The Campaign Spot

Some comments on sacrifice from the Democratic frontrunners

There’s been a lot of talk of sacrifice among our aspiring commanders-in-chief.


John Edwards, recently:

“My own view about it is we ought to ask America to be patriotic about something other than just war. We ought to ask Americans to be willing to conserve; to be willing to sacrifice.” 

Hillary Clinton, very recently:

“I believe America can confront any problem if we’re willing to make some tough decisions… We’ve not been asked to make any tough decisions. The president hasn’t called for sacrifice from any of us. We’re not asked to even turn the lights off and conserve energy in order to limit the amount of money that is flowing to regimes that are antithetical to our interests.” 

Barack Obama, a few months ago:

“Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of ‘thou’ and not just ‘I,’ resonates in religious congregations all across the country.”

And then there’s another recent comment on sacrifice, with some very different ideas, from Glenn Reynolds, yesterday:

For “sacrifice,” I think that incumbent politicians should term limit themselves to a single additional term. Also, there should be a ban on private non-commercial jet travel, and limousine service in large metro areas, for the duration of the war. And a 100% excise tax on movie tickets and DVDs . . . 

I seemed to remember thoughts in a similar vein from Glenn, so I went waaaay back into the archives, and found these gems:

OKAY, ONE MORE: I just saw Dick Gephardt on NBC. Every time I see him he repeats the same two points: Americans need to pay more in taxes, and accept less freedom. We all need to sacrifice. Hey Dick — what have you sacrificed? Er, besides your eyebrows, I mean?

And another, from right after 9/11:

In all my grief and horror as the story unfolded on the television Tuesday, I couldn’t help but notice how Peter Jennings kept talking about how “Things would [have to] change in this country” in the wake of the attacks, that “we” would have to accept less freedom and like that. It made me angry. The reason is that the “we” is spurious – Peter Jennings and Dick Gephardt don’t mean that _Peter Jennings and Dick Gephardt_ will have less freedom. They’ll still fly first class; they’ll wait in the VIP lounges; they’ll continue to have access to the airwaves to say what they deem to be sayable. They mean that the _rest_ of us will have to change. What they mean is that the _differential_ between their lives and our lives “will have to” increase. I’m old enough to remember when air travel was something rich people did. When I was a lad, my grandfather was not CBS, nor NBC nor ABC – to spread his socialist opinions he had to resort to haranguing the neighbors. Free enterprise and the free exchange of ideas put everyone who wants to in the sky and on the net. Drive up the cost of travel in the name of security, and the cost of communication in the name of security, and travel and “publication” become, once again, the purviews of the elite. . . . 

War and crisis are good for business if you are in broadcasting or government. For that reason, we mustn’t expect official media to defend any rights but their own in the coming struggle.


(Hard to believe that the BlogFather once had that much snark in him, huh?)


Anyway – these comments illustrate that politicians love the word ‘sacrifice,’ so long as it is generic, and doesn’t really get that specific. It’s a concept easy to endorse in theory, when one pictures oneself making a small sacrifice, and the greater share of the burden on those we deem most ‘deserving.’


If an aspiring president laid out exactly who they expected to make the sacrifices, and what those sacrifices would be, they might find a little less applause.



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