The Father of Conservatism

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Herein lies the Ghost in the political machine of the Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke. Much like Max Weber arguing with the Ghost of Marx, this blog seeks to make relevant and where appropriate support or reject Burke's 'Reflections' against the backdrop of the disastrous New Labour experiment.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama's Speech: There's no room for 'Change'

"I feel Obama's speech has actually provided the smelling salts to his own intoxicating dream that has duped and stultified the nation for nearly a year."

I was surprised by Obama's speech today, simply because it was as if it wasn't his. Gone were the whimsical and idealistic rhetoric of change and hope. Try 'find' on Word and they'll appear fleetingly twice. In past speeches you would run out of note paper tallying down the times he mentioned 'change.'

In a 'radical' departure, he used the term 'change' somewhat 'conservatively' which I guess will sum up his presidential era.
For all his liberal or progressive heart, it will give way to his more pragmatic mind. The economy is in freefall, fighting in two dusty theatres of war and an arab-Israeli conflict ready to explode – he isn't going to actually change that much.

What I did however, pick up on from the speech, was that the West's problem is more psychological than people make out, forget economics for the moment, the Western world is mentally having doubts, and Obama on the face of it looks like the man who can restore that confidence.

However, going back to the speech, I felt the tone was dark and authoritative, and to sum extent grave in nature. The start of the speech threw me, as there were no heady and lofty notes of hope and of a new dawn, more a wake up call.

I think he has the power to tell American's what they don't want to hear, which wouldn't have come from a Bush presidency. This is best exemplified by this passage:

“Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”

His attacks in the Bush administration were laser guided and clinically executed and were not cheap shots like David Cameron does with Gordon Brown:

“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

If DC could get within a mile of this kind of utterance then we'd be looking at a new PM by now.

What I did like was the lack of race as an overarching issue for Obama, yes there's no denying the socio-political significance, but his race should really have nothing to do with it – so I'm glad he dealt with it in a warm and light-heart manner – no glaring references to Martin Luther King were welcome.

Unlike the BBC's coverage which was borderline sycophantic over the blackness of his skin – more to come on that issue!

Forget the question is Obama post-racial, as that answer clearly is no, but what I want to add is: Is Obama post-ideological? I feel this is in part true and will be a theme running though his presidency. Two examples point the way:

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works...

“Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.”

These comments have put to bed the left-right divide for years to come and put an outward lenses on things – I feel the 21st century struggle will be globalism not ideology of the past – Obama to his credit has the vision to see that.

The next part of the speech I was dumbfounded to hear him spill was this:

“Honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.”

These surely are the words of a conservative?! When he said them, I really felt they jarred the speech. 'A return to these truths' aren't the progressive revolutionary words of a man people uphold as a nation changer.

All in all I felt Obama's speech has actually provided the smelling salts to his own intoxicating dream that has duped and stultified the nation for nearly a year.

I do actually agree with Will Smith, who the BBC habitually had on repeat in some quasi-homage to racial America, in that Obama is the embodiment of an idea that no man can take away from him.

Obama - the man, may fail after 4 years in office by changing little, but Obama – the idea, i.e. the notion that the US can turn on a six-pence and volte-face to energise its flagging stature, then no one can really argue with the potency of that man – Barak Hussein Obama II.

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