A video made by the host committee in Charlotte raised hackles on the right and had Democrats scrambling to disown it.
The video contained this explosive statement: “Government is the only thing we all belong to.”
The Obama campaign came out with denials of responsibility almost immediately:
“The video in question was produced and paid for by the host committee of the city of Charlotte. It’s neither an OFA nor a DNC video, despite what the Romney campaign is claiming. It’s time for them to find a new target for their faux outrage.”
Um…well, maybe. While the video was made by the host committee, on display throughout was the logo of the Democratic National Convention in the lower left hand corner. Like it or not, the video — and hence, the statement — received the imprimatur of the Democratic Party. That is, unless the Democrat’s want to disown their own convention.
It really doesn’t matter who produced the video. What matters is, do Democrats believe that the only thing we all “belong” to is government?
I liken it to the “You didn’t build that” statement by President Obama. The context of the words spoken by the president is hardly relevant. What matters is what he believes — and he tells us what he believes right off the bat:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own.
How much clearer do you want it? The horrible, twisted logic used by the Obama campaign and lefty bloggers to help the president run away from those words is also beside the point. The question that should concern us is not what Obama said, not who made the “belong to government” video, but rather how President Obama and the Democratic Party view the role of government in the lives of American citizens?
I think the right mischaracterizes the Democrat’s philosophy in this regard. Slapping the moniker “socialist” on anything smacking of more than one person doing something in America is ignorant. In fact, radical individualism is as dangerous as radical communitarianism.” One philosophy recognizes no responsibility except to oneself, while the other believes individuals should sacrifice all for the common good.
The problems for Democrats are political and philosophical. Politically, they are forced to subsume their true beliefs about the decidedly large role that the federal government should play in our communities because it is electoral poison. Americans still get their backs up when faced with the blatant encroachment of government in their lives, even if Democrats see that interference as benign. On the other hand, the Democrats are philosophically comfortable with the idea that American is one, gigantic “community” and that government must oversee the clashing interests of individuals to guarantee outcomes favorable to the largest number of citizens — or protect the interests of those who can’t protect themselves.
In this construct, individuals are actors in an ensemble cast, happily pitching in for the good of all — patriotically “giving back” in the president’s words so that others can follow their success.
The push-pull of this psychosis is evident at the convention so far. After weeks of the Obama campaign running away from his “You didn’t build that” remark, keynoter Julian Castro actually embraced the language of communitarianism and verified the Republican line of attack by agreeing with them about what the president said:
In many of its contours, Castro’s speech resembled President Obama’s now-infamous “you didn’t built that” riff. From “roads and bridges” to “schools and universities,” he pointed to the products of government investment that undergird all our lives. Where Republican delegates and politicians in Tampa hurled the speech at Obama like an epithet, turning it around into a “We built it!” chant, Castro insisted the president was right to begin with — that no one really builds anything alone, and that a helping hand from government can make the difference. (Still, Democrats seemingly can’t help making this argument in ways that open them to ridicule: Earlier Tuesday, the convention host committee released a video containing the cringe-inducing line “Government is the only thing we all belong to.”)
I like Bruce McQuain’s critique of the “belong to” statement:
What was conveyed was a message that, to me, is anti-liberty. Sorry to blunt about it, but it reflects a belonging that I reject. I’m not an American because of my government. I don’t belong to any group because of my government. My government exits at my forbearance. It exists solely to serve mine and other American’s needs.
And while we might disagree on is what those needs are and how much government is necessary, I don’t “belong” to the government in any sense whatsoever?
But what this short segment highlights is the very large philosophical gulf that exists between those who believe in individualism and those who are statists. The statement is a statement that glorifies the state while attempting to lump all of us as collectively “owned” by it. Whether or not that’s what the speaker meant, it is what he said and conveyed by using the word “belong”.
It might not be such a big deal if it wasn’t so obviously the usually unspoken belief of so many on the left. What we’re going to see in Charlotte is a celebration of big government and that sort of “belonging”.
That was exactly my immediate reaction. “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” I asked myself? It’s a beautiful exposition of the differences between right and left in the most fundamental of visions we have about America: How much individualism is healthy? How much emphasis should be placed on “community” and hence, the Great Arbiter of government?
Not statism, I think, where a classic definition of the term would include government owning the means of production and the sweat off the brow of the laborer. The left’s dalliance with “positive rights” where all of a sudden, we’re finding all these rights in the Constitution previously hidden, makes necessary the sublimation of most individual striving and achievement and a kind of forced altruism comes into play. This is where those more able, more intelligent, or simply those with a better idea for a mousetrap, are compelled to “give back” at the total discretion of the government. It knocks the idea of individual rights on its head and places the government in an ascendant position over the individual.
But the radical individualists are wrong also. Kirk’s “voluntary community” has many of the same elements of the liberal’s utopian communitarianism except most conservatives would argue that rather than using the word “community” to describe the country as a whole, the term defines the voluntary local associations, churches, and local government who voluntarily work together for the betterment of all. Obviously, this formulation doesn’t include Washington, whose unwelcome presence usually mucks things up.
I just wish the Democrats would decide how they want us to see their governing philosophy. At the moment, they are as confused as we are.