Monday, June 30, 2008

Moving Forward

The ongoing mantra from the left, and certainly form the Obama camp, has been that we need to 'move forward' and get past our differences. This, says Obama, is what he plans to offer with his 'new kind' of politics. Senator Clinton, in similar fashion, urged her supporters and the rest of the country to join her in ushering a new day for America. Those on the Republican side are no less guilty, although one hears less us such talk from the right side of the aisle. 

Here is General Wesley Clark, a NATO commander during the Clinton era, describing what he thinks Barack Obama will do for the country:
And I think what we need to do, Bob, is we need to stop talking about the old politics of left and right, and we need to pull together and move the country forward. And I think that's what Barack Obama will do.
All this vague talk about moving forward makes everyone feel for a moment that our quarreling is just plain stubbornness and that what's really in the best interest of the country is compromise and conciliation. Talk of 'moving forward' is predicated on the idea that there is an objectively determined destination, a definition of progress for the country, that all of us can recognize and all we must do is stop fighting so we can get there. If only someone could show us the way...

But here is the problem. The distinctions between left and right, the visions for America that each one of these ideological camps has, are very different from each other. It's not a matter of just putting our petty differences aside because they're not that petty. Many Americans see our future as one not trying to imitate the flawed socialist policies of Europe, with high taxes, extensive social welfare programs, massive redistribution of wealth, and disincentives for personal responsibility and entrepreneurship. Those are not the ideas that made America what it is and for many millions of people, adopting such policies would be problematic to say the least. But this is what the left wants. The vision of the left has no place for such archaisms as the right to bear arms, the free enterprise system, a meritocratic society in which race, gender or any other collective definition doesn't confer special privileges on some at the expense of others. Nor does it want to preserve a strong and able standing military; when 9/11 happens again, we won't send bombs but rather hugs and kind words of sympathy and repentance for our sins.

So, to trivialize the right-left dichotomy is a fatal and dishonest move. There ARE real differences between the visions of what the United States is to be in the 21st century, and so 'progress' will be defined differently by each side as well. There is no one place toward which we can progress.

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