Election '08: Coming down to Authenticity?

Bill Whittle, writing at NRO, nails it; he explains why the left is having so much trouble “getting” Palin. And why, when CNN uses the spectacularly unsympathetic son-tasing “poor fired trooper” to hurt Palin, it backfires on them. The elites don’t understand how much every part of her story resonates with us in one way or another.

She is so absolutely, remarkably, spectacularly ordinary. I think the magic of Sarah Palin speaks to a belief that so many of us share: the sense that we personally know five people in our immediate circle who would make a better president than the menagerie of candidates the major parties routinely offer. Sarah Palin has erupted from this collective American Dream ā€” the idea that, given nothing but classic American values like hard work, integrity, and tough-minded optimism you can actually do what happens in the movies: become Leader of the Free World, the President of the United States of America. (Or, well, you know, vice president.)

The thing is, Palin knows she is ordinary. She knows that her story is quite a lot of “our” stories, and she knows that we know she’s authentic. There is something really healthy in all of that.

Contrast it with this 1998 audio of Sen. Obama suggesting that his salvation is wrapped up in our “collective” salvation.

“…my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country. Unfortunately I think that recognition requires that we make sacrifices, and this country has not always been willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring about a new day and a new age.” – [ emphasis mine]

Obama may be taken out of context, so I don’t want to overdo, but in listening to Obama, here, what I’m getting is a sense of man who is looking to satisfy something inside himself, and his satisfaction (or validation) cannot be found within, so he is looking externally – and taking action externally – to bring it about. He needs to “save” the whole country, to “save” himself.

People do this all the time on a small scale, but to want do it on a large scale – a “world-changing” scale, complete with grandiose pageantry – suggests an appetite that cannot be sated in “ordinary” and “authentic” ways. And that is a little troubling. Most Americans will tell you they don’t need Barack Obama to help them with their salvation, thank you, very much; much less “the whole country.”

I don’t want to be unfair. This audio is ten years old. But nothing Sen. Obama is saying today – and I’m talking about his alarming “service” program that is not getting much scrutiny in the press, and his wife’s warning that “Barack is going to make you work…” – sounds markedly different.

Yesterday, a Obama-supporter asked me, why I responded more positively to McCain’s invitation to volunteerism over Obama’s. A fair question. The difference, I think, is the understanding of the words “service” and “volunteerism.”

I used to volunteer at a local hospital, working with patients recovering from brain accidents, and also at a local Alzheimer’s facility. I did that because I wanted to, I was not compelled to do it (except, perhaps by the Holy Spirit). Because it was truly voluntary, it was real, authentic service.

When McCain said, “nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself,” I understood what he was saying.

But the thing is, you have to want to do it. You have to be serving with a willing heart, with a “servants heart” as Palin would say, otherwise, it is not “service” to something “greater than yourself” but mere “working.” And if the cause “greater than yourself” is some socialist ideal, well, history has not shown that equalizing endeavor to be a bearer of great happiness.

Think of monasticism. A monastic gives up everything, moves into a community, share all his goods and even lets go of individuality; if superficial individuality is subsumed in the cause of something greater, it is because the monks and nuns have individually determined that it must be so. Because everyone there is of a like mind, and voluntarily giving themselves up – voluntarily practicing self-abnegation – it works. It is an authentic life of service and sacrifice because it is voluntary.

If you were to try to force monasticism, to compel people to work at something in which they do not believe, to give themselves up for something that does not speak to their individual hearts and spirits, it would not work. It would be completely inauthentic, and it would die.

Sen. McCain is talking about a life of “service and sacrifice,” because he knows that life. Sarah Palin knows about the “servants heart” because she did not start out looking to be great, planning a “career in greatness.” She just joined the PTA and then followed things logically to where they led.

I have always found it interesting that Sen. Obama has – at his young age – already written two autobiographies. He is an exceedingly gifted writer, so one autobiography might have made sense; writers write. But two? It seems like while he was writing about life, and living in a bubble of theories, McCain and Palin were both too busy living authentic lives.

Read all of Whittle here, btw – it’s his first piece for NRO and it’s a knockout.

Cowgirls are all about authenticity.

Related: Is Totalitarianism Incompatible with Monasticism?
Obama’s Existential Crisis
Vanderleun: Does Obama Possess Courage?
Maxed Out Mama wonders, too.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://hillaryneedsavacation.blogspot.com/ HNAV

    Great post…

    It reminds me of why I opposed a Life Long Beltway Celebrity for the GOP Nomination.

    In a time when the US Congress has historically low approval ratings, it was mindless in my humble opinion, to select a Candidate who has so little in common with Americans being from the Senate Club, lacks CEO experience, and has really no accomplishment in Office worthy of note.

    It is little wonder why the NY TIMES, and a number of Democrat Partisans advocated for Senator McCain to defeat more sound alternatives in the Primary.

    Certainly I am hard on Senator McCain, but my point is merely intended to explain, why so many are so excited about Gov. Palin.

    Genuine, honest, decent, with conviction, who has risen to success Outside of the Washington Swamp.

    It is possible, a Washington Outsider, proven as a CEO, a genuine success from the Free Market, might be winning in a Landslide as a GOP Presidential Nominee.

    I only hope the McCain-Palin Ticket succeeds, but have to wonder if Palin can carry Senator McCain.

    Regardless, hopefully the many manipulative, triangulating, gaming Politicians, will learn to embrace sound honesty of Gov. Palin, after seeing her vivid Popularity and Strength.

  • http://maxedoutmama.blogspot.com MaxedOutMama

    I have been wondering myself about Obama’s seeming drive to push outward and remake the world in the image he thinks it should have, and what that means about his inner self.

    Your point about service is very well taken.

    The difference between a utopia and a community is that in the utopia the laws force men to be better than they can be. Utopias collapse. Communities survive.

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  • http://www.justgrits.wordpress.com Obis_Sister

    “If you were to try to force monasticism, to compel people to work at something in which they do not believe, to give themselves up for something that does not speak to their individual hearts and spirits, it would not work.”

    That’s when the monastery turns into a gulag.

  • lulu

    I linked to Bill Whittle’s column and thought it was great, but I was blown away by the last few paragraphs.

    This is what I posted at another site:

    “Let me tell you how much this last week has affected this conservative.

    A oouple of months ago I said I wasn’t going to vote for McCain for a multitude of reasons. Let Obama win, I thought, and wait for 2012 for Jindal. Then, after I realized the disaster Obama would be, I said I would hold my nose and vote for McCain.

    Then last week happened, and I was caught up in “Palin Power”, the one I had hoped for but didn’t think would happen, and I knew I could vote for the Palin(McCain) ticket. Maybe McCain wasn’t so bad.

    Then Thursday night, Captain John won my conservative head with his promise to veto overbloated spending bills, but he won my heart with “and they broke me”. His story from his own lips was powerful and inspiring. I think his simple talk touched many a chord out there in American.

    I can now say I can fight for this man, his ticket, and for Cindy as first lady.

    I have watched many Republican conventions, even since Eisenhower when I was a little girl, and I thought this one was one of the best.”

    I had not read Bill’s column when I wrote those words. A little scary, but it is apparent that my heart is not the only one that got stolen on Thursday night.

  • Susan K.

    I have also looked at Obama’s “service” program, a massive bureaucracy, which will cost millions, billions of dollars. What on earth is he doing thinking up a government “service” program that will coerce Americans to “serve” when we have energy problems that need addressed NOW and world events that threaten to shake the West’s security, i.e. Russia/Georgia, etc.!?? His service program, in my estimation, could be what is known in China as “re-education camps.”

  • culperjr.

    Your mention of Obama’s two autobiographies brings up one of the things I found most annoying–and depressing–about the Clinton administration. I felt that Clinton’s 8 years in office had much more to do with working through his own personal psychodrama than it ever did with serving America.

    I see a repeat of this in Barack Obama. He is really nothing more than a typical Chicago machine politician, but he has dressed himself in messianic language and imagery. Worst yet, I think he may believe his own press.

    America doesn’t need a savior. We already have one, and He doesn’t need our votes. We need a leader. What we don’t need is another liberal with daddy issues and a hard, angry, resentful, ambitious wife. Been there, done that.

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