|November 05, 2012||Sophisticated Voters Measure the Contents of Campaigns||11 comments|
|October 29, 2012||Romney on the Rise in Florida: The Land O’ Lakes Rally||5 comments|
|October 22, 2012||The Problem with Greece and the Debt Crisis||3 comments|
|September 27, 2012||The Forty Six Percent Barrack Obama Discarded||11 comments|
|September 18, 2012||Burning American Flags: Obama’s Foreign Policy Repudiated||14 comments|
|August 27, 2012||Youth Vote: Unemployment Does Not Rock||4 comments|
|August 14, 2012||The Campaign: The Hollywood PAC Ad Against Citizens United||6 comments|
|August 03, 2012||Facebook and Politics: The Loss of Manners in a New Age||3 comments|
|July 27, 2012||The Sweet Taste of Activism||1 comments|
|July 18, 2012||The Destruction of the Individual: A Foreign Concept||13 comments|
I would never want to be an American politician. The most innocuous of statements are taken out of context, transformed into “coded” language, or otherwise exploited on Twitter.
Campaigns regularly engage in more cutthroat tactics than the infamous Standard Oil ever considered using to crush competition before being broken up for unfair practices in business.
Character assassination has become a sad matter of course for even journalists who knowingly distort real issues for partisan purposes or to sell papers.
It’s simply a fact in our consummate consumer culture that politicians are packaged like any other product, carefully positioned, and sold to voters like so many tubes of toothpaste.
This is worrisome.
Citizens—no matter which side of the political aisle is their natural home--must not continue to be complicit in a system that only presents glossy brochures, MTV interviews, and air brushed images during election cycles. They must strive to engage in more sophisticated analyses in the marketplace of ideas.
If this happened en masse—if there was less focus on the superficial and more focus on the substance—more people would want to serve in public office. More people would get elected on merit over image.
So how might we fix the system?
To start, instead of simply going down a checklist of the most facile planks of a general party platform to make a decision for the next leader of the free world, voters can open the ‘candidate boxes’ right now and delve inside the entire contents apart from the packaging.
After all, we should be able to agree that both 2012 candidates are more complex than a single talking point. In a two party system, national candidates must appeal to disparate groups to get enough votes to win. As a result, no candidate is ever going to be a perfect fit for any one special interest constituency.
In this context, Mitt Romney’s candidacy is worth studying.
Rather than being a monolithic group with just one outlook, many Romney voters are sophisticated thinkers who don’t rely on one-word labels to inform their decisions. They feel on measure Romney would make a better president than Obama. This is true even when many of these voters know they would have honest, vigorous debates with other voters in the Romney coalition.
For example, Libertarians who scorn government interference in their private lives are often not in agreement with Evangelicals on social issues. However, after careful analysis, they see a statist approach to governance as more of a threat to an individual’s right to self-determination than any Sunday school sermon.
Therefore, many sophisticated Libertarians have walked straight into the Republican tent. They do this because they feel less federal spending will have more of an impact on everyone’s individual rights than the Republican Party’s current position on gay marriage. (Even hardcore conservative Dick Cheney doesn’t agree with his party on this one. In fact, he supported gay marriage while President Obama was “evolving.”)
Conversely, as fervently as they advocate for their understanding of Christian tenants in politics, many Evangelicals find common ground with liberty loving Mormons who believe faith is a personal matter of conscience.
Instead of worrying about the semantics of a candidate’s theology, sophisticated Evangelicals want a president to more closely adhere to first principles when it comes to religion. While they will discuss points of contention, they have grown weary of hearing that everyone’s beliefs have merit except their own.
Women can also disagree about abortion. However, smart women need not be manipulated by a false narrative on restricted reproductive rights, which has been designed solely to distract from their financial health and the implications of unemployment on a million choices that have nothing to do with babies.
As Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, has said, “I am not always in agreement with everything that is written in the Republican platform about social issues, but I know that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to respect the views of those who may disagree….”
Sophisticated women like Rice may care deeply about choice, but they are not so narrow as to make a decision this election based solely on an issue that isn’t even in the purview of the executive branch. They—like their pro-life peers—also know Mitt Romney has never once proposed banning birth control.
Then there are Democrats who will vote for Romney. They may disagree with many Republican positions, but they are sophisticated voters. National security is a president’s most sacred duty, and they concede it is only intellectually honest to feel the current administration’s response to Libya has been—at best—disingenuous if not downright egregious.
Ultimately, I would not want to be an American politician, but I believe we all have a duty to become sophisticated voters right now. Political packaging doesn’t matter. Rather the full contents of the candidate are what should count.
Jim Harrold is a Gulf War veteran and a public high school teacher who lives in Florida. On Saturday night, he attended a political rally in Land O’ Lakes near Tampa with his girlfriend Brenda.
After parking the car, they had to walk more than two miles to get to the high school football stadium where 15,000 other voters were gathering to hear Mitt Romney speak. But Jim and Brenda thought the effort was worth making.
After all, they had good company on their stroll. They spoke with a girl who had just turned eighteen, a woman in her sixties walking with a cane.
No matter what anyone’s age, all around them seemed excited to be out sharing a special evening.
Once inside the venue, Jim and Brenda stood on the football field, which was packed with a friendly crowd. Jim found the number of young adults heartening, but he focused the most on the many families that had gathered, the young children laughing with their parents.
At one point, a video played on a big screen and underscored how important family has always been to Mitt Romney. Jim thought Romney’s love for his wife seemed very genuine. Romney often told Ann that what she was doing with their kids was far more important than anything that Romney was doing with his work.
While he wouldn’t say President Obama feels any differently about the importance of his wife and girls, Jim found himself thinking Romney’s values would be good values to take into the White House.
When the GOP’s candidate for president finally took center stage, the crowd “ignited with enthusiasm.” In contrast to the wooden man the media has often tried to create, the real Romney was “very charismatic and funny.”
Expressing what many at the rally thought, Romney proclaimed, “Obama didn’t inherit a bad economy. He inherited the greatest nation in the world.”
From where he was standing on the field, Jim “felt a feeling of hope that [he] had not felt in a while.” Jim thought it was especially impressive how Romney talked about reaching across party lines, which is something Jim doesn’t think President Obama has ever done very well.
Furthermore, after what has felt like an interminable period of malaise for many Republicans, Romney had no problem tapping into a desire for actual change. He said, “Obama says, ‘four more years,’ and we answer ‘ten more days.’”
The crowd gleefully chanted back, “Ten more days! Ten more days!”
After a moment of listening to this, a smiling Romney lightly joked, “You know, we will have to change that tomorrow.”
It is true that polls show a tight race remains in Florida, a serious battleground for voters. As in other years, no one will be able to call the Sunshine State until the votes are actually counted.
However, as the Land O’ Lakes rally illustrates, there’s plenty of red in Florida, and Romney has been steadily gaining ground. Outside the media’s punditry, miles away from Washington, Romney’s supporters are enthusiastic and energized. They recognize this is not 2008. This time, the passion is all on their side.
For his part, after the Land O’ Lakes rally, Jim said, “If I had any doubts, they disappeared last night.”
If Mitt Romney keeps this up—if he continues to secure votes from people like Jim and Brenda in these final days, real representatives of what is middle class America—he’ll handily win this election.
The United States has been limping along for multiple years with a struggling economy, which currently projects nothing but anemic growth rates. A major disruption in European import/export markets would be calamitous.
So what’s the problem in Greece?
This is a complicated question, and politics play a part in convoluting the answer. To try and make some sense of the matter, I attended two excellent lectures that were open to the public at Georgia State University to try and gain some insight. A German gave one speech. A Greek gave the other.
First, a member of the Bundestag, which is a political body similar to our Congress, Harald Leibrecht spoke on October 3. The main thrust of his speech was that global markets are tightly tied. The US and Germany have long shared values and interests that make us natural allies and trading partners, but transatlantic relations should never be put on “autopilot.” Rather, communication and cooperation is constant between valued friends.
Leibrecht then touched upon the financial crises in Greece and other EU countries. He said Germany is dedicated to tackling European debt with fiscal discipline; however, there are political limits to financial bailouts that come from Berlin, as German taxpayers are not prepared to absorb all the debts of other peoples.
Furthermore, while the European Central Bank sets monetary policy for seventeen eurozone countries, the ECB is much weaker than the Federal Bank in the United States. Twenty-seven different fiscal policies of EU member states complicate matters.
“Unfortunately,” he lamented with a charming smile, “no one has yet written a book called Solving Debt Crisis Made Simple.”
The second speaker I heard, Vassilios Galoussis from the Greek Consul, would agree that the financial situation in Europe is very complicated. On October 11, he offered some Greek perspectives on his nation’s precarious position.
Echoing Leibrecht on some points, Galoussis said one problem that must be understood when studying the debt crisis in Europe is that those who participate in the eurozone have a common currency but no institution like the Federal Bank, no lender of last resort. Therefore, “bailouts” in times of crisis come not from the European Union itself but from other sovereign nations within the eurozone.
To understand the implications of this reality, imagine California having to borrow money bi-laterally from Georgia. This would cause massive resentment between states as well as practical problems for state politicians.
Furthermore, with a common currency but no federal system to guarantee deposits, bank runs have become a perennial problem for Greece.
Think again about California and Georgia.
If you deposited money in a bank in California, the FDIC would guarantee this money. Therefore, if you lived in California in a time of financial crisis, there would be no reason to run to the bank and move your funds to another state with a more stable outlook like Georgia.
Not so in the European Union.
Bank runs have occurred often due to panic in the streets, and much needed capital has been moved outside of Greece to other eurozone countries, which further paralyzes the Greek economy.
Additionally, while austerity measures are seen as a necessary part of any long-term solution—and Greece has cut its debt an amazing 8-9% in just two years—austerity (especially when coupled with fiscal policy that incorporates tax hikes) can slow a country’s economic growth, which can then dig a deeper fiscal pit. Therefore, the problems in Greece are not as easy to fix as simply slashing budgets.
Ultimately, both Leibrecht and Galoussis seemed to concur that every country has specific economic and political needs that must be taken into consideration. Therefore, visionary leadership is required for the European Union to move forward, which brings me back to the United States.
While we are not in the eurozone, we have our own fiscal cliff looming on this side of the ocean. American debt issues are unique and should not be compared to those in Greece. However, our highly polarized Congress seems frozen in a period of inaction.
For the United States to move forward, we, too, will require visionary leadership that seeks more compromise between parties. So far, there hasn’t been much evidence of this existing on our side of the pond.
On September 11, Embassy walls were stormed in Egypt, and the black flag of militant Islam was hoisted over what is sovereign American soil in Cairo. An American ambassador and three of his staffers were murdered in Benghazi in what US Ambassador Susan Rice has called a “spontaneous” protest over the release of a minor movie. (Conversely, Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf has said this was a planned “criminal act” by militants.)
Since then, American flags have burned across the Middle East in countries like Pakistan where hundreds were subdued with tear gas while marching to the American Consulate in Karachi. Protesters in Morocco, a moderate Muslim country, chanted “Death to Obama.” In Kabul, crowds yelled, “Death to America.”
Rocks and bottle rockets have been hurled outside the US Embassy in Jakarta where the AP recorded a protester yelling, “We will destroy America like this flag!” In Sudan riot police have had to protect the American, British and German Embassies.
Still, Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney insists, “This is not a case of protests directed at the United States at large or at US policy, but it is in response to [a] video that is offensive to Muslims…”
In regards to that perspective, one should note ABC News and other outlets have reported that the producer of Innocence of Muslims used an alias while promoting his film. While he claimed to be a Jewish real estate agent, he is actually an Egyptian who raised the money for his movie in Egypt. The American government did not fund or condone the creation of this movie mocking Islam, and the producer wasn’t even an American. Thereby it seems the movie’s only real relationship to the United States—apart from the location where it was filmed--is the cherished American value that purports even offensive speech is free.
This creates a problem for the Obama presidency.
The Obama doctrine as demonstrated by multiple speeches and foreign policy initiatives is one that rests on the assumption that the animosity that has long radiated towards the United States was in large part a reaction to a lack of American humility, military posturing and interference in the affairs of other cultures.
Yet after four years of a recalibrated relationship with the Middle East, a video has caused radical Islamists to yell such niceties as “Obama, we love Osama” and “Our dead are in paradise; your dead are in hell.”
Were such things said in a remote outpost of the Hindu Kush where radicalized sheepherders with Internet access are unable to differentiate You Tube videos from American endorsed positions?
Actually, the “Obama, we love Osama” folks were gathered in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, and ABC News Australia reported police used batons and dog squads to repel the five-hour long protest conducted by violent radicals wearing Arabic scripted headbands that read, “We are your soldiers, Mohammed.”
In fact, while still in the “peaceful” stages of assembly, children were photographed holding signs that said, “Behead all those who insult the prophet.”
This gives pause for reflection.
Let’s assume that all of these protests really are the result of a movie.
Does Western culture condone the beheading of producers? Obviously not, so what can the United States do to appease Islamic fascists? Disavow such films? Stop them from being made?
To think about what this really means in the context of our own values, put aside for the moment a silly film produced by a fringe Egyptian for nefarious purposes.
If an author like Salman Rushdie is ever murdered and wider protests erupt around the globe because of his writing, should the United States respond by tweeting that Americans repudiate Rushdie’s highly acclaimed work?
If not, one has to consider the broader implications of how the Obama administration has handled the violent—and not isolated—reactions to a remote film.
Is it okay to continue to propagate the idea that insanely intolerant people have a reason to be mad? How do Americans live peacefully with extremists who are alive, well, and so easily agitated despite President Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policies? (This was the description an Obama adviser gave to The New Yorker of the president’s approach to the Arab Spring.)
It would be refreshing if someone seemed even remotely interested in analyzing what this crisis actually says about American security around the globe.
After all, the Commander-in-Chief’s primary duty is not to protect the feelings of fanatics. It’s to engage in policies that protect the people of the United States.
In fact, in 2008 President Obama convinced 66 percent of 18-29 year olds who actually voted to pull the lever for him. The “Hope and Change” campaign was sleek and connected. That ultra cool cat candidate had a cool name, cool poster, cool vision. It seemed on university campuses, everyone liked Barrack. A lot of professors still do. President Obama does, after all, have a lot in common with them.
But now I wonder about those students.
On August 21, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics released a summary of employment trends among American youth. This demographic is defined as men and women between 16 and 24 years of age. The percentage of unemployed is calculated upon the number of these who are seeking a job and can’t find one. Many of these young adults were eligible to vote in 2008, and now the wave of hope they rode then has crashed real change over a lot of their lives with not nice consequences.
Consider, in July 2012, the average youth unemployment rate was 17.1 percent.
To break those numbers down further, a higher percentage of young men today are unemployed than a percentage of young women. White youth registered a 14.9 percent unemployment rate; Asians were at 14.4 percent, and Hispanics reached 18.5 percent. Black youth suffer the most under a 28.6 percent unemployment rate, which is by any definition crushing. Remember, the highest average unemployment figure during the Great Depression was 24.9 percent in 1933.
So it is no wonder NPR recently reported the youth vote feels less energized in 2012. Who feels energized when living in their parents’ basement?
As we kick around debates about how to preserve retirement entitlements, it’s also useful to remember a 2010 CNN poll found seventy percent of people under the age of fifty do not even believe Social Security will be around by the time they retire, so it’s not a youth issue.
Medicare is also not a sure thing, and while Obamacare has allowed kids to stay dependent on their parents longer, it looks to them as a “healthy group” to pay more premiums rather than capitalize upon their youth and save money.
I haven’t even mentioned the burden of that monster called the national debt. (Since our current youth can’t find jobs, maybe their children will pay it?)
So President Obama has talked a lot lately about lowering tuition costs, forgiving student loans, and adding Pell Grants. But these are great examples of pandering to the college set he thinks might actually get registered and show up to vote for him in November. They don’t address the real problem of today’s youth, which is unemployment.
After all, I remember when I was a young undergraduate. I wasn’t eligible for a Pell Grant, but I consistently worked two jobs to pay for my BA, as my middle class parents simply couldn’t afford to help a lot with school.
If I was an undergraduate in the same circumstance today, I would still not be eligible for a Pell Grant. Would I be able to find even one of those two jobs I depended upon to pay my tuition? And if I could get a lot of President Obama’s student loans instead, how would I pay those loans back after graduation with no job market?
The truth of the matter is that President Obama’s economy has been a disaster for young men and women.
Keep in mind, with a kid of my own in college, and as a graduate student still paying ever-increasing tuition costs, I do understand why President Obama’s efforts to stop short-term hikes in student loans and to tout student loan forgiveness programs, gets the youth vote’s attention. I also understand that young voters tend to trend more to the left on social issues than their stodgy, old parents.
But this time around, young men and women must consider more than just the poster-sized picture of politics that might fit into a dorm room.
In 2012, whose policies will get companies hiring again? How will a president kick-start the financial engine that will get unemployed youth out of their parents’ basement and into careers that promise independence? Whose vision is best suited to tackle current problems of finance?
If we’re going by records—and the real unemployment numbers he has not fixed—I think President Obama has already had—and missed—his chance to make a difference.
I mean, at this point, wouldn’t getting a job be the coolest change?
I love to laugh. I love politics. I have loved several Will Ferrell movies. So going to see The Candidate on a Friday night with my family was a no-brainer.
I am happy to report—while the film is crass—my ninety-minute investment—as well as my butter-laden popcorn—proved quite palatable. What person with a sense of humor doesn’t laugh at the idea of a politician punching a baby?
However, one should know The Campaign also has a fairly transparent agenda in this very real political season, so let me give you the quick low down on this Hollywood hoe down.
Basically you’ve got two politicians running for Congress in North Carolina. The slick Democrat who gets embroiled in a sex scandal reminds one of men like John Edwards. The bumbling Republican has an “accident” while hunting that is reminiscent of Dick Cheney.
During these scenes, I greatly appreciated the movie’s non-partisan portrayal of the hypocritical nature of politicians, the many absurdities of modern day campaigning, and the fickleness of an easily swayed electorate. In fact, the parody was so often on the level of South Park, that I kept waiting for someone to kill Kenny.
If someone ever did do such a thing, it was clear from the start that he would surely have been one of the evil Koch brothers… I mean, Motch brothers.
However, the ultimate message of the movie is that the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United—which is called out by name—was a bad decision because it has injected too much money from the business world into politics.
This is a fair position to take, I suppose, but I left the theatre with the exact opposite view. Hollywood, which injects its money into the political realm all the time without any conflict of conscience proves to me that the Supreme Court got it right.
To review, the Citizens United ruling has become a rallying cry for many on the Left who feel the Court is too ideologically driven, but what did the ruling actually say?
To figure this out I did what everyone should do, dear reader, when the aim is to weigh the validity of ideas expressed in any Supreme Court decision. I went straight to the source and read all 183 pages of Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, including concurrences and dissents.
The experience was educating.
Truly, it is impossible in a short column to expound on all the intricacies of opinions that the Court took 183 pages to describe, but there are some basic points that the majority used to justify its facial ruling.
First one must remember that this whole broo-ha-ha began because Citizens United created a “documentary” about Hillary Clinton that they wanted to make accessible to viewers who requested to see it via video-on-demand within thirty days of a primary election.
Just like many a Michael Moore “documentary” has tried to make citizens believe that the Bush family regularly eats babies covered in oil for breakfast, the Citizens United film had the clear intent of discouraging voters from supporting Senator Clinton. Since Citizens United received some money from corporations—and the 1990 Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce ruling made banning speech based on the speaker’s corporate identity possible—Citizens United might have been violating the law if the movie was released.
Now, don’t get confused.
The right of a corporation to spend money for the purpose of expressing a political viewpoint is very different from the right of a corporation to make a direct contribution to a candidate. The Tillman Act in 1907—as pointed out in the dissent—made these sorts of contributions illegal so as to cut down on the appearance of impropriety—quid pro quo relationships—in the American political system.
The question that the Court tackled in the Citizens United case is whether or not it is Constitutional to deny an entity with specific political interests the right to express those interests based solely on that entity’s form. As the majority opinion states, Citizens United’s problems with the distribution of their film highlighted the fact that “the FEC [had] created a regime that [allowed] it to select what political speech is safe for public consumption by applying ambiguous tests.” The ultimate ruling determined this was not a fair application of the First Amendment.
So I keep hearing some scream that “corporations aren’t people,” but, as the Citizens United ruling points out, media corporations have always enjoyed special exemptions from the law that allow them to engage in whatever political speech they want without censorship.
Of course media corporations are necessary to disseminate information in a democracy, but they can be as involved in the business of making money as any other corporation. They have the same pitfalls of stockholders with diverse opinions that they may not represent in full, and they are often not “fair and balanced” in how they present information.
After all, any Occupy Wall Streeter will tell you, Fox News programs can have an agenda. Fox News is part of News Corporation. So by saying media corporations are exempted from the restrictions imposed on other corporations during an election season, the law is in effect privileging the Fox News agenda.
If News Corporation is “not a person” anymore than a Fortune 100 company is a person, then why should News Corporation enjoy Constitutional rights to free speech that a Fortune 100 company does not?
In addition, for those interested in “fairness,” can you tell me why a corporation that has a media arm, as some do, should be able to use that media arm to influence voters in the run up to an election while another, similar corporation without a media arm should say nothing in the crucial time period when electioneering really matters? Does the media arm somehow make the corporation’s viewpoints neutral?
Citizens United basically levels the playing field and allows all corporations to engage in political speech however they see fit as long as they disclose that they are the source of that political speech.
Of course I must note that part of the Citizens United dissent asserts the ruling will chill democracy, as voters like me will feel as if individual votes are inconsequential next to the mighty influence of that corporate dollar.
But whether or not a corporation can engage in express advocacy 30 days before an election, I know Sarah Jessica Parker can host dinner parties that require guests to pay $40,000 a plate and can guarantee access to a sitting president. While no one is going to argue about Ms. Parker’s “personhood,” it’s clear her money buys her political influence I will never be able to afford. Yet I do not lose faith in the system in her case. Why is the corporate dollar any different?
Which brings me back to The Campaign and its political messaging.
While not expressly supporting a candidate—while only pushing an opinion about a Supreme Court ruling—it occurs to me that the big difference between Hollywood and your run-of-the-mill corporation is that Hollywood makes a profit on the political ads it produces by packaging them as entertainment.
There’s a great deal of irony in knowing that according to a July 17 article in the New York Times, “Of the $96 million or more raised by … super PACs [funded after Citizens United], only about 13 percent came from privately held corporations, and less than 1 percent came from publicly traded corporations.” However, The Campaign with its clear political agenda made $27.4 million in its opening weekend.
Those aren’t bad corporate profits to earn when selling a political viewpoint, eh?
Regardless, it seems clear to me that actors like Will Ferrell who make Moveon.org PSAs, billionaires like the Koch brothers or George Soros, millionaires like Sarah Jessica Parker, Fox News, CNN, Michael Moore, Citizens United, Simon and Schuster, and—yes—other corporations with vested political interests should be able to make their case to the American people for whatever political positions serve them most.
This does not mean money can “buy” elections. Hilariously, money doesn’t even end up buying the election in The Campaign.
However, “we the people” have a clear duty to carefully assess all the information put in front of us—which includes evaluating sources—when participating in our democracy. If we do this, the Citizens United ruling does little more than even the playing field for all who wish to engage in their rights to free speech.
However Hollywood spins it, that’s not a bad thing.
There is a series of statues in Prague that serves as a memorial to the victims of communism. This series is called the Pomník Obětem Komunismu. It was erected twelve years after the Velvet Revolution, which was the historic pulling away of the Iron Curtain from a Czechoslovakia too long obscured by the dark powers of Stalinism.
Today, Pomník Obětem Komunismu reminds citizens of all nations of the brutal oppression and loss of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in the dark days of totalitarian despotism when the Soviet Union was the undisputed Big Brother of Eastern Europe. It can be found at the base of Petrin Hill in the Czech Republic, and it is, indeed, a visually powerful work of art.
In fact, out of all the many amazing things I have seen in extensive travels, this memorial has impacted me in a way that many other, similarly focused works have not. I’ve thought about it often, and as a teacher, I’ve even used images of it when addressing themes in George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984.
However, I did not ever expect an American president to make me recall this memorial as President Obama did last week in a campaign speech extolling the virtues of government sponsored group work, the illusory power of the individual.
First, I need for you to imagine a long flight of stairs cutting up a green hill. On those stairs walks a bronze man with an expression of misery. His body is naked and vulnerable. But what you notice most is the same man a few steps further up the hill. This version is cracked. Now he is missing a limb, two limbs. Now he is not himself, not a man, not a whole human being. Now he is broken.
The system under which this man—and the many real people he symbolizes--lost his very sense of self was an insidious one built in parallel to the ideology of double-think used to destroy Orwell’s fictitious Winston Smith in the aforementioned 1984. Under its banner, the government was glorified, and the worker became an insignificant drone in a living hive focused on collective perpetuity.
So why did President Obama recall this memorial to my mind?
I do not think that President Obama is a communist. (In truth, British author George Orwell was a democratic socialist, not a capitalist.) But I do think the president’s speech shows an ideological bent counter to my understanding of the United States.
For example, when praising the higher income tax rates President Bill Clinton imposed in a time of prosperity on higher wage earners, President Obama said, “We created 23 million new jobs… We created a lot of millionaires.”
This simple statement, which has not garnered much attention from any press, is the most shocking to me. It puts “we”—which is the government per the president’s use—into an almost God-like position, shaping the financial fortunes of the chosen few, as if it is through the power of the state that men are made.
This is not the idea upon which the American system is built.
Rather, our Founding Fathers formed a government to deal with collective affairs of state in a way that keeps the individual sacrosanct. Voters dictate policy to the government and then consent to fund that government’s initiatives, not the other way around.
Therefore, “we” in Obama’s sense of the word never create jobs or millionaires.
People in the nineties were allowed to pursue happiness as they saw fit to create their own wealth. They then gave a percentage of their earned income to a government that worked for them to maintain the infrastructure and hire public servants needed for the country to run smoothly, not the other way around.
In other words, the private sector creates jobs, is responsible for millionaires, and employs everyone who works for the government, not the other way around.
President Obama then said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Again, this foreign sentiment strips an American of the right to any contributions made to his own system. It suggests “somebody else” dictates success. Therefore, no one should have pride in ownership, no sense of accomplishment, no right to the forging of his or her own destiny because the individual isn’t important.
To visualize this worldview is to visualize the Czech statues. To think this way is to deny that some individuals squander every advantage; others press even the most miniscule of opportunities, and all free people have the power to choose.
Furthermore, if one reads the president’s entire speech made in Roanoke, there is a great deal of class demagoguery couched in contradictory populist platitudes (or double speak), which suggests all good comes from government programs, not the other way around.
My favorite sentiment toward the end of all this blather is the promise that the president said he has fulfilled, which is to wake up every morning to think about how to make “your life a little bit better.”
I suppose he is deciding which of us precious few drones shall have jobs in his command economy. Perhaps he is choosing which of us is allowed to walk up that government-built staircase on the green hill of success for certainly we cannot get to the top without him or improve our lives on our own.
Truly, it must be nice for him to be such a powerful individual in this country where only he can stand alone.