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January 01st 2013 print

Daryl McCann

Barack Obama v The Party of Lincoln

At his first inauguration ceremony, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama set the tone with a line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: “A New Birth of Freedom”. Confident of his place amongst the giants of American history, the forty-fourth president has never been reluctant to compare his destiny with that of The Great Emancipator, the sixteenth president. The fact remains, however, that the Party of Lincoln was the Republican Party, specifically created in the 1850s to defeat slavery. In sharp contrast, the Democratic Party—forever the representative of sectional interests—was mostly in favour of slavery at the time of the Civil War.

For Democratic Party triumphalists, Barack Obama’s unambiguous defeat of Mitt Romney at the November 6, 2012, election confirms the notion that tomorrow belongs to American-style liberalism. The GOP (the “Grand Old Party”), in the eyes of many of its critics, harks back to a bygone era. Being a Republican, claimed one pundit in the New York Times, was like “going to sleep for fifty years and waking up to discover” that the rest of the electorate has moved on. A widespread assumption amongst Democrats appears to be that not only are Republicans enamoured with the economic good times of the 1950s, but also with the bigotry that pervaded the era. Wrote another New York Times reader: “Suspicion about immigrants, fears about socialism, the subservience of women, back-of-the-bus-style racism, and disgust at the very thought of homosexuals were the cornerstones of the Republican ethos.” A brief recourse to the facts shows the case to be otherwise.

On November 25, 1955, to cite but one other example from a record of battling discrimination, the thirty-fourth president, Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican), passed a law banning racial segregation on interstate bus travel. He also provided federal military assistance to ensure the safety of African-American students being integrated into Little Rock’s Central High School. In the 1956 presidential contest Martin Luther King publicly endorsed Eisenhower’s re-election bid, while the president’s 1957 Civil Rights Bill marked a major legislative step towards ending Jim Crow segregation in the South. Why, then, the defamatory claim that racism, not to mention xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and let’s throw in Islamophobia, are “the cornerstones of the Republican ethos”?

Few would deny the accomplishments of the thirty-fifth president, John F. Kennedy (1961–63), and the thirty-sixth president, Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963–69), both Democrats. The significance of the LBJ-sponsored 1964 Civil Rights Bill Act cannot be overestimated. Any fair commentary, however, might note that the Republican Party supported the Bill in Congress. The Democrats have bragging rights on first African-American president, but African-Americans aligned with the GOP have ascended to positions of political and legal prominence across the board.

In 2001, for instance, Condoleezza Rice became the first woman to occupy the post of US National Security Adviser, and four years later she was made Secretary of State, another first for women. At the 2000 Republican national convention, Rice offered a perfectly lucid explanation for her decision to sign up with the Republican Party: “My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did.” This did not prevent PC racists in the “liberal” blogosphere erupting with accusations of “Uncle Tom” on the day of Rice’s NSA appointment.

The forty-six-year-old African-American actress Stacey Dash, remembered for the 1990s hit movie Clueless, felt the wrath of the mainstream media in the course of the 2012 presidential election campaign when she expressed a contrarian political view on Twitter: “Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future.” An army of PC bigots took to social media sites in what Dash has described as “racially charged and hateful tones”. It is not, it needs to be remembered, as if Obama’s first term saw an improvement of living standards for African-Americans.

Unemployment among African-Americans rose from 12.7 per cent to 14.3 per cent, while the unemployment rate for whites actually decreased from 7.1 per cent to 7.0 per cent. During Obama’s first term in office the median income for African-Americans fell by 11.1 per cent, whereas the figure for whites came in at 5.2 per cent. So much for Obama’s promise to be the leader of a movement that would “end poverty in America”. The hard facts corroborate Stacey Dash’s stand, although the liberal-leftist media dutifully denigrated the former Hollywood star as “Clueless Stacey Dash”.    

An understanding of PC bigotry begins with this truth: the American-style liberalism espoused by the Democratic Party since the days of the thirty-second president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–45), is not liberal at all. The Democratic Party could hardly be labelled communist, and yet its orientation for the past seventy years has been a version of leftism. As noted by Michael Walsh, in his brief but pugnacious book The People v. The Democratic Party (2012), the liberal-blue colour adopted by the Democratic Party happens to be a swindle. Only in America are conservatives “red” and the lefties “blue”. The Democratic Party’s shameless misappropriation of the term “liberal” is no less a fraud, especially when a recent poll of Democrat supporters shows that 52 per cent of them are favourably disposed to the concept of socialism.

The basic building block of liberty for the Democratic Party, then, is not Lincoln’s sovereignty of the individual but a confederacy of social, ethnic, demographic and ideological groupings held together by a kind of negative cohesion, which mostly takes the form of waging war against what the hippies of the 1960s called “the Man”. The alleged sin of “the Man” is in the eye of the beholder or, to put it another way, one’s place in the Democratic Party’s rainbow of discontents. Mitt Romney, Republican, male, wealthy, uncool, white, Mormon and with a non-working spouse, got it with both barrels. It is inconceivable that the Party of Lincoln would launch, as the Party of Obama did in 2012, a national campaign predicated on demonising a political opponent with the Chávez-like theme of “Not One of Us”.

For all of Obama’s smarmy 2008 talk of moving beyond “the politics of personal destruction”, the 2012 re-election campaign will be forever remembered for its lethal demolition of the other candidate. Team Obama’s campaign was—in a technical sense—extraordinary. If only the Democrats could run the economy with such expertise. “The New Chicago Machine”, as an article by Alexis Madrigal described it, “made unprecedented progress in voter targeting”. For the first time ever, a political party had “world-class technologists inside a campaign”.

The team, led by Harper Reed—“a chilled vodka kind of guy”—knew not only how to get the faithful out to vote but possessed the kind of high-tech wizardry that squeezed unprecedented quantities of cash out of them. In contrast, the Republican Party’s low-tech Orca Operation was lamentable. If the future of the United States of America—and Western civilisation—were not at stake, any self-respecting libertarian-conservative should call it quits.    

No fair-minded researcher found anything in Mitt Romney’s personal life, his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, his management of the 2002 Winter Olympics or his stellar career at Bain Capital to be anything other than exemplary. Apart from allegedly behaving like a teenager as an adolescent—or possibly the other way around—the only stain on Romney’s character was tying the pet pooch to the car roof each summer the family went on holiday. Only when someone recalled a passage from Dreams of My Father about the young Barack (or was it Barry?) Obama merrily consuming man’s best friend did the Democrats drop the smear. Far easier to monster Romney’s time in private enterprise: on that score, at least, Obama maintains a perfectly clean slate.

Paul Begala, a consultant for USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC, boasted after the election that his team’s objective from the start was to “turn Romney’s greatest strength into his greatest weakness” by portraying the Republican candidate as “Gordon Gekko”. In the course of the campaign Mitt Romney was additionally accused of waging a war on women, demeaning the gay community, frustrating the dreams of Hispanics and, according to one shameless television pundit, being “uncomfortable” around African-Americans.

The New Chicago Machine had Team Romney in its sights from the very beginning, which makes it more dispiriting that Republican Representative Todd Akin of Missouri decided in the middle of the campaign to trumpet his own pro-life credentials to the media: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare … If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The liberal-leftist media had a field day with Akin’s blather. Romney did not wage a war on women, but tell that to the 56 per cent of all female voters who backed Obama on Election Day. Why would Akin spout bogus science when he could have drawn attention to the president’s record on the subject? Obama, as an Illinois legislator, voted to outlaw medical help for any foetus that survived an abortion procedure.

The modern-day Democratic Party, with its American-style liberalism or progressivism, encourages an Us-versus-Them mindset because the party’s continuing electoral fortunes depend on it. Ron Christy, an African-American who served in the Bush administration, constructs just such a case in Blackwards: How Black Leadership is Returning America to the Days of Separate but Equal (2012). The Democratic Party has self-servingly promoted identity politics as the only option for African-Americans, not to mention Hispanics, women and all other targeted groups. They have marginalised the liberal universalism of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King—judge people not “by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”—by divide-and-conquer Realpolitik. Obama’s soaring rhetoric about being the nation’s healer and unifier was never anything more than a scam concocted by the Chicago political operator David Axelrod. 

Thomas Sowell, the African-American economist and political philosopher, argues in Affirmative Action Around the World: An Imperial Study (2004) that progressivism does something worse than contravene the ethos of true liberalism. It works against the best interests of individual African-Americans. Affirmative action, socialised health care, quota systems, government intrusion on familial autonomy, quota systems, modified education programs and so on ad infinitum do not begin to match the genuine social mobility provided by free enterprise and market economics.

Only a militant or fanatic would suggest the fortieth president, Ronald Reagan (1981–89), was prejudiced against African-Americans. At the same time, it cannot be said he sponsored a long list of affirmative action-style legislation on their behalf. What the record does show, nevertheless, is that African-Americans, who made up 11 per cent of the working-age population, gained 15 per cent of the new jobs created during Reagan’s business-friendly incumbency. Compare that with the plunging economic fortunes of African-Americans vis-à-vis the rest of the population in Obama’s first term. A generation of economic advancement for African-Americans, begun under Reagan, has now been shattered, the average wealth of African-American households plummeting a full 16 per cent between 2009 and 2012, far worse than for the average white household.

Most Americans, including Republicans, have been indoctrinated at school or university into believing FDR’s New Deal rebooted the national economy in the 1930s. It was the government, or so the legend goes, that saved the country from itself. The fact that every other liberal democracy in the world recovered from the Depression between five and seven years before America, and that only the Second World War belatedly dragged Uncle Sam out of the mire, remains a moot point. American-style liberalism retains the faith that trillions and trillions of government-spent dollars will somehow restore the country to robust health. Anybody heard of Say’s Law?

In the 1930s FDR established the crypto-state financial entity Fannie Mae (which was later joined by a sibling entity, Freddie Mac), in the 1990s “community organisers” such as Obama lobbied Congress to expand Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s role in the mortgage market, and in 2008 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac precipitated the Global Financial Crash. An oversimplification, perhaps, but there has been no effort on the part of the leftist-liberal commentariat even to contemplate such a narrative. Instead, Obama has been given free rein to blame America’s economic malaise on the “cynicism” and “selfishness” of business, a self-serving view that does not even begin to account for the USA’s long-term economic decline.

As Mark Steyn argues in After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (2011), government money, not even $6,000,000,000,000 worth, can restore jobs in cities and regions that no longer encourage and reward literacy, expertise, initiative, risk, hard work and self-discipline. The American dream is being progressively superseded by a nightmare; work by unemployment, autonomous families by state-assisted domicile arrangements, cultural literacy by functional illiteracy, personal responsibility by victimhood, and financial independence by welfare dependence. America’s business, in short, is no longer business. The trend might not be uniform—Portland, Oregon, feels far more buoyant than Pittsburgh—but, as Hamlet never said, something is rotten in the United States. Crucially, such a state of affairs is not necessarily to the electoral disadvantage of a political party that sells itself as virtuous, caring and, most importantly, generous.        

In May, before the campaign proper had commenced, Mitt Romney reflected on the implications of this for his upcoming contest for the presidency in a private question-and-answer session with potential donors. A Democrat stooge taped Romney ruminating on the futility of spending campaign funds on the 47 per cent of the electorate who were never going to vote for him because “they are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it”. In September, as the stakes grew higher, the leftist-liberal magazine Mother Jones posted Romney’s comments online as proof positive that the Republican candidate was a callous plutocrat intent on burying America’s poor. Such an interpretation of Romney’s private pondering was mischievously unfair and entirely partisan, not to mention slanderous—and the mainstream media ran with it.

Romney’s apparent reversal of fortunes came as a result of his strong performance in the October 3 Denver presidential debate. Millions of people had tuned in to hear the Republican candidate explain in confident and articulate terms that the real hope for America was a business-friendly administration rather than populist platitudes and identity group politics. For the independent voter, maybe—just maybe—somebody with genuine business acumen might be more relevant to America’s dilemma than a former community organiser. Then again, perhaps the onset of Hurricane Sandy swayed that particular argument back in favour of the former community organiser.

One thing is for certain. The Obama’s administration dissembling on the Second September 11 Massacre would never have been permitted under a Republican administration.        

If the mainstream media in the United States were genuinely liberal rather than American-style liberal, some of their energy in the last seven weeks of the campaign might have been invested in scrutinising UN ambassador Susan Rice’s original explanation for the September 11, 2012, murder in Benghazi of the US ambassador to Libya. Instead, journalists refused to seek the truth without fear or favour and subsequently failed to perform their solemn duty to the Republic. The White House boldly—and correctly—calculated they would obfuscate on Benghazi because the mainstream media was less committed to the two-party political process than it was to “the Cause”.

On October 21 the New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe conveyed on Twitter this message to the people of the United States of America: “Obama is the light & the future. Keep going towards the light.” Though not a citizen of the USA, Crowe has as much right as Stacey Dash to give the voters of America the benefit of his insight. The problem begins when news reporters, tasked with keeping the administration—any administration—accountable, fail to rise above the political sophistication of a Russell Crowe. 

Barack Obama’s own estimation of the forty-fourth president is no less positive than that of Crowe. Charles R. Kesler, in I Am the Change (2012), quotes from Obama’s 2011 interview with Steve Kroft of CBS’s 60 Minutes: “I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president—with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln.” Obama’s artless self-deception perfectly complements the calculated dishonesty. Is there—apart from the demise of Osama bin Laden—a single instance of the free world (or freedom-loving people anywhere) being better positioned on account of Obama’s administration?

One of the hallmarks of Obama’s foreign policy has been his outreach to the Muslim world coupled with the targeting of Al Qaeda identities, most importantly, obviously, Osama bin Laden. The public outrage generated in North Africa (and elsewhere) against America by The Innocence of Muslims, an amateur film produced by an Egyptian Copt, and the slaughter of Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and three other US nationals, threatened to expose Obama’s two-pronged strategy as a fiasco. First, the fifty-six members of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) were suddenly demanding he support laws that proscribed “Islamophobia”, proof that Obama’s outreach encourages rather than dampens the ambitions of the leadership of the Muslim world. Second, the Second September 11 Massacre revealed that the assassination of Bin Laden and a number of other Al Qaeda figures had not ended the threat to Americans of Islamic terrorism.

While some officials suspected Al Qaeda’s hand in the slaughter, it was significant that others “cautioned against assuming that the attacks were deliberately organised to coincide with the September 11 anniversary”. Nobody in the White House now denies the American ambassador was taken out by Al Qaeda affiliates, but in late September Obama said this in his address to the United Nations: “There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy.” OIC leaders were free to agitate and fume as if the guilty party in Benghazi was Islamophobia. The wily Hamid Karzai took the opportunity in New York to denounce “the depravity of fanatics”—not the Libyan murderers, of course, but the makers of The Innocence of Muslims. By adroitly keeping the possibility of the incensed-crowds-attacked-the-embassy narrative alive through to November 6, Obama could implicitly sympathise with the concerns of the OIC at the UN and assure American voters that the death of Bin Laden still meant something.   

What conjoins Obama’s domestic policy and his foreign policy is a sense of smoke and mirrors. So many trillions of dollars expended and so few jobs created, and yet Obama remained the preferred choice to manage the economy. So much bowing and scraping to foreign leaders who offered so little respect for America in return, and yet Obama’s confidence remains that he can solve the world’s problems. What is common to both his domestic and foreign policy in the second term is that things just cannot go on as they have in the first four years. Obama will discover, as European leaders have before him, that he will not be able to spend his way out of the Great Recession. In Greece recently, the wages of state teachers were slashed in half—this type of consequence is coming to every debt-ridden nation in the world. Obama’s largesse has a use-by date.

Similarly, Obama’s foreign policies, which promised the world and delivered the Benghazi massacre, cannot be maintained. One of the clear red lines that distinguish Obama from many other progressive thinkers is his pledge that the USA will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons capability. He has said this as often as he said he would hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden. At the very same United Nations address in September where he fudged on the reasons for the murder of Ambassador Stevens, Obama nevertheless made his position on Iranian nuclear weapon capability crystal clear:

Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Thats why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And thats why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

If Obama succeeds in this quest over the next four years, he will have achieved something far more substantial than the assassination of Osama bin Laden. If he fails, he will not be another Jimmy Carter, the thirty-ninth president (1977–81), but something far, far worse.

Daryl McCann wrote on the fall of South Vietnam in the December issue. He has a blog at http://darylmccann.blogspot.com.au.