O’Donnell’s inspiring speech
Politico has highlights from Christine O’Donnell’s speech at the Values Voter Summit. I tried to find a full text of her speech but can only find a three-part video of the speech which I’ll watch later. So far, based on this article, I can see why conservatives are getting excited about her. (I’ve highlighted some phrases that particularly interested me.)
Here is the Politico article:
O’Donnell hits the national stage
By: David Catanese
September 17, 2010 04:40 PM EDT
Delaware GOP Senate candidate and tea party sensation Christine O’Donnell torched “ruling-class elites” and their “anti-Americanism,” in her debut on the national stage Friday, encouraging the room of conservatives to lead a constitutional comeback in this year’s midterm election.
O’Donnell’s 17-minute speech before the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit made no direct mention of her primary upset of nine-term Rep. Mike Castle Tuesday; it instead focused on the enthusiasm that’s reinvigorated the conservative movement in the two years since President Obama took office.
“The conservative movement was told to curl up in a fetal position and just stay there for the next eight years, thank you very much. Well, how things have changed,” O’Donnell said, to cheers.
O’Donnell, who defeated Castle by a 6-point margin despite sustained attacks on her misstatements and financial troubles—past and present—repeatedly chided “the ruling class” and championed “a rowdy revolution of reason.”
“The small elite don’t get us. They call us wacky. They call us wingnuts. We call us, ‘We the people,’” she said to sustained applause. “We’re loud, we’re rowdy, we’re passionate. … It isn’t tame, but boy, it sure is good.”
She also addressed the personal scrutiny and criticisms she has endured since her candidacy vaulted into the national spotlight just weeks ago, when she appeared to be gaining momentum against Castle in her third shot at a Senate seat.
“Will they attack us? Yes. Will they smear our backgrounds and distort our records? Undoubtedly. Will they lie about us, harass our families, namecall to try to intimidate us? They will. There’s nothing safe about it. But is it worth it?” she said.
“Well, let me ask you. Is freedom worth it?” she asked, as the crowd chanted “Yes.” “Is America worth it?”
She used her middle-class upbringing in New Jersey to briefly explain one of the most perplexing charges that has dogged her campaign—why it took her more than 15 years to earn her college degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“I never had the high-paying job or the company car. It took me over a decade to pay off my student loans. I never had to worry about where to dock my yacht to reduce my taxes,” she said, jabbing at Sen. John Kerry for dodging a six-figure yacht tax in his home state. ‘“And I’ll bet most of you didn’t, either.”
O’Donnell argued that while Beltway elites are attempting to marginalize their movement, it’s conservatives who represent the core of mainstream America.
“We’re not trying to take back our country. We are our country,” O’Donnell said, before making a subtle reference to a phrase Obama has been using on the campaign trail. “That’s what’s happening in America today, the grown-ups are taking away the keys.”
Continuing on that theme, the former television commentator lamented Washington bureaucrats who have “weaseled” their way into personal decisions that should be left up to individuals, using a line of attack first delivered by Sarah Palin.
“They even want unelected panels of bureaucrats to decide who gets what life-saving medical care and who is just too old, or it’s too expensive to be worth saving,” she said, a nod to the fictional “death panels” that Palin first used to attack the health care bill. “They’ll buy your teenage daughter an abortion but they won’t let her buy a sugary soda in a school’s vending machine.”
While O’Donnell lacked the sizzling electricity that is Palin’s trademark, her speech was smoothly delivered and well-received by the sympathetic crowd at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
Back in May at a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the president said Republicans wanted the keys back after “they drove the car into the ditch.”
O’Donnell’s only other veiled reference to the president came when she spoke of “anti-Americanism” and criticized leaders for apologizing for America.
“When I talk to people out on the campaign trail in Delaware, I’m hearing frustration, not only with the direction our country is headed but with the anti-Americanism that taints every outlet of the ruling class. Americans want our leaders to defend our values, our culture, our legacy of liberty and our way of life, not apologize,” she said.
O’Donnell’s appearance at the Values Voter Summit marked O’Donnell’s first address to a national audience. She began reintroducing herself to voters Thursday night in her first joint appearance with Democratic nominee Chris Coons at a candidate forum in Wilmington.
“It’s no secret that there’s been a rather unflattering portrait of me painted these days,” she said during the forum. “I am fighting two political parties here in Delaware.”
Just before she took the stage, O’Donnell announced via tweet that her campaign had raise more than $1.5 million in under 72 hours. “You are all amazing,” she wrote.
Democrats issued no immediate reaction to O’Donnell’s speech, signaling the delicacy with which they are initially handling her insurgent candidacy.
[end of article]
The article is ok, and gives a decent sample of her speech, but it misses the inspiring philosophical core of the speech as seen in the video—about how, in the middle of the Obama-led crisis, we are rediscovering the ideals and principles of the nation’s founding. She has an articulated, sound, conservative vision of America, encompassing both the self-government, democratic side, and the traditional values side (though I’d have to listen to it again to see how strong she was on the latter).
She also has a gift for rhetoric and one-line zingers. I was particularly stirred by this:
The small elite don’t get us. They call us wacky. They call us wingnuts. We call us, “We the people.”
It’s hard to imagine what people like Karl Rove and the Powerline fellows thought they were doing by being so hostile to her. Whatever her flaws, she’s obviously a real political talent. She may not have had a regular, money-making career, but it’s more than evident she has not been wasting her time.
My feeling was that the speech is a little slow getting started—in the first two or three minutes she makes more routine and predictable points, but she really gets going at about the four minute mark.
Roger G. writes:
Yes, A Palin with substance.
Kathlene M. writes:
I had time to watch this finally. She comes across as honest, sincere and passionate about our country and its future. She definitely has the courage to call the situation as she sees it, knowing she will be attacked for this. She recognizes that she—and all of us who call ourselves conservatives—will be attacked mercilessly. “This is no moment for the faint of heart,” she correctly states. It’s an inspiring speech.
Kathlene M. continues:
I also agree with you that she has her flaws, but she (so far) has tried to address these. She mentions how it took her years to pay off her student loan in order to get a college degree. She’s real and very much like many hardworking people I know who worked through college and didn’t get degrees until their 30s or 40s. At her website she addresses allegations about the IRS and her home, producing documents and letters pertaining to these matters.
When you compare her to Obama who has hired a phalanx of lawyers to prevent people from looking into his past, the contrast couldn’t be more stark. The media continues to tear her apart and produce every utterance she made from her past while Obama and other liberals of his ilk, with the assistance of the media, obfuscate their past associations, statements and beliefs.
Ed L. writes:
You praise O’Donnell’s speech for “rediscovering the ideals and principles of the nation’s founding.”
How is this essentially different from the “propositional nation” philosophy of the neocons? Is it that the particular ideals and principles of the Founders (prior to the numerous layers of filtering and distortion of Supreme Court rulings) just happened to be better than those of the neoconservatives? Your endorsement implies that we should whole-heartedly re-embrace them, but a good deal of discussion at VFR has (rightly) raised the question of whether one of those ideals (First Amendment freedom of religion) is actually serving us well in modern times. I would be perfectly happy with a restricted revision of freedom of religion, which specifically and explicitly bans Islam, but then that would be a rather modernistic anti-historical way of thinking that is quite different from what Tea Party types have in mind. (If anything, it sounds more like Christopher Hitchens.)
You are mixing up two or three different things. Let me try to separate them out from each other and restore some perspective.
“The ideals and principles of the nation’s founding” refers to the basics of our system, which is a federal (or more accurately national) government with limited powers defined by the Constitution, in which power ultimately derives from the people of the states, who have delegated certain powers to a national government. The original American order under the Constitution was a multilayered system in which different parts of the society and the government balance each other off, preventing too much power from being concentrated anywhere. Thus, while power ultimately derives from the people, the people do not directly rule, they rule only through their representatives. At the same time, while the representatives elected by the people have the power to pass and enforce laws, they in turn serve under a Constitution that limits their powers. While the powers are given to the national government, the government does not contain all power, because the states and the people retain those powers that were not delegated, while the three branches of the national government also balance each other. And I would also add that this structure of limited powers is inseparable from a Christian, or more specifically a Protestant Christian, vision of man. Because man is a flawed being, a being who inevitably gets into conflicts with other men, a being who desires power and will take as much as he can get, the powers given to men must be limited. Without this understanding of human psychology, which Christians call original sin, our Constitutional fabric is almost inconceivable.
All this is basic. All this (except for the Christian part, which is a little more intellectually advanced) was generally understood by normal American sixth graders as of 1961. It no longer is understood, even by most adults, but that’s another story.
The “propositional nation,” which you equate with “the ideals and principles of the nation’s founding,” is in reality something entirely different. That is a quasi-Jacobin idea that American represents the idea of the equality and sameness of all mankind, and that it is America’s mission to include all mankind in that idea by admitting much of the rest of mankind as immigrants, and by spreading democracy to the remainder of mankind who don’t come here as immigrants. The “propositional nation” mindset casts aside or ignores the idea of constitutional limits and balances. It is, ultimately, about pure power. Thus Charles Krauthammer, in his article “The Neoconservative Convergence” about seven years ago, called for a world order run by America in order to assure democracy for the human race. The most extreme expression of this idea was in GW Bush’s 2005 inaugural address, in which he said that tyranny anywhere in the world is a threat to America’s freedom, plainly implying that America must control the whole world in order to secure its own freedom. This was the single most imperialistic statement ever made by a U.S. president, yet to my knowledge no prominent mainstream conservative figure, other than Peggy Noonan, criticized it. I do not know of a single Republican congressman or senator, including those now jumping on the Tea Party wagon and calling for scaling back the powers of government, who criticized it.
Now you suggest that since I have criticized certain destructive potentialities in the original Constitution, I am contradicting myself when I praise the “ideals and principles of the nation’s founding.” But the question of those destructive potentialities is separate from the original constitutional fabric of limited power and checks and balances. Those bad potentialities were there from the start, but they weren’t manifested from the start. They were only gradually manifested over 200 years. For example, no one imagined in 1789 when the Bill of Rights was ratified that there would be a large population of Moslems in America seeking to use the freedom of religion to impose sharia tyranny on us. And this is why, as I have argued, the Constitution’s abstract universal language (e.g., “freedom of religion,” a phrase that includes Islam) needs to be qualified by the addition to the Constitution of the substantive particulars that are the very basis of our society and thus of the Constitution as well. Thus I have proposed a constitutional amendment banning the religion of Islam in the United States. That is an example of the sort of changes needed to make the Constitution conform to a more stable and traditional understanding of nationhood.
So, yes, I have argued that there are flaws in the original Constitution and Bill of Rights which need to be fixed, but those flaws are a separate issue from the issue of the design of the structure of government and the limits on government power which was the main part of the original Constitution, the part which has progressively been eroded by the expansion of government power—and the part to which, under the revolutionary impact of the Obama revolution, the Tea Party is calling on us to return.
Ed L. replies:
This is a very clear separation of the three sets of issues, but I have two somewhat inchoate reservations. (1) It seems hard to believe that it’s just the rather staid question of restoring structural and procedural integrity to the federal Government that is driving Tea Party fervor, and (2) I don’t think that it can be cast narrowly as a matter of the particular people who happen to occupy the system, while never questioning the system itself. Could it be that there are systemic flaws in the basic design of Congress that consistently produce bums who need to be thrown out?
The Tea Party’s expressed goal is not to “restore structural and procedural integrity to the federal Government.” It is to reverse the Obama revolution and to get serious about (for the first time in U.S. history) reversing, not just slowing slightly, the unconstitutional and ruinous growth of government. They have a revolutionary objective. Thus the Tea Party movement is, in part, the Middle American Radical uprising which Samuel Francis envisioned. Now, are they really serious? Will they be able to do what they hope to do, if they gain power? We can’t know that now. But I think it’s fair to say that the Tea Party movement is more serious about reversing the growth of government than any other conservative movement or political figure in historical memory, including candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 18, 2010 10:24 PM | Send
On your second question, I don’t think the design of Congress is the problem. All modern states, regardless of their institutional structure, have a built-in tendency to be Egalitarian Provider States.Ultimately, the move to stop and reverse the growth of government can only succeed if there is a moral and cultural revolution in society as well as a transfer of political power to a new group.