Paradigmatic Revolution: Is President Obama Ready to Talk the Walk?
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
We have now had two presidents in the past generation who had difficulty with what No. 41 called “this vision thing,” which was totally beyond his capacity to comprehend. We have had three presidents, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton, who had some holistic direction other than pragmatic compromise or might makes right.
What is No 44’s vision? Is it the same as that of America’s founders as envisioned in the Preamble to the American Constitution? Our founding document reads: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Founding men and woman of America conceived justice to be the source of order, prosperity, and freedom, and listed “freedom” last as the product of the first four of America’s founding purposes.
President Obama used the term “justice” only in the phrase “the justice of our cause” (as I heard him this morning he spoke only of “our just cause"). This does not necessarily mean that our cause is the pursuit of justice. The president’s eloquent and determined speech was reminiscent of Churchill’s speech promising “blood, sweat, and tears,” but nowhere did it portray any paradigm of policy other than freedom. There was no mention of justice as the source of security, prosperity, and freedom, as enshrined in the Preamble to the American Constitution, which can serve as the American code of human responsibilities and rights, similar to the maqasid al shari’ah in classical Islamic thought and to similar scriptural interpretations in every world religion.
Even a self-serving concept of justice, however, is better than ex-President Bush’s use of “justice” only as a synonym for revenge, as in “Saddam Hussain will experience American justice.”
Does our new president’s inaugural address mean only “more of the same” but with greater determination? Its real meaning will emerge in action. He does not talk the walk of justice, but perhaps he will walk without talking. This may be what Secretary Hillary Clinton in her initial confirmation hearings baptized as “smart power,” because neither “soft power” nor “hard power” are politically correct action-words any more. As optimistic voters for Barack Obama, perhaps we need merely pray that the new Administration, now only a few hours old, needs to pioneer both good policy and more transparency.
Perhaps presidential candidate Mike Gravel, former U.S. Senator from Alaska before the Republicans took over up there, is right that we need a revolution from below, which is what those who voted for Barack Obama were trying to launch, not from above. Senator Gravel’s Philadelphia Two initiative, also known as the National Initiative for Democracy, for which I gave $1,000 to get it started a decade ago, called for Direct Democracy. He pursued this through his Democracy Foundation, which advocated direct action through a constitutional amendment providing for voter-initiated federal legislation similar to state ballot initiatives in order to facilitate bottom-up political reform. He regarded this as a key to a fundamental reform of the entire system of money and credit designed to expand access to universal individual ownership of capital or real, productive wealth, which, in turn, is the key to real political self-determination and freedom both at home and abroad.
This, of course, assumes what many might call a spiritual transformation along the lines of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s call for a “new bottom line,”, which might take much longer than similar reform from the top down by lobbying within the existing system of concentrated economic and political power.
Senator Gravel and his economic mentor, Norman Kurland, co-founder of the American Revolutionary Party, have differed on which is the chicken and which is the egg, but they may both be “prophets before their time.” Perhaps they are both right, and the Obama Administration may be the best and only chance to fulfill the American dream of peace, prosperity, and freedom through compassionate justice. If President Obama starts both talking and walking, America may indeed succeed, God willing, in renewing its global leadership as “the last, best hope for humanity.”