The Left’s Tragedy of Misplaced Confidence

| February 17 2011
David Leeper

Barack-Obama-Stunning-DeclineIn his Feb 14 post on, Chris Cook wrote:

“I myself am not a big fan of following people. I prefer ideas, and I prefer that the people we follow are followers of those same ideas themselves.”

With that line, Chris put his finger on a seldom-discussed but critical difference between the Left and Conservatives.  

Conservatives tend to think of the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers as the foundation of their core ideas about the role government should play in human interactions.  What are the Left’s core ideas and foundation documents? 

I confess I don’t know, and I wonder what documents they’d name.  Would they choose the writings of Marx, Alinsky, Chomsky, or Obama?  Some might point to the Declaration and Constitution, but they’d also nod earnestly when reminded that Mr. Obama calls the Constitution deeply “flawed” because, as he himself put it in 2001,

“… the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.”

To Conservatives of course, that missing element is not a flaw, it’s a feature.  It is the aggregate effort of everyone taking care of themselves and their families that for a long time made us the most prosperous nation on earth and the most desirable destination for the world’s emigrants.  By comparison, other approaches have failed dismally right from the start.

With their misplaced disdain for the Constitution and no equivalent substitute, those on the Left are far more likely than Conservatives to invest their faith in a person, rather than in a set of principles.  Some, like Oprah Winfrey, may even go so far as to call their chosen person The One and make of him a messiah who will cure poverty, end racism, banish greed, eliminate war, make the oceans recede, and unite all mankind.  No mere person could ever live up to that — not even part of it. 

More muted now, Oprah still stubbornly praises Obama in public by declaring that through his trillions of dollars of unaccountable spending, he somehow saved us from something worse.  It’s a lame defense, and she surely knows it, but there’s nowhere else for an Obama sycophant to turn.  His acolytes never consider returning to the core Constitutional limited-government principles that have worked in the past because it’s always about Obama the man, keeping faith in Obama, Obama über alles. 

Conservatives know that those they vote for are simply temporary stewards of America’s foundation principles.  To be sure, they would also like someone who is charismatic, attractive, and inspiring.  But how many Conservatives would consciously put that ahead of their foundation principles?  Very few.  Conservatives are less likely to fall for a “messiah” because they have put principles first. 

There are several fine organizations* now attempting to (re)educate Americans about our Declaration, Constitution, and other foundation documents.  As more and more Americans study the history of those documents and come to understand the experience-based wisdom contained therein, we’ll be far less likely to treat our future elections as some sort of American Idol audition for the next “messiah”.  And we’ll all be better off for that.

* For example, see,,



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