The Magazine

The Stakes Are High

The threat of Obama’s second term.

Oct 15, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 05 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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But Obama’s agenda is anything but commonplace. It’s highly ambitious and aims at supplanting, rather than embracing, a Founding that he has never really tried to understand. Writes Kesler: 

Returning, say, to Lincoln’s and the Founders’ own understanding of themselves, reconsidering their arguments for the Declaration’s principles, never occurred to him as a serious possibility.

Kesler highlights a passage from Obama’s The Audacity of Hope (2006):  “Implicit .  .  . in the very idea of ordered liberty,” writes Obama, is “a rejection of absolute truth.” Yet the Declaration places absolute truths at the core of the American creed (“We hold these truths to be self-evident  .  .  .”). In marked contrast, Obama—who, when reciting the Declaration’s language as president, has repeatedly omitted its reference to our Creator as the source of our rights—says, “Lincoln, and those buried at Gettysburg, remind us that we should pursue our own absolute truths.” Kesler replies, “Our own absolute truths? Those words ought to send a shudder down Americans’ constitutional spine.”

Martin Luther King certainly believed in absolute truths, as his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” attests. Likewise, King thought the Declaration and the Constitution should be celebrated; the problem was that we hadn’t lived up to those documents’ lofty ideals. Obama, however, views our founding documents as having been fatally flawed from the start. This partly explains why apologies for America roll so easily off his tongue. 

If it’s not a self-evident truth that governments are instituted to secure certain unalienable rights, as the Declaration says, then what exactly is government’s proper role? In the spirit of his liberal forefathers, Barack Obama believes government’s purpose is to bequeath rights—the more, the better. Kesler describes this as “the First Law of Big Government: the more power we give the government, the more rights it will give us.”  

All of which brings us to Obamacare, the current pinnacle of what Kesler calls modern American liberalism’s “authoritarian streak.” He writes:

The more one ponders [Obama’s] electoral, policy, and longer political agenda, the more the health care bill stands out as the centerpiece of the whole political enterprise. Stop it .  .  . and you have a good chance of stopping the transformation he seeks. Fail, or worse don’t even try, and you permit what can be called, without exaggeration, gradual regime change at home. For the health care question involves .  .  . nothing less than the form of government and the habits and character of the American people.

Invoking Alexis de Tocqueville’s warning that in a democracy in which “administrative centralization” takes root, “a more insufferable despotism [will] prevail than in any of the absolute monarchies of Europe,” Kesler conveys the grave danger Obamacare poses to liberty. Highlighting its “vagueness, incompleteness, and amorphousness,” and the “breathtaking power” it would delegate to unelected officials, he writes, “This new kind of statute—one hates to call it law—is not meant to be ‘a settled, standing rule,’ as John Locke defined law.” Rather, it is “deliberately .  .  . left vague so as to give maximum discretion to the unholy trinity of bureaucrats, congressional staffers, and private--sector ‘stakeholders’ who will flesh out the act with thousands of pages of regulations (9,000 and counting so far).”  

In other words, Obamacare represents the triumph of the arbitrary rule of man over the fixed rule of law. (Witness all of the Obamacare waivers already issued.) Adds Kesler: “Obamacare is an excellent test case for how the original U.S. Constitution is faring against the living constitution.”  

A young Abraham Lincoln, contemplating what dangers could threaten our form of government, said, “It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us .  .  . [and] seek the gratification of their ruling passion. .  .  . The question then is, Can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others?” If not, then “it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.” 

In other words, if our citizenry plays its part well, our form of government could still prevail against this onslaught of ambition. And if Obamacare is repealed, Kesler writes, “Obama’s legacy and his claim to leadership will lie in ruins.” 

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