Numbers, please! In search of the Antichrist!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2011

As published, a good entertainment: Riding along on Amtrak this Monday, we received a good solid scare from a New York Times op-ed piece.

We thought Michele Bachmann was on the way out! But out in Pullman, Professor Sutton was having a different vision:
SUTTON (9/26/11): The left is in disarray while libertarianism is on the ascent. A new generation of evangelicals—well-versed in organizing but lacking moderating influences—is lining up behind hard-right anti-statists. While few of the faithful truly think that the president is the Antichrist, millions of voters, like their Depression-era predecessors, fear that the time is short. The sentiment that Mr. Obama is preparing the United States, as Roosevelt did, for the Antichrist’s global coalition is likely to grow.

Barring the rapture, Mrs. Bachmann or Mr. Perry could well ride the apocalyptic anti-statism of conservative Christians into the Oval Office. Indeed, the tribulation may be upon us.
Candidate Bachmann has sunk quite low in the polls. But pshaw! According to Sutton, she “could well ride…into the Oval Office!” Apparently, this could well occur because “the sentiment that Mr. Obama is preparing the United States…for the Antichrist’s global coalition is likely to grow.”

How fast is that sentiment likely to grow? Sutton didn't say.

Sutton’s column appeared beneath this headline: “Why the Antichrist Matters in Politics.” In principle, this is an important topic—and it did give us rubes a good fright!

That said, we were most struck by the way Sutton played the numbers in his frightening piece.

How many conservative Christians think Obama is the Antichrist? In the passage we have posted, Sutton presents his answer: “Few.” For ourselves, we have no idea what the number might be, and we certainly didn’t learn from this piece. On the other hand, Sutton quickly used a rather large number—but he changed the field of play.

“Millions of voters…fear that the time is short,” Sutton says. Within the context of the column, this means that these voters fear that the end times are near.

How near? He didn’t say.

In theory, this is a serious topic. In practice, this piece was an entertainment—and a bit of a culture war offering.

The New York Times loves such entertainments. But go ahead—read it with care. How many Christian conservatives tend to vote on a basis like this? In theory, the question is important. But through a great deal of gorilla dust, we see no sign or indication that Sutton has any idea.

Bachmann could well ride into the Oval? We see no sign or indication that this professor knows.

13 comments:

  1. IMHO even if an apocalyptic anti-statist is elected as President, he or she will have little ability to roll back the existing government structure. The best (or worst) we can expect is stopping the growth of government.

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  2. I wonder why liberal sites focus so much on newspapers and cable news. What about network news, which gets millions more viewers? I know it's boring and mind-numbingly stupid, but lots of people get their news from ABC, NBC, CBS's nightly news programs.

    Not a criticism of this post, specifically, but I've been wondering what's up with liberal politics sites focusing on second and third tier media.

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  3. Growth in government? Look at employment numbers for one aspect and in 1960 about 14% of the civilian workforce was employed by the government (defined to include federal, state and local) and in 2008 the %age of the workforce employed by government? 14%
    In 2009, because the workforce dropped by over 6 million, the %age rose to about 17% so in number of employees, there hasn't been any growth in government.
    In $s, the story is much the same. After adjusting for Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security et.al. which amount to more than 20% of federal spending with the Pentagon etc. at another 20% there hasn't been much growth in government.
    The "growth in government" meme shows how well propaganda works. On certain minds, anyway.

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  4. Tom, it's arithmetic, not propaganda, that $4 trillion is bigger than $2 trillion. Because government is twice as expensive, working people will have to pay double the taxes to support it. We haven't paid those costs yet, because we're borrowing 65 cents for every dollar of federal revenue, but those loans will have to be paid back with interest.

    Some government growth isn't tied to number of federal employees. Mr. Obama gave half a trillion dollars to his fund-raisers at Solyndra and three quarters of a trillion to Nancy Pelosi's brother-in-law's company, the government is running our largest automobile companies, the government will be controlling everyone's health care, more and more regulations are burdening private businesses -- these are types of are government growth that aren't reflected in the number of federal employees.

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  5. Still no Chapter 6 on "How He Got There".
    I wonder if it is actually being written, since you have been saying for at least nine months that you are on the verge of publishing it.

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  6. David in Cal, you keep typing trillion. Obama did not give 1/2 trillion dollars to Solyndra, or 3/4 trillion to Pelosi's brother in law.

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  7. My face is red! I should have said 1/2 billion dollars to Solyndra and 3/4 billion to Pelosi's brother in law's company.

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  8. Perhaps this would be helpful?

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/PPP_Release_US_0526.pdf

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  9. Oh, David, where to begin? Even forgetting that you were off by a factor of a thousand on Solyndra and U.S. automakers (btw, the latter paid back most of their "bail-out" so how exactly is the U.S. government "running" these companies today?), and it's not at all clear where you get the $4 trillion to compare to the $2 trillion (what was the GDP in the start year? what's it now? what was the U.S. population in the start year? what's it's today? corrected for inflation? not corrected for inflation?)

    And on it goes -- the big bad government is going to take over health care, etc. Since health care costs are the biggest driving factor of U.S. budget deficits, and since we'd be running a surplus even today, if we paid what government-run health care systems cost in countries in France, Germany and Japan (where folks don't die in the streets), you'd think it would be great interest to you. But of course that assumes that you actually care about what you claim to care about.

    In other words, yours is a classic case of propaganda. Impossible to make any sense of what you're saying, but it's clearly intended to excite and frighten people.

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  10. To david in Cal. Words have meaning. The essence of communication is that we agree on the meaning of words. You are straining that compact. Please stop.

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  11. Anonymous -- You suggest that it's a good idea for the government to run health care. Maybe it is. However, that's tangential to my point. Under the Health Reform act, the federal government will have a lot more control over American health care than they did before that law. So, that law represents a substantial expansion of the federal government.

    You ask how exactly is the U.S. government "running" auto companies today? Answer: by ownership. The federal government is the majority owner of GM. As owners, they can tell the company what to do. E.g., they forced GM to replace its CEO.

    In terms of payback, the government cannot sell its GM stock for anywhere near what they paid for it. Sooner or later, they will have to reflect this loss.

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  12. David in Cal: the Treasury has recouped about half of its "investment" in GM, and intends to sell more stock on an ongoing basis, as market conditions allow. As I'm sure you know, the company has returned to profitability and has been hiring new workers. And if Obama's running the place, he's doing a great job concealing it.

    Estimates of the eventual tax-payer loss around is in the $12-$14 billion range, which is cheap, to save an entire industry. The financial crisis has cost the country trillions, and without the success story of GM.

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  13. This whole discussion hurts my head.

    Why are people "arguing" with David? Seriously.

    The whole point, I thought, was this ridiculous article about apocalypticism and American Presidential politics, something almost as old as the Republic itself. Instead, what do we have? Yet another comment thread hijacked.

    Which is why I think I much preferred the no-comment Howler.

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