Political Hay

If It Feels Good, Say It

Obama's "fierce urgency of now" drivel is music to a self-indulgent age.

By 2.20.08

Send to Kindle

If you have heard one Barack Obama speech, you have heard them all. In a way, his words are as limited as his legislative accomplishments, which explains his now-famous cribbing off Deval Patrick and JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen, among others.

The only variation in his speeches comes from the slight rearrangement of cliches, while the quality of thought in them never rises up the level of an episode of Oprah. That she launched his campaign is altogether fitting.

In the Oprah age of fantasy and instant happiness, feel-good babble about this or that problem, usually determined not by reality but by political exigency, is all that is needed to captivate crowds. If it feels good, just say it, and if anyone scrutinizes your promises too closely, accuse them of "fear" and cynicism.

"The fierce urgency of now": To what momentous injustice does that Obama line, borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr., refer? It is not clear and apparently it doesn't matter. Who cares what it means? It feels good.

The right words and principles, you see, aren't as important as the right feelings -- a defense to which the Obama campaign resorted after Michelle Obama's declaration of sudden pride in America. Her brazen words were defended by the campaign and sympathetic media commentators on the grounds that they conveyed a vibe of justified feeling from a black woman. Anyone who says otherwise is "parsing." The Obamas won't take responsibility for the words lifted from others or even their own.

"Hope is making a comeback," she burbled fatuously. But what she calls hope, sober historians would call raw demagoguery, which is a sign not of a society's renewal but of its accelerating decadence.

Obama's faux-radicalism and idealism, carefully stirred into a safe brew of truisms, is catnip for a decadent elite that would rather feel good than be good and complains amidst prosperity of the need for dramatic change. But how urgent could their "revolution" possibly be if it was hatched down at a Starbucks?

Perhaps Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital in between sips of a Latte, but the Obama craze is ridiculous, evidence not of revolutionary idealism but of a prosperous democracy's slide toward dilettantism. Were the country truly in a bind, it would never take a chance on a rookie senator whose only real accomplishment is revising and extending his remarks.

The fakeness of it all reminds me of Robert Redford's The Candidate, in which an attractive but vapid pol says upon winning: "What do we do now?"

THE BLANKNESS OF Kirk Watson -- the Texas legislator who, under barking questions from Chris Matthews on Tuesday night, couldn't come up with a single accomplishment by Obama in the Senate -- captures the hollowness of Obama's movement.

Obama appeals to an increasingly childish class of adults who crave an emotion-based politics and don't particularly care about the details of the package in which it comes. There is a "Kids for Obama" section on his web page but it is not clear where it ends and the rest begins.

Obama presents his campaign as one of high principle and great courage, but in reality it simply sparks off liberalism's low and perennial appeal to man's appetites and emotions. This is what makes "progressive" liberalism so easy to sell in a modern democracy: it straightforwardly caters to fallen human nature, "challenging" people to take a low road Original Sin takes them down anyways.

Conservatism, on the other hand, is a tricky sell (which is why it is so quickly compromised), as it asks people to follow reason despite wayward emotions -- a message fallen humans don't care to hear until a crisis hits which brings them back to reality.

For many years the Clintons played these demagogic games too, casting corruption as change and failed liberalism as progress. "Yesterday is gone, yesterday is gone," they enlisted Fleetwood Mac to screech.

And it is. Obama has surpassed their sophistry, scooping up yuppies who jumped off Hillary's train as they saw it begin to derail. While the Clintons couldn't stop "thinking about tomorrow," Obama was busy stealing away their supporters with his similarly sham "fierce urgency of now."

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.