The more I watch Barack Obama’s campaign, the more I’m coming to realise that the basic problem that his opponents have is that he is beyond the normal "rules" of American politics.
Let’s start with the Jeremiah Wright business: people go back and forth on his video clips as to whether they’re representative of his thinking, how much Obama actually believes this, etc. But, on the interview he did last year on Hannity and Colmes, he made one thing clear: he was an advocate of Liberation Theology. And if that doesn’t come out often in his sermons, he’s lying, either to Sean Hannity or to his church.
Problem here, of course, is that most Americans are just too flat provincial to know what Liberation Theology is. (I give some explanation here.) If they did, they would understand where Rev. Wright was coming from, and certainly how much his thinking is indebted to Marx et. al. (Personally, I think that Karl Marx is a big improvement over most of what passes for left wing thought these days, but I digress…)
What Jeremiah Wright thinks and says is significant to Barack Obama and what we might think of him. Wright was his pastor and spiritual mentor for many years; Barack "hung around" Wright a great deal. It’s reasonable to say In the case of John McCain and John Hagee/Rod Parsley, McCain just picked these guys up along the way. I’ve been in Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity long enough to know that John McCain isn’t one.
This relates to the fracas I got myself into a couple of weeks ago about Obama’s apparent lack of patriotism and how this hostility to country was instilled in him by his mother. I got the civics teacher type of objection that bringing this up wasn’t quite "according to Hoyle," to put it politely.
Now you’d think that any self-respecting, far-left (and those two may be an oxymoron) liberal would jump at the chance of putting forth someone who a) was strongly influenced by his mother (as opposed to father) in a political sense and b) who really didn’t like the country. And I’m sure that they’re happy about this. The problem with is is that most Americans won’t vote for someone with this kind of conviction if they thought it was true, any more than they would vote for an advocate of Liberation Theology. So we end up in a game of deception.
The "civics teacher" approach tells us that we need to examine a candidate’s positions and come to a conclusion based on that and that alone. But that doesn’t take into consideration that American politics is in reality a game of bluff, where candidates work on appealing to people’s pre-conceived ideas and emotions while concealing who they really are, even sometimes to their own bases. When we’re dealing with a person like Barack Obama, raised outside the U.S. with a different set of experiences, the vetting needs to be a little different. But our electorate is not prepared for this. The results could be great, or more likely disastrous, but we need at least to be equipped to know one way or the other.