Abroad, at last we would fulfill the old pledge of the United Nations, follow global consent, back out of worthless old alliances, reach out to misunderstood nationalists, admit prior guilt, appreciate the role of race, class, and gender oppression in world affairs, scoff at artificial Manichean divides and inherit a multilateral world in which an unexceptional United States became simply one among many, unqualified to judge others, unable to enforce artificially constructed rules of international behavior.
Obama was the ultimate homeopathic — cure the patient by giving more of what caused the symptoms in the first place. If for a half-century an encroaching government, ever more regulations, politicized education, therapeutic stifling of free expression, higher and higher taxes, and expanding entitlements had threatened to make America less competitive, less free, and less prosperous than it could be, Obama in reaction would apply more of the same to cure the patient. Bush’s deficits? Expand them fourfold? Unfunded Prescription Drug — try Unfunded State Health Care. Fifty-percent of income given over to local, state, and federal taxes? — raise them far higher.
Chapter Four — The Resistance
Yet all that was not easy for a variety of reasons.
1) The United States had become so fabulously wealthy, so unimaginably free, and so roundly envied precisely because for two centuries it had promoted individual freedom, equality of opportunity, and free market economics in contrast to the other Western variant of mandated egalitarianism, government control of behavior, and state-run commerce. As the tea-party protests proved, traditions die hard and free peoples do not easily surrender their prerogatives to Ivy-league philosopher-kings.
2) While Obama was certainly a new and gifted candidate, and while he was surely to the left even of Carter and Clinton, and while he inherited majorities in both houses of Congress, and while the stars really did line up for him in autumn 2008, he was in many respects to prove a flawed leader of the leftist renaissance.
Obama knew little of Middle America and had little desire to learn. His idea of the nuances of the United States was gleaned from the university seminar and the federal payroll. Hyphenated racial-self-identity had always proved lucrative and was not to be abandoned. Postmodern indifference to the truth and facts ensured that much of what the President asserted, in reality, was not merely inaccurate but the exact opposite of what he claimed.
While Obama, the quick study, understood the role of deception, triangulation, and fudging in free-for-all politics, it was nevertheless difficult for him for long to disguise forty years of inculcation. So like a leaky faucet, the drops of an entrenched and rather scary philosophy now and then splashed upon us — Van Jones, Ron Bloom, and Anita Dunn echoed a prevailing ideological landscape.
Then there was the presidential insistence that police stereotype and act stupidly. We heard non-stop the old-time gospel that the better off must pay their fair share and spread their ill-gotten wealth, if they are to be deemed patriotic. As in the 1960s, America should apologize, given that it was as culpable as Europe or Islam for current global tensions. And so on.
3) The hypocrisy of left-wing redistribution politics and the enjoyment of the high-life, brought about by the fruits of capitalism, is a heavy anchor for Obama. Tim Geithner does not like to pay high taxes. Nancy Pelosi does like nice jets. Barack Obama likes junkets. So does Harry Reid. Charles Rangel likes hiding income on resort property. John “two nations” Edwards likes “John’s Room” in his mansion, and Green Al Gore enjoys his most ungreen estate. In other words, “progressivism” is easily identified as cynicism, as a condescending plaything of the well-off, who are exempt, either by government largess or private capital, from the very strictures they would impose on less knowledgeable others.
Part Two to be continued with Chapter Five — The Verdict Is Still Out