race, it seems to me that his idea of unity boils down to the idea that we are all, regardless of race, equally helpless victims of life in need of rescue by a powerful benevolent state.

He seems to want to explain white Americans to black Americans by saying, “look, you’ve got to understand, white people are victims too.” He seems to want white Americans to view themselves as bothers-in-victimhood with black America. His final story of Ashley really seems to tie the theme all together.

For all that he evokes the Founders, I do not think that they would agree with his vision of an America populated with the helpless and ineffectual. I think Obama is a very nice marketing wrapper for a very dangerous and corrosive view of ourselves.

If your identity as an American hinges on the government benefits you receive, then he is your man. Otherwise, I think you should look elsewhere.

6 thoughts on “United By Victimhood”

  1. A fundamental part of the leftist mindset is the view of the government as an *idealized parent*, rather than as something operated by fallible human beings who have their own interests at stake. The idea of the philosopher-king is still quite strong.

  2. Thanks Shannon – clear summary.

    On the pre-game interviews he was also arguing that under Bush the poor & middle class have gotten poorer. Do these people live in some alternative universe with some alternative stats? At gut level, as good as the speech is, he doesn’t realize how appalled we might be by a man who chooses to bring his children up in a church that preaches hatred of this kind, hatred, indeed, of their grandmother and their great-grandparents who raised their father.

  3. He is said (e.g., by Shelby Steele) to be popular, and I think this theory is valid, because he absolves white Americans of their guilt for past oppression of black Americans. I find this notion offensive on several counts. I am not oppressing anybody and my family did not oppress anybody (and was not even in the USA during the period when blacks were most oppressed). To suggest that because of my skin color I bear responsibility for what people I and my family had nothing to do with did to other people we had nothing to do with, and all of whom are no longer alive anyway, is horseshit.

    Further, to rationalize this kind of racist blame-mongering by throwing around quasi-religious assertions about “America’s original sin” makes the insult worse. I don’t believe in original sin; the tradition I come from rejects the concept. And of course, for Jews the notion of original sin as it correlates to ethnic and racial bigotry is a reminder of how European Jews were accused of being Christ killers. (Not that Obama and his apologists are all anti-Jewish, though some of them probably are. It’s just that there’s irony in their making a great to-do about racial sensitivities while ignoring other groups’ sensitivities.)

    Collective blame is a false and poisonous concept. Slavery and the oppression of black Americans were great evils, but most of the perpetrators and victims are no longer alive. The people who are alive, no matter their backgrounds, deserve to be treated as individuals.

    I don’t need absolution, because I don’t feel racial guilt and I don’t think that I am guilty of racial crimes. Any attempt to impute to me racial guilt for the purpose of later absolving me, and of thereby gaining my political allegiance, leaves me cold. I suspect that a lot of American voters share my sentiments on this topic, and that the white leftists in the press who are gulled by Obama’s appeals to their own wacky insecurities are overestimating the ultimate effectiveness of his racial politicking.

  4. Another leftist trope that struck me was his invocation of “false consciousness,” although he did not use the term. The proletariat (or their race-class-gender stand-ins) are kept divided by the evil capitalists, pitted against each other, by means of ideology, commodity fetishism, and racism. This is not very far from Rev. Wright’s point of view that we are unhappy because we are oppressed; and if we are oppressed, that implies the existence and effectiveness of an oppressor; and we will never be happy until we destroy the oppressor. Obama and Wright disagree only quantitatively, if at all.

    I, too, resent his use of the term “original sin.” It indicates that he has decided to emphasize the messianic theme that seems to run through his campaign. He is investing himself with mythic stature. There is so much here, and none of it is good: leftism as a subsitute for religion; collective guilt; the Magic Negro archetype; the demonization of the opposition, and so forth.

    This guy is starting to make me nervous.

  5. Reading the speech carefully I am struck by the extent to which its main arguments are rhetorical sleights-of-hand intended to shift blame for policy mistakes away from government. Obama blames racism and capitalism for most social problems and poor government policies for nothing. He asserts that black Americans were kept poor by racism, which is false (black incomes rose faster during the 1940s-’50s, when there was more racism, than during the 1960s-’70s), but says nothing about destructive Great Society programs. He mentions bad schools but not the role of government monopolies and teachers’ unions in keeping schools bad. He blames business people for taking jobs overseas, and ignores the perverse incentives created by government-imposed taxes and mandates, as well as the beneficial effects of gains in productivity and wealth at home that have replaced lower-end jobs with better ones. At every turn he asks citizens to scrutinize themselves and each other but to accept government’s role in their lives as intrinsically benevolent, productive and deserving of expansion. It is as if he were absolving Americans of racism in exchange for their acceptance of socialism. He appears to be an economic reactionary who has learned nothing from the numerous failures of socialism and successes of market-oriented reforms during his lifetime.

  6. In comments here, blogger known as the Assistant Village Idiot observed that Republican politicians tend to say “I’ll work for you” whereas Democratic politicians tend to say “I’ll fight for you.” I would extend this to point out that the “fighting” favored by Democrats is almost always against people or groups *within the United States*.

    To the Democratic leadership, society is a Hobbesian struggle of group against group rather than a positive-sum effort to create something together.

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