The rancor and division animating the American polity has political sources. As a recent Wall St. Journal editorial revealed, the Obama Presidency will remain historic but not consequential. Because Amerian political life is dominated by the medium of television, real political skills are chiefly aesthetic. Obama’s cool, detached temperament in an age of near permanent financial crisis is key to unlocking his charisma.
To understand the Obama Presidency, we must recognize the role benevolent government has in placing itself not in service to civil society but as a manevolent competitor, an arbiter to growth and achievement. This isn’t new, but it was obscured and remained buried along the surface of Obama’s policy achievements. His tenure held the Great Recession, national health care, a militant domestic regime of regulation, climate change, a botched Iranin deal and a general view of Americas role in the world as minimalist. In a word: retrenchment.
As a new inaugural begins, all these policies look fragmented, even evanescent. Authoritarian regimes throughout the world are on the march in a way identical to the 1930’s. This is the impact of pursuing goals to fulfill nearly 40 years of unmet progressive ideals. The sad realism is simple: policies rammed though on partisan divides are easily replaced. Today’s partisan divide is the culture war and it may never go away. For team Obama, it wasn’t just hubris, it was the love of the gamble, for he never did politics, he never built anything political. Evidenced in militant regulatory regimes, hardened federalism, expanded entitlements and an exhausted central bank; the institutions of government are exhausted in the service of failed ideals.
The social impact of zero growth is dry political tinder. It wasn’t foreordained. It was calculated. The truth of the matter is that Obama’s hope had no theological foundation. It remains the cynicism of a poor con man.
The gains of the Cold War have collapsed. Disorder is spreading and threat deterrents are folding. An emboldened agenda pursues our suicidal retrenchment. For those who don’t do politics, here’s where we’re at: Obama never lacked good intentions or sound political gifts; very few Presidents ever entered office with such astonishingly high public good will; but the lessons drawn from eight years of progressive utopian ideals is heartening, and this isn’t something you learn ‘on the job’ but, liberal political ideas never work when they abjure reality.
Now we’re left with an unreconstructed liberal road show called the post Obama Presidency. Damn the man.