Thursday, August 28, 2008
Emotion trumps Logic in Obama's Convention Speech
Due to some faulty information, I tuned in to hear Obama's speech after it was over. But I have read it, and, admittedly, the words on paper don't have the same punch as Barack's preacherly delivery, but I did have some reactions.
Overall, it was long, and its themes repetitive and predictable. But, it offered that inspirational political style that, when delivered with Obama's usual emulation of Martin Luther King, zings right into the emotions that are his and the Democrats' central appeal. It's a clever trick, bringing pity and righteous indignation for the present government, while insisting that the same government structure under him will be contrastingly kindly and paternal. The Dem theme of the "mean and selfish Republicans" versus the "compassionate and supportive Democrats" gets the visceral arousal that logic and specifics on issues don't.
I'm a psychologist. From years of practice I've learned that when you pit reason against emotion, emotion wins. Barack is so emotionally engaging that he summons adherents with platitudes and, in this case, unassailably universal values and visions.
What is it he plans to do that is such a change from the present Democratic congress' direction? From Nancy Pelosi and the other lawmakers who have blocked innovative legislation that George Bush desired? Well, one change is that Obama's black, and that is huge. But from tonight's lovely generalities, "change" might just be skin-deep.
Obama naturally presented statements that bothered me. Regarding McCain, the nominee said, "For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy--give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is, you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You're on your own."
Aarrggh. Since when does any politician "give more and more to those with the most"? What does he mean, "give"? The federal government doesn't have any of its own wealth--every penny of its resources are forcibly confiscated under pain of imprisonment--from those who work to earn it. Whatever the government "gives," it first must take. When the government takes less from people who have enough to then hire other people, that's not "trickling down," that's allowing expansion.
The "Ownership Society" gives individuals control, or "ownership" over their own resources--to choose their children's schools, to control their retirement plans and funds, to make their own health care decisions--that's empowerment, not abandonment.
Obama misuses the term and smirks that Republicans say "tough luck" to the unemployed. What would he prefer--that the government say "I'll hire you?" When people don't have health care, why does he think it more efficient to create a huge national bureaucracy to intervene between peoples' earnings and their health insurers? And as far as giving "boots" to those "born in poverty," they're only valuable if the footwear's used to regularly walk to class, punctually show up for work, and wear out the soles striving to advance--gifts the government just can't give.
But overall, Obama used cute phrases to describe what everybody wants, a speech of the ilk used to unite the nation after a candidate's already won the presidency.
His concept of "change" sounded far too broad and moderate to please his base, but who cares--they're so emotionally fired up they'll cheer anything The One says. Here's what Obama pledges to do: Eliminate capital gains taxes for startups (while increasing taxes on larger corporations), and cut taxes "for 95% of working families" while steeply raising them for those who earn more than $150,000.
His pie-in-the-sky energy plan is to stop depending on middle eastern oil in 10 years (not mentioning that 75% of our oil today comes from South and Central America), and "invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy; wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced." Aside from nationalizing something that private industries are falling all over themselves trying to accomplish right now, his energy innovations are pretty much what McCain wants, too.
Obama's Princeton education sure was a boon for him, so he wants to federalize schooling down to the lowest levels, taking control for local districts away from those closest and making Washington the watchdog. This was a flop in George Bush's administration--his "No Child Left Behind" act now saddles teachers with gearing lessons to tests rather than to students, but Obama plans to "recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support" so they'll be even more directly controlled by the Feds.
Yep, Obama will lovingly embrace you, cradle to grave. He says he'll cut your health care premiums but at the same time guarantee coverage for those already chronically, expensively sick. He'll force employers to give family leave time even when disruptive and financially crippling to business, and magically "protect social security for future generations." He's going to do it all, with swaddling, enveloping, socialistic governmental paternalism. Who's going to pay for it? Dunno, cuz MY taxes are going to be lowered, remember?
I sure hope McCain picks somebody really electrifying, because the GOP needs its own strong dose of emotion in order to beat the Obama feel-good hope machine. Only with some ecstatic energy can McCain get the momentum to let reason, experience and logic prevail.