Is Obama a "transformational figure"? You don't know the half of it!

Should we even bother to have the election November 4? If Nancy Pelosi is right, Barack Obama’s chances of winning are “100 percent.” Why don’t we skip the election and move directly to the coronation–er, I mean, the inauguration–ball? Every month, it seems, Obama smashes his record of the previous month for the amount of month his campaign has raised. Last month it was an eye-popping $150 million. (Where’s all that the dough coming from? Ask Mr. Good Will or Ms. Doodad Pro.) Acorn–the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now–will help assure that Obama gets the needed votes in battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. (In Lake County, Indiana, for example, 2,100 of 5,000 registrations that Acorn submitted right before the deadline were fraudulent. “All the signatures looked exactly the same,” said a county election board official: imagine that!) Meanwhile, the ducks keep lining up in a very neat row. Yesterday, Gen. Colin Powell, former Republican Secretary of State, waddled forth on Meet the Press to criticize his former boss and announce his support for Obama. The election of Obama, said Gen. Powell, would “electrify the world.”


I agree with Gen. Powell that Obama would be a “transformational figure.” But what sort of transformation are we talking about? The United States is the richest, freest, most powerful nation in history. What would it look like after Obama, abetted by a Pelosi-Reid Congress, got done with their transformation?

Yes, that’s right, Virginia, it would be poorer, markedly less free, and less powerful.

How exactly?

In a recent editorial, The Wall Street Journal toted up some of the ways the country would be likely to change were Obama elected with the expected left-wing filibuster-proof super-majority. Caveat emptor: this election is no ordinary choice-among-basically-similar political moderates. It is a choice between a liberal, idiosyncratic Republican and an activist left-wing crusader. As the Journal noted,

“this would be one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s.”

Some particulars:

* On health care: you could look forward to HillaryCare with a vengeance. Think socialized medicine. Worse care for a higher price. Think Canada: 6 months to schedule an operation, more bureaucracy, worse nursing, more incompetent doctors.

* On the economy: Say hello to more, and more onerous, regulation. “The danger,” the Journal noted, “is that Democrats could cause the economic downturn to last longer than it otherwise will by enacting regulatory overkill like Sarbanes-Oxley. Something more punitive is likely as well, for instance a windfall profits tax on oil, and maybe other industries.”

* Unions: Look for a big resurgence in economy-blighting unions.

* Taxes. Say hello to taxes, taxes, and more taxes. “Taxes,” according to the Journal, “will rise substantially, the only question being how high.” We know for starters that Obama wants to raise:

–The top income tax rate
–Dividend taxes
–Capital gains taxes

And he wants to abolish the cap on the money the government takes from you for Medicare and Social Security

All of this would not only drastically increase the cost of new business initiatives in the United States, it would also put a huge burden on millions of ordinary taxpayers.

* Free speech. Remember that? We’ve already had a taste of how Obama deals with speech he doesn’t like: he tries to shut it down. When Stanley Kurtz went on Milt Rosenberg’s Extension 720 radio show in Chicago, Obama’s minions followed Obama’s order to “get in [the] face” of opponents and flooded the phone lines with protests.

There have been a lot of disgusting things about this campaign. The hysterical attack on Sarah Palin and her family was a new low. But for my money the very worst episode (so far) has been the attack on Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher. Joe asked Obama an embarrassing question. More to the point, he elicited a momentary lapse into candor from Obama, a moment, moreover, that was caught on tape, broadcast and rebroadcast, and that John McCain seized (or at least maneuvered with rhetorical paws) in his last debate with Obama: It’s not that I want to punish you for your success, Obama said, it’s just that I want to spread the wealth around. Joe the Plumber assumed that the money he made was his money. That was hist first mistake. Obama-Pelosi-Reid do not like private property (except their own): they think the government should take more and more of it and spread it around.

Poor Joe. Talk about “the politics of personal destruction”! Turns out the Clintons were rank amateurs at that game. The roof fell in on Joe. The Obama smear machine went to work. Did you know that when he lived in Arizona in 2000, his driver’s license was suspended? Did you know that he isn’t a licensed plumber? (What? He works for a licensed plumber and doesn’t need a license for the sort of residential work he does? Don’t confuse the story!) Did you know that he owes back taxes (OK, it’s a pittance, but, hey, we’re trying to assassinate someone’s character here). Joe isn’t running for anything. He is an ordinary working stiff. He was throwing a football around in his yard with his son when Obama walked by and he took the opportunity to ask a sharp question. The candidate gave an answer that was just a little too candid. Result: Joe must be publicly pilloried and the focus must be moved firmly from Obama’s answer to Joe’s alleged misdemeanors. A few days ago, Joe spoke to Mike Huckabee on Fox TV. “I asked a question. When you can’t ask a question to your leaders anymore, that gets scary. That bothers me.” As well it should. It should bother you, Dear Reader, too.

* Voting Rights. See Acorn. Think same-day, ID-free voter registration. “Can you make an X? Terrific: here’s a ballot.” In essence, an Obama administration would do for voter registration what Barney Frank and Fannie Mae did for the housing market. Gall alert: if there were a geiger counter for chutzpah, Obama’s reading would be off the chart. There has been a lot of damaging news about Acorn’s activities recently–damaging, I mean, to Obama, since the organization is essentially a shill for the left-flank of the Democratic party. Obama’s response? Ask that a special prosecutor investigate the McCain campaign and the Bush administration to discovery where these “smears” are coming from! Andrew McCarthy has the whole sorry story here.


All of this should make me unhappy, and it does. But I have not yet despaired. For one thing, as James Piereson put it in the current Weekly Standard, “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.” If you trust the celebrity buzz, Michelle should be over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now measuring the curtains and talking to the chef about stocking up on lobster and caviar. But the President of the United States is not–not yet–appointed by acclamation. Even now, he is elected by (more or less) democratic franchise. And therein glows the proverbial silver lining. As Piereson points out, while the buzz is Obama-philic, the polls tells a different story, and so does history. Yes, Obama is ahead in the polls–but modestly so: 4-7 points. Piereson reminds us of how Humphrey and Ford fought against much larger leads in 1968 and 1976 and came within an ace of winning the White House. And even more telling was the 1948 election in which Thomas Dewey was the sure thing and Harry S Truman came from behind and cinched the race.

Will McCain pull off a Truman surprise? I hope so. As I say, I think Colin Powell was right to call Obama a “transformational figure.” He, together with a large left-wing majority in Congress, would transform America from the land of the free and the home of the brave into another socialist swamp: the land of the taxed and the home of regulated.

To the extent that they are really understood, I believe, Obama’s announced policies would frighten most Americans. They are just the sort of thing that the unrepentant bomber William Ayers looks forward to. They are fine and dandy with Rev. Jeremiah “God damn America” Wright, Obama’s pastor for twenty years. They are exactly the sort of socialist polices that organizations like Acorn applaud. But what about the rest of us?


Obama represents the union of two distinct radicalisms: the old-style socialist radicalism of the 1930s and the cultural-radicalism of the 1960s. One emphasizes increased government control of business, increased government intrusion into family life, health care, education, higher taxes more regulation. The other emphasizes the agenda of multiculturalism and political correctness and the politics of redress. Obamas’s greatest triumph has been to amalgamate these different radicalisms into a smiling rhetorical mantra called “Change.”

Will it sell? In an earlier post, I said that “Whatever else it is, this election is a referendum on two very different visions of America. Obama’s vision is of country crippled by sin; McCain and Palin’s vision is of a country fired by high ideals and expansive opportunity.” Which has more traction? To a large extent, it depends on how successful the left’s “long march through the institutions” has been. In my book The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, I wrote that

The Age of Aquarius did not end when the last electric guitar was unplugged at Woodstock. It lives on in our values and habits, in our tastes, pleasures, and aspirations. It lives on especially in our educational and cultural institutions, and in the degraded pop culture that permeates our lives like a corrosive fog. . . . .

The question is how far outside the precincts of elite opinion that fog has penetrated. I suspect most Americans side with John McCain and Sarah Palin and Joe the plumber against the socialist mandarins who have plotted out a socialist future for America, and one that is inflected, moreover, by the antinomianism of class warriors like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. If I am right, you should not be surprised to wake up on November 5 and find that John McCain has been elected the forty-fourth president of the United States.




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