The Audacity of Cynicism
Barack Obama’s primary attraction isn’t his aura of postpartisanship or his lofty speeches. It isn’t his good looks or his “firsts” (first black president). It’s his promise to replace the politics of cynicism with the politics of hope, with the promise of what we can accomplish by uniting and working together that makes him attractive to voters.
That’s the spirit that inspired voters to Obama’s cause last spring, and to a lesser degree (as Obama’s gotten a bit off the “hope” message in recent weeks), still inspires voters today. Americans want hope; they are tired of cynicism.
Give me cynicism. There’s really no other way to look at the world, at least the not the geopolitical world. Uniting and working together always sounds good and productive. It never is.
When Obama went to Berlin, he said that the collapse of the Berlin Wall proved that “there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.” Right. Actually, the world didn’t stand as one during the Cold War—about forty percent of the world sided (though usually not by choice) with the Soviet Union. The fall of the Soviet Union wasn’t an example of the power of unity—it was a demonstration of the disastrous effects the constant threat of nuclear annihilation can have on an economy.
Or to go farther back, do you like the United State’s position as leader, economically and militarily, of the free world? That’s because of Adolf Hitler. Before World War II, America had no military to speak of and was mired in the Great Depression. The War ended the Depression (wars can raise demand considerably), and strengthened America’s military. After the war, America was the only country that hadn’t been bombed to ruins, ensuring its dominance of the postwar era. Six million Jews were killed, much of Europe was reduced to rubble, and tens of millions died—but America became an economic superpower. America is what it is due to the deaths of millions of innocents.
And most of the world’s great advances didn’t come as a result of unity, but because 1) some crackpot happened to be right for once, or 2) some greedy capitalist made millions out of a great idea. The discovery of the Americas was one of the world’s great discoveries—it happened because Christopher Columbus had no idea of the true size of the world and thought he could sail to Asia from Spain. It should have failed, but America happened to be in the way.
Henry Ford changed the world with his ideas about mass production—he used much of the proceeds from his invention to fund the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And his invention, again, wasn’t the result of someone trying to change the world for the better—it was someone trying to grab as much money as possible.
Good intentions are nice—but they aren’t effective. I’d much rather have a nasty, ruthless pragmatist in the White House. To his credit, it’s probable that Obama really does want to change the world for the better—it’s simply that history shows that ideas implemented in good faith rarely work.
Social Security must have seemed like a good idea at the time—a fantastic way to ensure that Americans would have retirement savings. Now, we know that it will go bankrupt in thirty years or so. Fannie Mae—which provided low-income Americans with housing capital—seemed like a good idea too. And we all saw how that worked out.
There are plenty more examples of the futility of hope. But sadly, Americans are idealistic, and want hope and unity and harmony. It may very well get Obama the presidency. And then it won’t work, because it never does.