Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Book Review: The Audacity of Hope

During my break, I finally got the chance to read Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. Anyone still trying to decide between Obama, Clinton, and McCain should read this book, written a year before his campaign began.  It is not as powerful as Dreams From My Father (his first book, written before he ran for any public office), but it gives you deep insights into how he thinks and approaches life and politics.

I read books in the order they appear, figuring authors arranged their chapters that way for a purpose.  But white evangelical Christians, who have heard decades of propaganda against Democrats not being “true Christians,” or those who have heard the recent propaganda against Obama’s faith (either the “secret Muslim” nonsense–most recently encouraged by Newt Gingrich!–or the attacks on his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright), may want to begin with the chapter on “Faith” and then go back to the beginning.

This is one of the most honest books I have ever read by a politician.  It is thoughtful and shows how Obama seeks to learn from those with whom he disagrees–on almost everything.  While critical of the Clintons in places, it also has numerous places of praise for them. The same is true of several Republicans.

The real context of his “bitter” remark is here, too. The term “bitter” was unfortunate, but far from being an attempt to disrespect working class whites (or their religion), it was an attempt to describe the way some of their resentments are justified–but have been shamefully manipulated.  All throughout the book, Obama sticks to his progressive principles while trying to get people to understand each other.

If I were not already committed to vote for Obama, this book would have convinced me.  That’s what I told people here in KY when making calls for the Obama campaign, yesterday, too.  (Obama seems to have the edge here in Louisville, but, not in rural KY–yet.)  It also answers the numerous charges of “he’s all talk,” by giving major substantive approaches to most of the problems facing the nation. 

Not that I always agree.  A convinced pacifist, I still think his Just War approach to foreign policy is not bold enough in peacemaking efforts–but what a huge improvement over a policy of preemptive wars!  Likewise, I don’t think reforming death penalty systems is enough–I want capital punishment abolished.

But I am not voting for sainthood or perfection, but for someone who can lead the country in a better direction–not just a return to the ’90s, either.  I have no doubt a president Obama will make mistakes. I see problems in this book that indicate that.  But, it also shows a man deeply aware of how even the best politicians can become out of touch, can go wrong, can be sucked into a system that gives us more of the same.  That awareness, which permeates throughout this book, might be a helpful innoculation.

This one is worth reading even if one is a diehard Republican who is already committed to voting for McCain. Why? Because, this is not a campaign book, but an appeal to the U.S. people to seek answers together for the many problems we face. It’s an invitation to conversation.  I urge readers to read this and join the conversation.


April 21, 2008 - Posted by | U.S. politics


  1. I read the book before he declared for the race(which was about 3 or 4 months after he started campaigning) and I loved it. I agree that it is one of the most honest books writtend by a politican. His admiration to the constitution and his understanding of our nations political history was enough to convince me he was the real deal.

    I’m glad to see you back in the blogosphere! Thanks for your thoughtful posts.

    Comment by Progressive Faith | April 21, 2008

  2. The whole Rev Wright thing has completely turned me off of Obama. Let’s face it, the guy was half-white and he needed to get street cred in the black community so he decided to buy into a “black liberationist” church with a wacko pastor. And his idea of “just war”– get out of Iraq and then go back in if Al Qaeda gets stronger. But he supports a unilateral and preemptive attack on Al Qaeda in Pakistan, even without the approval of the Pakistani government. He knows about as much about foreign policy as he does about picking a pastor. (Although I do agree with his Church’s opposition to Israel, and their support of Hamas, though. And with their support of Minister Farrakhan, too.)

    Comment by randy P | April 22, 2008

  3. A Living Lie
    By Thomas Sowell

    An e-mail from a reader said that, while Hillary Clinton tells lies, Barack Obama is himself a lie. That is becoming painfully apparent with each new revelation of how drastically his carefully crafted image this election year contrasts with what he has actually been saying and doing for many years.

    Senator Obama’s election year image is that of a man who can bring the country together, overcoming differences of party or race, as well as solving our international problems by talking with Iran and other countries with which we are at odds, and performing other miscellaneous miracles as needed.

    There is, of course, not a speck of evidence that Obama has ever transcended party differences in the United States Senate. Voting records analyzed by the National Journal show him to be the farthest left of anyone in the Senate. Nor has he sponsored any significant bipartisan legislation — nor any other significant legislation, for that matter.

    Senator Obama is all talk — glib talk, exciting talk, confident talk, but still just talk.

    Some of his recent talk in San Francisco has stirred up controversy because it revealed yet another blatant contradiction between Barack Obama’s public image and his reality.

    Speaking privately to supporters in heavily left-liberal San Francisco, Obama let down his hair and described working class people in Pennsylvania as so “bitter” that they “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

    Like so much that Obama has said and done over the years, this is standard stuff on the far left, where guns and religion are regarded as signs of psychological dysfunction — and where opinions different from those of the left are ascribed to emotions (“bitter” in this case), rather than to arguments that need to be answered.

    Like so many others on the left, Obama rejects “stereotypes” when they are stereotypes he doesn’t like but blithely throws around his own stereotypes about “a typical white person” or “bitter” gun-toting, religious and racist working class people.

    In politics, the clearer a statement is, the more certain it is to be followed by a “clarification,” when people react adversely to what was plainly said.

    Obama and his supporters were still busy “clarifying” Jeremiah Wright’s very plain statements when it suddenly became necessary to “clarify” Senator Obama’s own statements in San Francisco.

    People who have been cheering whistle-blowers for years have suddenly denounced the person who blew the whistle on what Obama said in private that is so contradictory to what he has been saying in public.

    However inconsistent Obama’s words, his behavior has been remarkably consistent over the years. He has sought out and joined with the radical, anti-Western left, whether Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers of the terrorist Weatherman underground or pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli Rashid Khalidi.

    Obama is also part of a long tradition on the left of being for the working class in the abstract, or as people potentially useful for the purposes of the left, but having disdain or contempt for them as human beings.

    Karl Marx said, “The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing.” In other words, they mattered only in so far as they were willing to carry out the Marxist agenda.

    Fabian socialist George Bernard Shaw included the working class among the “detestable” people who “have no right to live.” He added: “I should despair if I did not know that they will all die presently, and that there is no need on earth why they should be replaced by people like themselves.”

    Similar statements on the left go back as far as Rousseau in the 18th century and come forward into our own times.

    It is understandable that young people are so strongly attracted to Obama. Youth is another name for inexperience — and experience is what is most needed when dealing with skillful and charismatic demagogues.

    Those of us old enough to have seen the type again and again over the years can no longer find them exciting. Instead, they are as tedious as they are dangerous.

    Copyright 2008, Creators Syndicate Inc.

    Comment by randy P | April 22, 2008

  4. Mike,

    Is there a reason you have yet to correct your post on KFP that stated Obama voted against Kyle-Lieberman?

    Ditto Randy on #3.

    Comment by Yvette | April 23, 2008

  5. Yvette, as far as I know, Obama did vote against Kyle-Lieberman. I KNOW he didn’t vote FOR it, as Clinton did.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 23, 2008

  6. No…he did not show up. What a shock!

    Comment by Yvette | April 23, 2008

  7. Thanks, Yvette. I have suspended blogging on Kentucky Fried Politics, but I will consider breaking that to update this. It is disappointing that Obama didn’t take time out from campaigning to vote against that horrible amendment, but I remain glad that, unlike Hillary, he didn’t vote for it.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 23, 2008

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