Photo by Pete Souza
Watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama today, I was struck by what an amazing country America is. Here we have one group of people with all the power, and they willingly and peacefully hand that power over to another at the decision of the electorate. A stable democratic system in the context of a liberal society (by which I mean a free society) can certainly be a blessing. It's unfortunate then, to note on this day of triumph for American electoral democracy, that we have used it to elect for ourselves a leader who is likely to wield more power than any who preceded him, and to do so in favor of an ever-expanding, more intrusive government.
President Obama ran a campaign on the theme of hope, using the slogan "Yes we can!" At a time when Americans desperately needed words of hope and optimism, Obama convinced America that he was the candidate of hope. We were duped. Listen again to the words of his campaign- it was a cynical campaign, utterly bankrupt of genuine hope. Obama's message to America was "No you can't! No you can't provide for yourselves. No you can't create new jobs and wealth on your own. No you can't thrive and prosper without handouts from the government. You are helpless and inept. You need a powerful, charismatic leader who is smarter than you are and knows what's good for you and how to spend your money better than you do."
The central note of the Obama-Biden Campaign was not hope, but despair. They capitalized on our fears and stoked them with alarmist rhetoric about our future. It was a lie of Orwellian dimensions- they said the exact opposite of what they really meant- and it worked. And as President, Obama and Congress are likely to continue saying together, "No you can't." No we can't keep the wealth we create; it will have to be taxed to fund Obama's make-work programs. No we can't choose how to save and invest our own money for our own retirement; the government knows better and will "keep it safe" for us in a Social Security account. No we can't voluntarily choose to be virtuous and care for the needs of the less fortunate; we will have to be forced to do it. And no we can't choose to be selfish; Obama is arrogant enough to force us to do what he considers to be the right thing.
Also consider Obama's staff and administration as further evidence of his cynicism. Selecting Joe Biden, a long-time Washington insider, as his running mate created a glaring inconsistency with Obama's campaign message of reform. Obama didn't have enough hope in his vision of reform not to select the same tired old faces from Washington to populate his administration, the same people who have been part of the same problem for years and even decades. The Obama administration looks eerily like the Clinton administration. At every level from his Vice Presidential pick, to his cabinet level positions, and down through the Executive hierarchy, Obama has failed to suit action to words in his hope for change and reform. Make no mistake- the same old politics are now at work in D.C. and Barack Obama is the same old kind of politician.
At a time of celebration over our new president, when an overwhelming majority of Americans approve of the Obama administration, I am proud to number myself among the minority of Americans who see increasing regulation, spending, inflation, and centralized power in the hands of a corrupt and inept government, and who mourn rather than celebrate, who grieve over the death of liberty and the decay of civil society.