You Must Sacrifice, You Must Serve

Around this time in the presidential election cycle, Democratic candidates traditionally start “running to the center.”

With a wink and a nudge to their core, far-left constituencies, the candidates in effect say, “For the next five months I’m going to sound like a small-government Republican, talking about tax cuts and free enterprise and a strong defense and cutting back the welfare rolls. But don’t worry, this is just to have a calming effect on all those oxen we’re going to get back to collectively goring next year.”

The rhetoric then shifts to the right — until the day after the election, of course, when the candidate hopes to be drawing up lists of cabinet nominees from a directory of “Who’s Who Among Socialists on Campus.”

I hope my congratulations are not premature, but it’s worthy of note that, so far, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama does not seem to be taking this path. If Sen. Obama is elected president, it will not be because he has disguised the fact that he is a dyed-in-the-wool collectivist.

According to a transcript of the graduation speech Sen. Obama gave at Wesleyan University last weekend — he was called in to replace the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, which presumably means Derek Shearer and Fidel Castro were unavailable — this career politician (who lives in a house worth $1.65 million, made more than $4 million last year, and who wears very nice suits, indeed) advised the young graduates: “You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy. … But I hope you don’t. Not because … you have a debt to all those who helped you get to where you are today, although I do believe you have that debt to pay. It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation.”

This was not a slip of the tongue. It was written out in advance. Nor is it likely this well-educated man does not know what he has just said. And while this doctrine follows quite logically from the direction in which the Democratic Party has been trying to take this nation in great leaps in 1913 and 1933 and 1965, it still represents a vast sea-change from the traditional American notion that we deserve to succeed and prosper based solely on our own, individual choices and efforts.

Of course it’s meritorious to voluntarily help the less fortunate. But what the candidate has just said is that we cannot be “saved” by our own merit and labors if we do not force our neighbors to behave properly, as well. And that — conversely — so long as our neighbors work hard and do well, those of who choose to sit around drunk or watching the soap operas all day are also to be saved — “collectively.”

Do I have this wrong? In a recent speech in California, the candidate’s wife Michelle said “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. … Barack Obama will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual — uninvolved, uninformed.”

Campaigning in Oregon, Sen. Obama recently said “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. … That’s not going to happen.”

“Not going to happen?” asked Investors Business Daily in a June 2 editorial. “Require? Demand? Never allow? If you detect an ominous tone of authoritarianism, so do we.”

There is a modern tendency to seek, in a president, a “great leader.” The government schools teach that the great presidents include not just Washington, but also the tyrants Lincoln and Frank Roosevelt — not Jefferson or Van Buren, who are dismissed as insignificant since they merely administered the executive branch in a competent and (mostly) constitutional manner without launching any great collectivist crusades.

Was Napoleon a “great leader”? He seems to fit the definition currently in use in the government schools.

Barack Obama wants us to “serve.” He told the crowd in Middletown “There are so many ways to serve.”

But you know what? I don’t want to serve Barack Obama, or John McCain, or any other new Napoleon. No one should “serve” any president, except the White House waiters and soldiers in time of war. Washington warned us that government can be a dangerous servant. But he still called it the “servant.” If there’s any serving going on, we elect a government to serve us, not the other way around. Ask not what you must do for your government; ask what they’ll keep your government from doing to you.

Now, let’s acknowledge the context of the speech in question. Sen. Obama was trying to convey some sense of vision and idealism to young people about to start off into the world. And he did warn against pursuing “only” the big house and nice suits. Of course there are higher virtues than seeking wealth for its own sake.

But while Wesleyan in nominally Methodist, it’s currently about as secular as you can get (not to mention about as Politically Correct.) Sen. Obama was not speaking at a seminary graduation, and he’s not currenttly trying out for a job in the clergy. He seeks to become the chief executive officer of a secular state with enormous power to impose collectivism by force, should it fall into the hands of the wrong person. That’s relevant context, here, too.

Sen. Obama thundered to the Wesleyan grads that “At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising,” (Really? Is Miami gone?) “we need you to help lead a green revolution.”

Yet, disturbingly, he made not a single passing reference, not a cursory tip of the hat, to the fact that graduates who seek jobs in commerce and industry — manufacturing and transporting and selling the goods that fill our ports and rivers and highways, raw materials and finished products that make our lives longer and better and happier than those of half-naked savages huddled in some distant jungle hoping the panthers don’t drag off the baby tonight — are doing a “public service,” as well.

In fact, the capitalist system is wonderful in the ruthlessness with which it rewards only those who can provide the public with a product or service they’re willing to voluntarily pay for, faster or cheaper or better than anyone else. And while someone with the talent to be a surgeon or a physicist or an engineer is free to spend her day collecting soda cans, capitalism — without forcing her choice — reliably indicates to her which job is more valuable to society by the mechanism of the salary each job commands.

Is it really possible Sen. Barack Obama — who has had virtually no experience working in private industry, in a factory, in a mine, on a ranch or farm, in a store — does not know this?

At the very least, as he expresses the “hope” that today’s graduates “don’t” chase after financial success, one might think he would express a passing word of gratitude to all those taxpayers out there who continue to struggle to make $50,000 or more — since those are the taxpayers who provide the vast bulk of the confiscated tax loot that our congressmen regularly turn into porkfat to purchase their re-elections.

Not a word of thanks for our labors, Sen. Obama — for the labors of those who built the Wal-Mart and the McDonald’s, even if they did so in hopes of being able to afford a big house and a nice suit … just like yours?

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