Reflections on a House Divided

Tipping Point

An article on a recent poll of the public's attitudes towards Sen Obama's connection with Rev Wright indicates that - some things in the culture have changed, drastically - and not for the better.

Often the advent of a deep cultural shift is marked by a resounding silence - it is what is not heard that tells the actual story. Such was the case in regards to the "Monica Lewinsky Scandal" of the Clinton Presidency.  Previous to that episode, In the US or UK at least, clear and public evidence of an  adulterous relationship engaged in by a current President or Prime Minister during their tenure in office would have been sufficient in itself to lead to the resignation of the official in question. And, in the case of the Monica Lewinsky affair, the headlines that emerged in the wake of its initial disclosure seemed to indicate that - amongst the main-stream press at that time - that very effect was  anticipated in regards to the case then at hand.

However, it soon became apparent that, even after most Americans (93%) had become convinced that it was likely that Pres Clinton had been involved in an ongoing adulterous relationship during his Presidency, howsoever much they might have disapprove of his actions personally: most (73%)did not want him to relinquish office, a solid majority (56%) were still glad that he was then the nation's leader, more Americans than not (57%) felt that the Presidents "personal life" "did not matter," and, those same studies indicated that, if he had to run again against the candidates who had opposed him in the previous election - 1996 - he would have still won, and by a comfortable margin. Not only had these attitudes  been engendered in the face of admitted adultery whilst the President was in office, but it was also the general perception that Pres Clinton had  lied under oath (80%), betrayed the public trust (57%), obstructed justice (55%), and that he would be remembered more for his part in this particular scandal than for any success he may have obtained during his administration (60%).

One major implication of these above mentioned responses is clear - that the "sexual revolution" which had "hit its stride" in the 1960s had to an important extent - and in spite of strong counter-currents emanating from conservative and religious revivals dating from the late 1970s - succeeded in changing American attitudes towards the question of what constitutes tolerable behaviour by its public officials - figures of the kind which had once been assumed to be morally obliged to serve as models for the nation's children - at least in regards to their public deportment.  And, that short of some dramatic and unforeseen set of circumstances, there seems to be little likelihood that this trend can be reversed any time soon. In addition, and perhaps more significantly in regards to the idea pf President as a model for public conduct - the episode made it apparent that some level of dishonesty - in regards to communications made to the public at large, and in official pronouncements made to them - as well as behaviour that was clearly illegal, had become acceptable in persons who are deemed to be performing successfully in regards to their official functions otherwise - as about 60% of Americans seemed to have thought Pres Clinton had been doing at the time of his impeachment (a trend which has been also "modelled" - with or without a corresponding area of  successful endeavour - by many ordinary citizens in some nations whose culture and political inclinations many liberals would like us to emulate here -  Six Out of 10 Commit Crimes).

Indications of another such fundamental shift in public attitudes - though one likely with graver long-term implications for the chances that our nation will survive, and do so with its traditional liberties and values intact - are implicit in a NYT article concering a recent poll of public attitudes towards Sen Obama's most recent response to the opinions of his former pastor - Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Harbingers  of seismic change are found in the juxtaposition of the following passages:

...nearly half of the voters surveyed, and a substantial part of the Democrats, said Mr. Obama had acted mainly because he thought it would help him politically, rather than because he had serious disagreements with his former pastor.

The survey found that, notwithstanding Mr. Obamaís efforts to distance himself from Mr. Wright, the man who married him and baptized his children, many Americans consider Mr. Wright to have had at least some influence in his life. Forty-three percent said they thought Mr. Wright has lot of or some influence on Mr. Obamaís political views.

For all the concern voiced by some Democrats that the party might be suffering damage from the nominating fight as it headed into the fall election, the survey found both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama in a strong position against Mr. McCain in a hypothetical general election match-up. Mr. Obama would defeat Mr. McCain by 51 percent to 40 percent among all voters, the poll found, and Mrs. Clinton would defeat him 53 to 41.

The survey offered evidence of the extent to which the Wright episode had captured the publicís attention. And it turned up signs that Mr. Obama might be moving beyond the issue: 60 percent of voters said they approved of the way he had handled the issue, and a majority said the news media had spent too much time covering the story.

(all emphasises added)
In Poll, Obama Survives Furor, but Fall Is the Test

There are other points raised as well, to the effect that: as of the date of the survey (5th of May) there were indications that - between Sens Obama and Clinton - Sen Obama was no longer considered to be the stronger candidate, that - though only a small percentage (9%) of Democratic voters were found to have significant qualms about Sen Obama arising from circumstances involving his former pastor - said group might be sufficient to influence the remaining primaries, and, that - though only a relatively small percentage of voters overall (24%) had themselves been swayed by that same situation - a much greater percentage (44%) had expressed the belief that it would matter significantly to others.

But, the gist of the matter is clear enough. The long time cleric, mentor and spiritual advisor of a major candidate of one of the country's only two viable political parties has unequivocally accused his/our country of: a consistent and significant record of world-wide oppression and racist genocide, claimed that terrorist attacks against the US are merely payback for his/our country's oppressive  polices, equated military action taken by the US in order to end WW II to the 9/11 attacks, alleged that both the drug problem in the Black community and the spread of HIV AIDS world-wide are products of the "American Government," approvingly reprinted an article by an Arab terrorist claiming that - among other things - Israel is a "...deformed modern Apartheid state..." and, called upon Blacks to join him in beseeching G-d to d-mn our his/our country. That almost half the voting public believes that: this same pastor "has lot of or some influence on [said candidate's] political views,"and, that, when after 20 years of relative acquiescence said candidate finally disavows his mentor it is because of political expediency rather than "...because he had serious disagreements with his former pastor."  Finally, that, in spite of the aforementioned beliefs widespread amongst the public at large, said  candidate is not only is still a in the race for the White House at all, but holds a significant lead over his opponent from the other political party - a genuine war hero with decidely moderate views on most issues of concern to the voters.

And - that - is the real story.

(C) David Aronin 2008