Wanderer Logo

Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

Family Problems
In the 21st Century

(Reprinted from the issue of August 5, 2004)

Capitol BldgIn Tolstoy’s famous words, “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” A guest commentator on National Public Radio (where else?) has found a way even Tolstoy never imagined. It seems her father has had a sex-change operation, and the family is split over the appropriate pronoun: Should they refer to the paterfamilias as “he” or “she”?
Terry Kerry

Americans talk about politics constantly but seldom reflect on it. This melancholy truth occurred to me again as I listened to the speakers at the Democratic convention in Boston.

Nowadays the nominations are settled well before the delegates actually convene, so the problem is to create a sense of excitement about foregone conclusions. The principal oratorical device used for achieving this end is shouting.

The speakers shout unexamined cliches, and the delegates shout back. It’s so dull that the TV networks, despairing of ratings, have sharply cut back their coverage. I remember the days when there were three major networks, all of them showing all the proceedings for days, depriving good Americans like me of The Lone Ranger and Superman.

This year’s most touted speaker was Barack Obama of Illinois, who is running for the U.S. Senate, unopposed (his Republican rival having dropped out because of a sex scandal). He is a genuine African-American, with a genuine African name; his father, whom he hardly knew, came from Kenya, his mother was a white American who raised him alone after his father left. He grew up in Hawaii and went to Harvard.

Obama is already being discussed as a possible future president. He laughs off such talk with gracious modesty. In an interview on National Public Radio the day of his scheduled speech, he was frank, charming, and well-spoken. I looked forward to hearing him that night, the second night of the convention. Alas, his speech proved nearly as stentorian as the others, though less abrasively partisan.

The surprise of the night was Ron Reagan, son of the late president. He spoke with conversational ease, as if addressing rational beings rather than fanatics. Unfortunately, he was urging stem-cell research, something his father opposed; and, in fact, he inadvertently made a case against abortion. He noted that stem cells don’t have fingers, heartbeats, and other attributes of developing human beings. It was a strange argument to make to people who don’t mind destroying fetuses that do have all these attributes! Not noticing the logic of this line of thought, they cheered him anyway.

The climax of the evening was Teresa Heinz Kerry, the presumptive nominee’s wife. Like young Reagan but unlike her husband, she didn’t bellow at the audience. She spoke softly, almost intimately, as if she were among close friends, making the party ideology sound more reasonable than revolutionary. She also greeted the audience in five languages, reminding us that she would be our first foreign-born first lady.

Republicans shouldn’t underestimate this woman. She’s no Hillary Clinton, stridently making enemies. Hillary reminds me of de Tocqueville’s observation that American women are intelligent, capable, self-reliant, admirable in many ways — but not feminine. The difference between American and European women can be heard in their voices. Even the most beautiful American women (outside the South) often break the spell they cast as soon as they open their mouths; European women often speak with an enchanting music.

This is what Teresa Kerry does. She is a thing unheard of on these shores, a feminist with femininity. If, on the eve of the convention, she showed a bit of a temper at a reporter who provoked her, it was the spontaneous temper of a human being, not the rancor of a political doctrinaire. Her speech displayed exactly what her husband sorely lacks, the perfect emotional pitch that seems to reach an audience without effort. If John Kerry could talk like his wife, he’d win by a landslide.

The funny part of this is that the Kerry campaign has been fearful of Teresa’s spontaneity. Given that their candidate is a monumental stiff, with all the human warmth of something revivified by Doc Frankenstein during a violent storm, they should be worried about him, not her. One of the marks of a spontaneous personality is that it responds, sometimes immediately and unguardedly, to other people. John Kerry seems never to listen to anyone but himself.

After all, there are higher stakes in this election than charm. It may be just as well that Kerry doesn’t have any. The Democrats still haven’t learned to present liberalism with a human face, despite all their mechanical rhetoric about compassion and diversity and the rest of it.
Not So Liberal?

I was amused to learn that the American Communist Party has endorsed Kerry for president. I guess the Reds are willing to overlook his passionate Catholic faith and his deep personal opposition to abortion. The poor Commies have been rudderless since their own perennial presidential candidate, Gus Hall, died a few years ago; but it’s good to know that they see Kerry as the man most likely to lead us toward the socialist paradise.

This endorsement struck me as funny, because the Democrats have been trying so hard to play down Kerry’s liberal record, even though both The National Journal and the hyperliberal Americans for Democratic Action rate him the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. Nevertheless, his supporters insist that he’s not a liberal, he’s a moderate! A moderate Marxist-Leninist, perhaps.

The Communists may seem like a somewhat comic relic of another age, but they have always known their business, and it may help us get our bearings that they perceive Kerry as the most “objectively progressive” candidate — at least “progressive” enough to warrant their support. Ralph Nader might seem more to their liking, but they probably don’t view him as a serious contender.

Maybe this is the real “Reagan legacy” — that as the government keeps moving leftward, even under Republican control, politicians feel compelled to camouflage their leftism. The Republicans call themselves conservatives, the Democrats resent being called liberals, and everyone pays lip service to conservative “values” — patriotism, the family, the free market. At least, amid all this confusing verbiage, we can turn to the Communists for some straight talk!

Michael Moore says we can’t trust the government. Agreed. But, asks SOBRANS, can we trust Michael Moore? If you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.

Already a subscriber? Consider a gift subscription for a priest, friend, or relative.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by The Wanderer
Reprinted with permission.

Washington Watch
Archive Table of Contents

Return to the SOBRANS home page
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer


The Wanderer is available by subscription. Write for details.

SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive
 WebLinks | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas
Back to the home page 

This page is copyright © 2004 by The Vere Company
and may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of The Vere Company.