I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.
Obama (apparently from a very early stage in his career) has left little paper trail. Decision making means taking risks – of criticism, of results. I don’t see risk-taking but the kind of assurance that comes from not having to live with consequences.
In an early job, I worked the front desk at the university library, filing cards of books checked out, pulling those of ones checked in. (Yes, those were the not so good old days.) One day, our supervisor posted a list of cards incorrectly filed. I had the largest number. To this day, my work has typos, my sentences comma splices, and my blurted out opinions sometimes insubtantial reasoning – I don’t always pay sufficient attentiion. But, my embarrassment was lessened when the head librarian took me aside and observed that of course I had more misfiled cards since I’d done almost all the filing for the last few days. There were about six other people who worked the same number of hours as I did. I learned two things: I should try to be more careful and that you may keep from making mistakes by not doing anything, but neither you nor your boss should see that as the way to go through life.
Few have explored the projects on which Ayers and Obama spent money. The Democratic candidate does not appear to be a “decider” – he blames his campaign staff even when the handwriting is his own, but argues he has “executive” experience because he has run his campaign. This may be fallible human nature, but isn’t what a leader does. Obviously, McCain and Palin live with the consequences of their choices, but they make them (and make them relatively resolutely) anyway. In fact, they seem to love the nitty gritty of living amidst those results- they immerse themselves in life, exuding a heady joy in self-reliance. They may shoot from the hip, but in Obama’s world, the gun and the bullets are speculative. His decision-making comes from a different world, the relatively theoretical and inconclusive world of bull. I listen to the pundits; i enjoy them. But he’s from that world – where most people are wrong most of the time – but they aren’t reallly wrong because they did nothing and nothing happened because of them. That was the difference between my time as a small businesswoman and my time in academia.
When the surge worked, Obama stubbornly kept to his argument that he was right on the great decision of our times – because, if we could just turn back the clock and let him rule the world, well, the surge wouldn’t have worked because we wouldn’t have been there. This is an interesting speculation late at night over beers, but it doesn’t give us much confidence in his ability to face the world as it is.
If he had actually been in a position to make that choice then other choices would have followed. And how would he have made them? What would he have done about the corrupt food-for-oil bribes or the fly-overs to keep the Kurds from devastation? Just because you see bad consequences from one choice doesn’t mean there might not be worse ones from another. You can’t just choose one series of consequences when life clearly promises (or threatens) many. Sure, if Obama gets to define the consequences, he can narrow the variables in the speculative world of bull; in that arena you can obsessively consider the pureness of your uncommitted ideology. We’ve lived through a century in which far too many have remained unaffected by the consequences of applying ideologies (and often ones too close to Obama’s for comfort). American pragmatism helps us appreciate McCain and Palin – I hope it is strong enough to elect them.
Shannon notes the equation of morality and self worth with what are, after all, pragmatic policy decisions. I’m not sure how the circularity started but at some point those on the left began to feel that they were morally superior because they believed in “peace” in foreign relations and government largesse in domestic ones. By weighting these policies so heavily (seeing them not as just pragmatically useful but moral) they became unwilling to acknowledge when they didn’t work (which would make them immmoral – the policies led to misery rather than the good life for others.) Obama’s attitude toward Lott, Gore’s toward Ward Connerley. the constant attack on “self-righteousness” without understanding a worldview that both accepts our fallen nature and attempts to improve it – these all come from a mind set that, among other flaws, is static.
If their choices are the moral ones, then old values needed to be discounted. An argument for self-reliance is inappropriate in a statist society. And old vices were also discounted – envy was no longer a vice but rather the appropriate response of anyone who, in an unjust society, had less than a neighbor (and even at times provided an excuse for acts to even such discrepancies.)
Fortunately, those of that persuasion have not been able to “engineer the souls” of the majority of Americans, but the result of the domestic policy can be seen in the growing dependence of larger and larger groups of Americans and the general misery in the high-rise projects of America. In foreign affairs, the results of such a vision were first battles that the strong threat of a military might have made unnecessary; even worse, “peace” led to the boat people and the killing fields.
The mantra that they “care” for others often seems to be strangely myopic – that is, in their desire to prove that they are the ones that value human life, they tend to undervalue others’ desire to define for themselves the “good life” domestically and, frankly, the remarkable joy in life of those who are independent and self-reliant. (One gets the feeing that Sarah Palin and John McCain arise every morning with energy and real joy in life – that’s what such self-reliance builds.)
In a similar vein, if peace in an abstract way is the highest value then America’s strength abroad is immoral. The old “might makes right” has been turned on its head. If by its nature military strength is wrong the most wrong would be the most powerful. Indeed, given our might, even our ability to defend ourselves is morally wrong. That the Germans and the Japanese are better off because we went to war and some of our forces remain in their countries seems pretty obvious. (I might observe that some of our domestic sins and pains might have been lessened if the North hadn’t wearied of Reconstruction when it did – but that is, I suspect, the kind of thing much more knowledgeable people than I could debate much more intelligently.) What is more obvious, however, is that most Iraqis and Afghanis are likely to be better off because of our military might.
However, when some begin with the belief their vision is not just correct but moral (and it is no accident that so many people with this view have substituted it for traditional spiritual values), acknowledging its failure is admitting not just that their policies don’t work but that their hearts don’t. But I suspect Palin and McCain face the world front on. They accept what is, which makes it easier to posit what could be. That is inspiring and it is also energizing.
17 thoughts on “O.T. Comment on Shannon’s Last Post”
But he’s from that world – where most people are wrong most of the time – but they aren’t reallly wrong because they did nothing and nothing happened because of them.
Obama’s from a world in which no one pays a penalty for being wrong. Indeed it can be nearly impossible even know when one is wrong.
I think he will face a cut and dried decisions as president and freeze.
After the speech last night I was thinking about the resumes Obama and Palin would submit to an employer. Obama’s would revolve around positions he’s held, schools he’s attended, e.g. Harvard Law, 6 years as state senator, 3 years as US Senator. Palin’s more likely would revolve around accomplishments, e.g. cut taxes by x%, sold governor’s jet, negotiated pipeline deal. In all the resume writing classes I’ve had, I was told to emphasize the accomplishments. On the basis of their resumes, Palin wins hands down.
I had served for a few years as a commissioner of our library in a rather small town. Our selectman, a Republican, never demanded that we censor books. But I imagine Palin is special in these matters and tried to do just that!
the librarian, aghast, refused and had her job threatened. Obama did not do such things but perhaps he did not realize the political clout he had.
I realize that more than one comment per week is about all you good folks care to get from me but since I have a good friend who is a community lawyer for Ralph Nader, I thought this little piece might give you a bit more useful background on community workers:
Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.
And it’s no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.
“Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America’s promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it’s happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.
Meanwhile, we still haven’t gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.”
sure: let the free market take care of it all–s: market took sharp drop after the enlightening speeches last evening.
Thanks for republishing Obama’s email soliciting campaign donations. Good to know your friend knows how to forward email. The question remains, however, what did Obama actually accomplish as community organizer?
I realize that more than one comment per week is about all you good folks care to get from me …
I personally do not care as long as you extend the common curtsy to stay on topic. Instead, you seem to regard 90% of the post as mere launching points for whatever topic you decided to think about when you rolled out bed that morning.
So, a “community organizer” differs from an ordinary citizen, how exactly?
So, did Palin “censor books” or merely voice an opinion about which books the library should carry? Did she “carry out a Stalinist purge” (and isn’t great to finally see Leftist turning on Stalin?) or did she carrry out her campaign promise to reform city government by clearing out the deadwood and the corrupt?
Sarah Palin appears to be (even by the charge of her sharpest critics) a force of nature. Such forces ruffle feathers. And, being human, her life is clearly not without mistakes. Frankly, that’s what happens when you act, when you choose life – when you value commitment to others and to a job. She was likely to engender some of the more unatttactive traits of envy in those around her and she was also likely to step on toes. She was probably guilty of overreach or misplaced loyalty or even acts insufficiently thought out. We all do a little misfiling – especially if we file so much more than any others do.
So what’s new? We’re human. Some of these might be of a kind that you can not forgive (though I suspect you are seeking such an argument); you might explain that with specifics and logic.
Fred, you can keep linking to some of the same complaints and you can keep thinking they prove something. But by linking to the same old arguments on different posts here, by choosing not in any way to make an argument that such links apply to the arguments of the posts, you are insulting those of us who spend our time here because we believe that we will be engaged in some real discussion and those of us who have attempted (perhaps not always brilliantly but nonetheless have made an effort) to develop an argument.
This isn’t your blog – and comments are not posts. Your failure to distinguish between them indicates a weak understanding of argument, rhetorical situations, good manners, and how much patience the posters are willing to extend to you.
Ginny, this is a wonderful piece. You are very insightful.
For those benighted among you who choose to rhapsodize over Mr. O’s “community organizer” schtick, this little article will let you know just what such an organizer does.
A virus, is more like it.
“Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.” Fred
Didn’t Mr. Obama’s community organizer activities take place during the Clinton Administration?
It’s one thing to be a community organizer responsible by his own leadership for the improvement of the lives and conditions of multitudes. It’s quite another to be a community organizer whose efforts squandered countless tens of thousands of the public’s dollars without any discernible improvement in the conditions of the “organized.”
Virgil, Wasn’t it millions that matched the millions from Annenberg?
Brilliant essay Ginny. Ever think of writing for the City Journal? You should submit this piece.
Other people have said this but I still find it odd that it is acceptable to “diss” the mayor of a small town and, by implication, small town America but there is a howl of outrage with threats of all sorts of punishment if you “diss” community organizers. According to one comment I read on some leftie blog (yes, I know, sad but I shan’t do it again), community organizers are people who put the interests of community above their own. I was under the impression that they got paid for their job and that they actually went in there to ensure the community did what they thought was right. It’s a bit like the howl of outrage there seems to have been over here in response to an apparently quite amusing play that “disses”, among others, the feminist establishment. Oh yes, the same blog implicitly compared Obama with Gandhi. There are too many curious implications there to list here.
I have observed that a “community organizer” is a person who gathers the voters of an area in order to try and force the government to allocate more money.
In other words, they are blackmailers using the threat of withholding votes to get tax dollars. Some of which are my tax dollars!
I’ve never seen a “community organizer” who rolled up their sleeves and tried to get area residents to improve their lot by the residents’ own resources. Why is that?
Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.
And if Chicago weren’t run by asshole fascist rethuglican nazis like Richard Dailey and his family, the masses there wouldn’t NEED a savior like Obama to lift them up into the light.
I think I understand now.
“I’ve never seen a “community organizer” who rolled up their sleeves and tried to get area residents to improve their lot by the residents’ own resources. Why is that?”
No opportunity for self-aggrandizement.
Here’s the scoop on Palin’s supposed “book banning.” There’s nothing to indicate that she ever tried to ban a single book, and the rumor is based on a hypothetical question she posed to a librarian. Book-banning watchdog groups have turned up nothing.
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