Obama’s Appeal to Emotionalism

Charles Krauthammer has an editiorial up on RealClearPolitics today titled Deception at Core of Obama’s Plans. He argues that Obama offered up non sequiturs for reasons why our economy is rapidly declining. There are any number of reasonable explanations for the downturn (too much money given out by the Fed, irresponsible lending, etc) but Obama’s reaons are ridiculous (lack of universal health care, global warming, not enough college graduates).

The logic of Obama’s address to Congress went like this:

“Our economy did not fall into decline overnight,” he averred. Indeed, it all began before the housing crisis. What did we do wrong? We are paying for past sins in three principal areas: energy, health care, and education — importing too much oil and not finding new sources of energy (as in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf?), not reforming health care, and tolerating too many bad schools.

The “day of reckoning” has now arrived. And because “it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament,” Obama has come to redeem us with his far-seeing program of universal, heavily nationalized health care; a cap-and-trade tax on energy; and a major federalization of education with universal access to college as the goal.

Amazing. As an explanation of our current economic difficulties, this is total fantasy. As a cure for rapidly growing joblessness, a massive destruction of wealth, a deepening worldwide recession, this is perhaps the greatest non sequitur ever foisted upon the American people.

But Krauthammer misses the key principle in action here. Obama is making a fervant plea to our religious emotionalism. We’re paying for past sins? It’s a day of reckoning? This is the type of argument you’d expect from Mike Huckabee, who’s argued that we’re stewards of the earth who shouldn’t wreck something that doesn’t belong to us. Or Pastor John Hagee who claimed the disaster in New Orleans as a result of Hurricaine Katrina was punishment from God for sinful behavior.

Obama leaves it vague as against whom we’ve been so sinful. Let the religious assume it’s God. Let the environmentalists assume it’s nature. It doesn’t matter. It’s the same nihilist rhetoric: you’re inherently evil, you’ve been doing evil things and the universe is trying to crush you.

The only sins we’ve committed are individually against ourselves when we agree to this irrationalism.