The Attack on our Identity Was Constant, and Effective
President Obama is literally telling us his legacy. To sum it up, he pulled us from the brink, gave us economic salvation, protection from private enterprise, better healthcare, education and a safer homeland. He and his surrogates are good observers of human behavior — they know from experience that repetition will often suffice as truth; and where the Media would normally intrude on a false message, Obama & Co. know they can spin unfettered by the checks and balances that torment the GOP. But for a large number of Americans, the facts grate against Obama’s narrative. For them, the last 8 years proved only how fragile a democracy is and how easily corrupted.
The tangible effects of this administration’s oppressive taxation, regulation, and redistribution have been litigated in many places. As Donald Trump waits eagerly in the wings, there is hope he and a Republican Congress will succeed in rescinding much of it. But the invisible damage done to America by this administration is immeasurable, unlikely to be repaired in less than a generation – if ever. Though it might one day be comforting as a college case study entitled “How America Lost Its Way”, it would more likely be called “The Great Post-Racial Miracle of Barack Obama.” After years of slow and steady incremental steps toward Mediocrity, America was being dragged across the Finished line, shoved into its proper place as Obama sees it – somewhere between “average” and “new normal”. The “Shining City” Ronald Reagan espoused? Gone in just 30 years, along with every warning he ever issued about the travesty of big government. How did it happen? It took a near perfect storm to pull it off: A lawless Executive Branch, a spineless Legislative Branch, and an intimidated Judiciary; a proactively deceptive Media; and finally, a frightened and uncertain Citizenry. With abundant examples of all the above, the focus of this article is on the People, and how a calculated messaging strategy from the White House and its surrogates was successful for almost a decade.
Message 1: America is Less
Shortly after his election to the implicit job of Cheerleader in Chief, President Obama made the unprovoked and unprecedented decision to tell the world about the negative effects of 200 years of American imperialism, intervention, and arrogance. His disdain for America and its like-minded allies was palpable. Domestically, he mocked capitalism, free markets, law enforcement, individual achievement, and the notion of self-defense. Internationally, he flexed for Russia both in words and actions, the same for Iran and China while stiffing and poking allies in Europe and Israel (famously humiliating Netanyahu several times at the White House and on an open mic with France’s Sarkozy.)
He brought the message home as well, telling us that unemployment of nearly 10% was due to jobs that might never come back, and that the sluggish GDP growth might very well be the new normal. On numerous occasions he seemed to debate himself on the qualifications of America as “exceptional.” “You didn’t build that” was Obama’s way of telling business that their sacrifices, hard work, and capital somehow had less to do with their success than the roads and bridges their trucks traveled. Intentional or not, the message was clear: America isn’t all that amazing, and Americans are far from all they believe themselves to be.
Message 2: There are “Haves,” “Entitled to Have,” and the Defective Critics
The list of ways and opportunities Obama found to divide classes – racial, financial, geographic, and demographic – will become legendary. He seemed to manage the world by stereotype — some defined by popular narrative and others of his own making – but all with the main header of “Have” or “Entitled to Have”. In this way, he dispensed with the “Haves” more effectively, using a by-now transparent sequence of Mock, Diminish, Destroy. His verbal vernacular to ridicule critics was constant and predictable, and often the jokes were so strained they amused no one else but him. The laugh track was not as important as the labeling, marking a dissenter as less equal, less deserving or worthy of ejection from the mainstream of thought.
On a personal level, he revealed anger and showed condescension – shutting down critics in petty and unscrupulous ways. He set up a web site and invited people to “report” on friends and family who were critical of the pending healthcare law; invited Republicans to venues and subsequently called them out by name, or by their proposals; mocked gun owners, redistribution opponents, fiscal conservatives, and others with all the maturity of a schoolyard bully. We learned how the popular and growing Tea Party movement was silenced by the IRS in the run-up to the 2012 election, and saw how the only accountability was to retire Lois Lerner a bit earlier than planned, with her pension intact, and install in her place someone equally partisan and every bit as brazen as his predecessor.
Message 3: Obama’s Wisdom Supersedes America’s Will – and even the Constitution
Obama’s remarks and policies were driven by his underlying belief that America needs reigning in. He compared us to other nations – many of which are older, yet less productive, less free, less wealthy, less influential. He believes America is to blame for the discrepancy, and exploiting its dominant position in its own interest is bad form. In his world view, America needs to be “right-sized” and its excesses redistributed. Moreover, he felt uniquely entitled and somehow justified to quantify the penalty.
The image of an omnipotent regime took shape immediately after the election, when the administration made clear its enemies were neither terrorist nor communists, but corporate America – oil, insurance, financial services. As the Affordable Care Act was passed in the middle of the night without a single Republican vote, and without anyone in Congress able to say they’d read the law itself – perceptions were strengthened. In the months before the ACA vote, polls repeatedly shared the country’s rejection of it, as 3 out of 5 Americans did not want the law to pass. Bank lending evaporated as aggressive regulations were enacted, along with the creation of a handsomely-paid government “czar” to dictate the salaries of private financial institutions; the unexplained purchase of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition by the DHS; the squelching of private school vouchers that were giving disadvantaged kids a shot at top-shelf schools in Washington D.C.; a promise to make energy prices prohibitive in order to wean Americans off fossil fuels; and an 11th hour ram through of new, untested federal education guidelines – in itself a violation of law – that coincided with an Executive Order erasing the privacy notification requirement in the Family Privacy Act. Common Core was the initiative of an unelected philanthropist eager for the micro-targeting marketing opportunity a richly appended database would allow.
And with that, the People had lost significant control over their own lives, and the economy tilted heavily away from free market competition toward a single entity in Washington. Healthcare, self-defense, household expenditures, and education. Central Planning was at the helm, and many celebrated as others rubbed their wide eyes as though they had been asleep for 8 years and couldn’t fathom what had happened.
Message 4: Repetition is Truth
The concepts of freedom, innovation, and hard work, are embedded in most people who grew up here or chose to immigrate and assimilate. This is critical to understanding the incomprehensible. Where freedom is the engine that drives us, to Obama it’s an idea that lives a la carte, and needs rationed and controlled applications. He believes in his power to adjudicate freedom, but that is not the same thing. The qualifier to American greatness – that American excess is a negative trait – is how he enabled himself and his followers to restrict the freedoms of hundreds of millions in order to redistribute them to a few. By default, the completion of the redistribution required him to define groups of people who were entitled to take freedoms from people who deserved to lose them. Those in the groups designated as roadblocks had to first be marginalized, mocked, and painted as racists, homophobes, crooked financiers, etc. in order to perpetrate the peaceful transition of theirs to others.
As the last days of this administration transpire, it is clear from President Obama’s interviews that we have not heard the last of him. This week, he will go to his remaining followers in Congress and pass a torch of sorts, anointing them his warriors in absentia. In Shumer and Pelosi, he has arguably his best odds of remaining influential. Whether or not he can is largely up to Trump’s Congress and the American people who elected him.