It’s the President Stupid: The Referendum on Barack Obama

by Bruce S. Thornton

The people have spoken, and what they have said concerns more than just the wrong-headed policies the Democrats have inflicted upon us in the past few years. This election was never just about policy –– it was also about Barack Obama and the repudiation of a public persona manufactured from racial identity politics and progressive ideology.

All the media-concocted narratives that created and marketed the Obama persona to the voters have collapsed. The “post-racial” candidate who could transcend the divides of racial animosity has been exposed as a creature of an identity politics predicated on racial grievance.

Yet why should we be surprised? Obama’s whole career has been fueled not so much by ability as by the notion that he is “black,” and so can satisfy the liberal establishment’s “commitment to diversity” — meaning leftist groupthink dressed in ethnic costumes. No matter that little in Obama’s life was consistent with the conditions in which most black Americans live. By the old Jim Crow “one-drop rule,” he was just black enough. The absence of other markers of black identity, such as a Black English accent, made him even more attractive to white liberals, whose love of diversity usually runs skin-deep.

Once in office, Obama’s lack of experience in the real world of accountability, complexity, and consequences immediately became manifest. His political missteps, embarrassing foreign policy ignorance and naïveté, and tone-deaf arrogance soon revealed him to be the affirmative action president: a polished mediocrity whose middling abilities and talents had been inflated into genius by the racism of low expectations. Believing, as they do, that blacks are always victims and hence inferior, white liberals always compensate by over-praising the minorities whom they elevate not necessarily on merit but on the white compulsion to demonstrate inclusiveness and tolerance. Like Samuel Johnson’s quip about lady preachers, liberals are astonished not that black people can do something well, but that they can do it at all.

Obama’s supporters gave the game away when the President’s wrong-footed policies and thin-skinned narcissism began to draw legitimate political criticism. In order to deflect scrutiny from Obama’s inexperience and incompetence, Democrats defended their Potemkin President by hurling the charge of racism at his critics, the standard response to anyone who questions race-politics orthodoxy and preferences. Thus the Congressional Black Caucus and their abettors in the mainstream media lit a few racialist Reichstag Fires, accusing Tea Party supports of spitting on black Congressmen and indulging racial epithets, charges to this day still unproven. And trying to score an “October surprise,” the NAACP last month released a “report” in which the Tea Party is chastised for giving a “platform to anti-Semites, racists and bigots.”

The voters weren’t buying it. Indeed, such ad hominem smears of people voicing legitimate policy concerns further disenchanted voters with the President.

In truth, most contemporary Americans have no particular racial animus toward black people, and recognize that talent and ability abound in the black community, as they do in every other. What critics of racialist politics and policies dislike is the way the government, media, and universities ignore merit and promote the less qualified simply to display a specious “diversity” that in fact is an instrument for imposing ideological conformity.

Which brings us to the second reason why the voters are unhappy with Obama –– his progressive ideology.

Obama’s domestic policies reflect the statist agenda of increasing government control over the economy and individual choice; and his foreign policy is predicated on the “blame America first” interpretation of interstate relations and conflicts. Voters have rejected Obama’s creeping statism because they know from experience that free individuals are the better managers of their own lives than are unelected government functionaries.

Voters know that the government-sponsored social-engineering elites are not as competent as they profess to be, and so should interfere as little as possible in complex social and economic relations.

Voters know that government control rests on coercion and the limitation of freedom, and that government largess breeds a crippling dependence. And they also know that responsibility and accountability are the necessary correlatives of liberty, and that surrendering personal responsibility for a mess of entitlement pottage leads to diminishing personal freedom.

In foreign policy too, Americans have grown tired of the progressive penchant for running down America and apologizing for its crimes in order to curry favor with presumably more sophisticated internationalists. And they are tired of hearing progressives blame the United States for a global disorder that is more often the result of the cultural pathologies and dysfunctions afflicting so many countries.

Most Americans know that, contra President Obama –– who dismissed American exceptionalism as a parochial, subjective prejudice –– America is indeed exceptional, its freedom and generosity historically unprecedented for a country wielding such immense global power. Thus we have grown impatient with a bankrupt internationalism whose reliance on ineffectual diplomacy and unenforced treaties has endangered our security and compromised our national interests. We prefer to rely on our own judgment of those interests and how best to pursue them, rather than submitting them to the hypocritical standards and self-interested agendas of other countries.

The rejection of Obama and the Democrats, however, is just the beginning. Now begins the hard work of returning this country to the traditional political virtues too often forgotten by both parties. We need again a prudence based on the acceptance of the complexity of our problems and the imperfections of human nature, not to mention the iron law of unintended consequences. Such recognition means that attacking problems like rising healthcare costs or illegal immigration must proceed slowly enough for stock to be taken of each incremental policy’s effectiveness, rather than trying to achieve a grand solution in one fell legislative swoop.

We need to again discover and promote a genuine patriotism and affection for this country, one based not on hiding the imperfections we should expect from flawed humans, but on realizing that those all too human flaws do not negate our country’s manifest virtues like freedom, opportunity, openness, and generosity. From that acceptance comes the confidence in the justice of our decisions and actions, and such confidence will in turn give us the strength to take the difficult actions and make the hard-trade offs necessary in a world filled with murderous ideologies and those who through weakness or self-interest enable them.

So it is up to Republicans whether this election turns out to be another 1980, or another 1994––the beginning of another political revolution that puts us back on the road to greatness, or of another Pyrrhic victory that returns us to a petty business as usual.

©2010 Bruce S. Thornton

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