Describing the political climate of Weimar Germany in Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris, Ian Kershaw notes that Germany was “a Republic without republicans.” One could just as well say that of the United States today, our republicans being of the intellectual and moral caliber of the Founders but who are entirely absent from the modern American political universe. No politician today advocates life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness; the Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution, sans the statist amendments to it, may as well be indecipherable Turkish runes.

A friend noted that while the Democrats wish to destroy the American Revolution, the Republicans seem to have forgotten it ever happened, which explains not only why they have never been able to defend it, but have been complicit in its steady destruction. Republican presidential candidate John McCain is not any kind of reactionary alternative to Barack Obama. If the current political environment can be likened to a coin, then heads it is altruist, tails it is collectivist, and McCain is simply the ridged edge on its side.

Noting the appeal of Hitler early in his career, Kershaw writes:

“The crowds that began to flock in 1919 and 1920 to Hitler’s speeches were not motivated by refined theories. For them, simple slogans, kindling the fires of anger, resentment, and hatred, were what worked. But what they were offered in the Munich beerhalls was nevertheless a vulgarized version of ideas which were in far wider circulation.” (p. 137)

Ideas, however, notes Kershaw, “held no interest for Hitler as abstractions. They were important to him only as tools of mobilization.”

To date, has there been any measurable difference between that and what has passed for “debate” between any of the current presidential candidates? Other than the usual bromides, clichés, and populist tripe widely circulated in our schools, the news media, and in the culture in general (e.g., universal health care, taxing corporate profits, “fighting” global warming), has Clinton, Obama or McCain enunciated a single idea?

I challenge anyone to find any substance in the following excerpts from Obama’s speech to Virginia’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond, on February 9:

“Each of us running for the Democratic nomination agrees on one thing that the other party does not – the next President must end the disastrous policies of George W. Bush. And both Senator Clinton and I have put forth detailed plans and good ideas that would do just that.”

What policies of Bush have been disastrous? What detailed plans and good ideas would end them? Would more controls and regulations of the economy correct Bush’s and Congress’s controls and regulations? Would the Democrats have fought the “war on terror” any differently from the Republicans? Would our foreign policy have meant more or less appeasement of our committed enemies? As Ayn Rand would put it: Blank out.

“But I am running for President because I believe that to actually make change happen – to make this time different than [sic] all the rest – we need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, Independents, and Republicans together to get things done. That’s how we’ll win this election, and that’s how we’ll change this country when I am President of the United States.”

What change? Isn’t “divisive” politics a good thing, as opposed to one-party rule with no dissension or opposition permitted? Is everyone supposed to put aside his principles and convictions and mobilize for “national unity”? In all of his rhetoric, Obama employs the same appeal to emotion that Hitler employed all throughout his career. The similarities are spine-tinglingly ominous: Kershaw writes:

“While Hitler basically appealed to negative feelings – anger, resentment, hatred – there was also a ‘positive’ element in the proposed remedy to the proclaimed ills. However platitudinous, the appeal to restoration of liberty through national unity, the need to work together of ‘workers of the brain and hand,’ the social harmony of a ‘national community,’ and the protection of the ‘little man’ through the crushing of his exploiters, were, to go from the applause they invariably produced, undeniably attractive propositions to Hitler’s audiences. And Hitler’s own passion and fervor successfully conveyed the message – to those already predisposed to it – that no other way was possible, that Germany’s revival would and could be brought about; and that it lay in the power of ordinary Germans to make it happen through their own struggle, sacrifice, and will. The effect was more that of a religious revivalist meeting than a normal political gathering.” (p. 150, Italics mine)

There are no substantive differences between Obama’s rhetoric and Hitler’s. Or even between Hillary Clinton’s and Hitler’s. Hillary also views society as an organic whole ripe for “remodeling.” All three regard the individual as a part of that “social organism” who would be permitted his few peccadilloes but otherwise answerable to society or the State. Substitute a few appropriate words, and Kershaw’s description could just as well be of Obama’s rhetorical technique.

Are not many voters drawn to Obama’s “passion and fervor,” are they not “predisposed” to “change,” do they not want to help “make it happen”? Have so many been brainwashed and indoctrinated into believing they are “little” enough to deserve the protection and guidance of the state? Is listening to Obama a form of religious “rapture”? As for the “restoration of liberty,” what the Germans got in exchange for “helping to make it happen” certainly was not liberty. Doubtless the concept of liberty is as empty and meaningless to Obama as it was to Hitler (as it was to countless Germans).

Senator Ted Kennedy wielded his own “long knife” and stabbed Hillary Clinton in the back by endorsing Obama. Unless one thought this was Kennedy’s perverted way of bolstering Clinton’s chances, his knowing that his endorsement was the kiss of death – given Kennedy’s known reputation for collectivist elitism, venality and corruption – the endorsement made sense. If there was one way he could punish America for not going socialist at his beck and call, it was to back the man he believes could deliver on that vengeance. Kennedy’s endorsement was a major signal to other prominent Democrats that they should follow suit. And they did.

Another “kiss of death” endorsement came from ailing Fidel Castro of Communist Cuba. In a newspaper column he stated that he had “no personal rancor” toward Obama, but “if I defended him I would do a huge favor for his adversaries.” Shrewd policy. Keep the cat in the bag.

Yet another “kiss of death” endorsement came from Ahmed Yousef, a political advisor to Hamas, the terrorist organization and now government of the Palestinians, who last month opined:

“We like Mr. Obama and hope that he will win the election. I do believe that Mr. Obama is like John Kennedy, a great man with great principles. He has a vision to change America, to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with domination and arrogance.”

None of these dubious endorsements has troubled Obama, the news media, or the Ivy League. One large segment of the American population that finds Obama just as compelling and attractive is academia. There are few “republicans” in this venue, but plenty of Marxists, existentialists, left-liberals, deconstructionists, and multiculturalists who also condemn the U.S.’s “domination and arrogance,” and the U.S. as a free country as a matter of habit.

“Barack Obama appears to be winning the faculty lounge straw poll – his presidential campaign is cultivating academics and pacing the field in collecting cash from them,” reported the Politico site last August in a report, “Professors have a crush on Obama.”

“Obama, whose website features an ‘Academics for Obama’ page, raised nearly $1.5 million in the first half of the year [2007] from people who work for colleges and universities, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.”

In the Politico report, Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor, said that Obama seems to have “a special appeal among academics, particularly those at four-year institutions. Even at places like UVA, which are more conservative than most, it’s overwhelmingly Obama.”

Sabato went on to explain that the Democrats can always count on academics to contribute money and to vote the straight Party ticket, and so are not courted as vigorously as are wealthy donors.

On April 2, Michael Barone, a political commentator, in an exhaustive analysis of the Democratic primaries, “In Terms of Geography, Obama Appeals to Academics and Clinton Appeals to Jacksonians,” provided a clue to why academics are so reliable:

“Academics and public employees (and of course many, perhaps most, academics in the United States are public employees) love the arts of peace and hate the demands of war. Economically, defense spending competes for the public-sector dollars that academics and public employees think are rightfully their own. More important, I think, warriors are competitors for the honor that academics and public employees think rightfully belongs to them.”

There is no need to burden most American academics with “refined theories,” either. They will settle for a vulgar slogan over a syllogism any day. They are already committed to “remodeling” and “changing” America, and have been imparting those imperatives to students for decades. Barack Obama was one of those students.

The fourth and final part of this commentary will focus on the capitalist “big money” behind Obama.