My big push in the next two weeks is to keep the focus on the two parties’ differing visions of America. It’s much easier to get a handle on the big picture, and avoids the mud-slinging associated with the personalities lined up behind these ideological views. I’ve pointed out that, if you like big government, whether it’s supposedly benefitting you or actually burdening you, pick Obama/Biden, no matter the problems with those candidates. Likewise, if you like smaller government (because, sadly, there is no small government), even though it means you get fewer benefits, go for McCain/Palin.
Jonah Goldberg (unsurprisingly) is also writing about these huge ideological divides — statism versus individualism, small government versus big government — divides that transcend personality. His starting point is by-now-very-symbolic Joe the Plumber:
Wurzelbacher symbolizes an optimistic, individualistic vision of America sorely lacking — until recently — in McCain’s rhetoric.
Barack Obama, in contrast, has offered the most rhetorically eloquent defense of collectivism since Franklin D. Roosevelt. In his biographical video at the Democratic convention, he proclaimed that in America, “one person’s struggle is all of our struggles.” In his acceptance speech, he artfully replaced the idea of the American dream with the century-old progressive nostrum of “America’s promise.”
But the two visions are in opposition: the former individualistic, the latter collectivist. We each have our own idea of the American dream. Joe the Plumber’s is to own a small plumbing company; yours might be something else entirely. In America, that’s fine, because the pursuit of happiness is an individual, not a collective, right.
Obama’s “America’s promise,” meanwhile, harkens back a century to the writings of such progressives as Herbert Croly (author of The Promise of American Life), who demonized individualism while sanctifying collective action overseen by the state. Obama often articulates a vision of government inspired by the biblical injunction to be our brother’s keeper. Few would dispute the moral message, but many disagree that such religious imperatives are best translated into tax or economic policy. (Where are the separation-of-church-and-state fetishists when you need them?) But individualists haven’t had much of a voice in McCain, at least not until last week.
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