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Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Back in early February, the Okie Gardener raised the issue of Barack Obama's church (read the original post here).

FYI: That February post continues to be one of our most popular "Google" hits.

Since that post, much has been written about the candidate and his church and his pastor. Today, the New York Times weighs in with what strikes me as a relatively thorough and fair discussion of Obama and his spiritual journey. I will be interested to see if the Gardener has any additional thoughts on the matter.

I am pasting an abridged version of the introductory graphs below, followed by the link to the story in full, but, first, this comment:

As a dedicated parishioner of a sincere and loving church that is not always in accord with my political views, I am not eager to hold a congregant responsible for everything his pastor says in the pulpit or in other public spaces.

Having said that, I am interested in Obama's religious views and his spiritual biography.

Excerpts from the Times article by Jodi Kantor:

Twenty years ago at Trinity, Mr. Obama, then a community organizer in poor Chicago neighborhoods, found the African-American community he had sought all his life, along with professional credibility as a community organizer and an education in how to inspire followers. He had sampled various faiths but adopted none until he met [Rev. Jeremiah A.] Wright Jr., a dynamic pastor who preached Afrocentric theology, dabbled in radical politics and delivered music-and-profanity-spiked sermons.

"Evidently, the pressures of Mr. Obama’s presidential run are placing a strain on the relationship between the star congregant and the man who led him from skeptic to self-described Christian."

Mr. Wright’s assertions of widespread white racism and his scorching remarks about American government have drawn criticism, and prompted the senator to cancel his delivery of the invocation when he formally announced his candidacy in February.

Mr. Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate who says he was only shielding his pastor from the spotlight, said he respected Mr. Wright’s work for the poor and his fight against injustice. But “we don’t agree on everything,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve never had a thorough conversation with him about all aspects of politics.”

It is hard to imagine, though, how Mr. Obama can truly distance himself from Mr. Wright. The Christianity that Mr. Obama adopted at Trinity has infused not only his life, but also his campaign. He began his presidential announcement with the phrase “Giving all praise and honor to God,” a salutation common in the black church. He titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Mr. Wright’s sermons, and often talks about biblical underdogs, the mutual interests of religious and secular America, and the centrality of faith in public life.

The full article here.
Category: Campaign 2008.2
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
We are approaching an election of great import. We are a nation at war, and we face grave external threats. We are buffeted by serious challenges at home that include healthcare, education, our increasing inability to live within our means and the coarsening of our culture. We will expect the next President to address all these problems as well as determine the course of American freedom through significant appointments to the federal judiciary and within the Executive. Much is at stake.

At the same time, we have never conducted a presidential canvass like this before, with so many candidates, with so much money and media attention on this scale so early in the election cycle. Therefore, there are no historical parallels. There are no compelling models (at least not during the primary season).

What should we expect? My mantra: Nobody knows anything.

Having said that, I am optimistic. I am confident that the American people are up to the duty of selecting the next chief executive. Moreover, I am convinced that the next president (whom ever he or she may prove to be) will be up to the difficult task.

Regardless of who wins the coming election, approximately half the nation, in varying degrees of vehemence, will greet the next president with disdain. However, that person will undoubtedly be a dedicated public servant who wants America to prosper and succeed. The burdensome office will test, torment and age the 44th President of the United States, but the sacred obligation will also summon the total of that individual’s inner strength and the best elements of his or her personality to meet the awesome challenges of the post.

More importantly, our nation has the innate capacity to overcome the limitations of our individual leaders. Writing in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed: "the great advantage of the Americans consists in their [ability] to commit faults which they may afterwards repair." As a corollary, he wrote: "American democracy frequently errs in the choice of the individuals to whom it entrusts the power of the administration; but...the state prospers under their rule."

Why does American democracy prosper in spite of inferior leadership? Tocqueville offered three reasons: 1) the people are vigilant and jealous of their rights; 2) leaders are in power for relatively short periods of time; and, most importantly, 3) the interest of the leaders are more likely to be subsumed in the interest of the people.

While aristocratic (or elite) "magistrates" might offer more sterling talents and virtues individually, there is "a secret tendency in democratic institutions that [works toward the good] of the community in spite of their vices and mistakes." Ironically, Tocqueville argues, "in aristocratic governments public men may frequently do harm without intending it; and in democratic states they bring about good results of which they have never thought."

In truth, political passions tend to blind us to the good in American public servants. Looking back over American history, we do not see a pattern of good versus evil. While the battles between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were cast in those Manichean partisan terms during their own day, we now see that both Hamilton and Jefferson were earnest and self-sacrificing in their love of country; more importantly, they both proved essential to our corporate success.

The same can be said for Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay or William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. This is a recurring theme in our national narrative.

My prediction for 2008 (with one caveat): As long as we the people do our job, the system will work and democracy will prevail.