Belmont Club

It's now or never

Last Chance SaloonThe conventional wisdom is that Obama is the man of the future. It’s argued that he represents what the younger generation desires. But what if, on the contrary, Obama actually represented the last gasp of the past? When Thomas Sowell writes about Obama’s “worn-out economic ideas” can he really be serious? Michael Ledeen argues in dead earnest that BHO’s ideas are mostly obsolete.

“Paradoxically, Obama is in some ways more a victim of age than McCain, although of a different sort.  Obama is an advocate of ideas that have aged to the point of dementia.  He’s an old-fashioned radical, and the leftist ideas that inspire him are no longer relevant to our world.  As Hegel used to say, the world changes, and the ideas that once described reality, and could be used to effectively change it when necessary, no longer apply to the changed world. Obama’s political ideas have aged, which is why they have no policy saliency.  They’re just words, fossilized remnants of a civilization that no longer exists.”

It may be objected that simply because ideas are old they are not necessarily in decline.  Perhaps they are notions “whose time has come”. But the site Gene Expression describes the results of interesting experiment which suggest Leftist ideas are now past their prime. The author did a frequency count of terms which are strongly associated with the leftist ideology in archives of JSTOR by year. JSTOR is an archive of academic journals.  The result of the frequency counts are startling to say the least.

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The graphs suggest that while Marxist ideas in academia built up a tremendous head of steam in the decades after 1970 they began to rapidly decline at the turn of the 21st century. If this is true then perhaps Barack Obama is riding on a huge, enormously powerful, but declining political wave.  Perhaps Michael Ledeen is only slightly premature in asserting that Obama represents the “fossilized remnants of a civilization that no longer exists”. The towers of the Left still climb to dizzying heights, but their foundations may be crumbling. Winston Churchill described the fate of men and movements that momentarily stand upon the crest of a wave that is about to topple over. “He was a cut flower in a vase, fair to see, yet bound to die, and to die very soon if the water was not constantly renewed.”

If such a decline were taking place it would be fascinating to imagine why. Two possible explanations are demography and globalization.  As Europeans and American elites shrink in numbers relative to other population groups, the relative power of their ideas is bound to fall.  Internationally, newly assertive cultures like China and India, for example, are less likely to bow down to the dowagers of Marxism than formerly. The emergence of the Internet has weakened the formerly tight grip cultural Marxism had on public discourse.

While it would be foolish to conclude on the basis of such slender evidence that the ideological ground is crumbling under Obama’s feet it would explain the curious brittleness of his campaign.  The unremitting assault by the Action Wires, street-men from ACORN, spokesmen with no apparent concern even for the appearance of fairness and even government prosecutors upon his critics more resembles the behavior of the desperate rather than the supremely confident.  The despite the bold front, it may be the case that for Ayers and company it’s now or never.  If the long term trends are running against them, then it is Power now, by any means necessary.

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