By Peter Roff
January 22, 2013
The bloom is off the rose. The cat is out of the bag. All pretenses have been dropped. No one is pretending anymore. Barack Obama has declared he is clearly, firmly, and decidedly “a liberal”—and in the “Henry Wallace mode,” cut from an entirely different bolt of cloth than the heroes on the left who organized groups like Americans for Democratic Action during the Cold War.
Some may think this is obvious, indeed not worthy of comment and has always been so. Those who follow politics in America know better. Think back to the 2008 campaign—when Obama was hailed as the postpartisan, technically competent, nonideological candidate. The New York Times told us so, as did the Washington Post, CBS News, CNN, MSNBC, and just about every television talking head and news analyst who was neither “fair and balanced” nor an openly and unabashedly conservative or McCain partisan. Obama, we were told, was interested in what worked rather than tied to rigid ideological positions like the incumbent president, George W. Bush. He was the heir to JFK.
He was a new breed of politician and would be a new type of president, in some ways like Lincoln and in others like no one who had come before him. He was, to some, a “Messiah,” who would save the nation from the dark days of Bushism and, implicitly, Reaganism and bring fairness and equality to all.
Now we know it was all a lie. Obama’s 2013 inaugural address compares favorably, as U.S. News & World Report’s Robert Schlesinger has written, to Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 address in which FDR doubled down on his program of government action to tackle the depression. Monday’s speech has been praised as a solidly progressive road map for the future, a clarion call to a new liberalism that is inevitably destined to vanquish the forces of conservativism and darkness. And it has been so described by more than one fawning member of the adoring Washington media, as the Republican-leaning Crossroads GPS illustrates brilliantly in an ad released Tuesday morning.
One wonders if he had given that address as a campaign speech in mid-October of 2012, as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nipping at his heels, whether Obama could have won re-election. It certainly would have galvanized the right in key states in ways the Romney campaign and the various GOP super PACs were unable to do even as, in the waning days of the campaign, Obama pretended to be a centrist battling, as represented by the GOP nominee, the hard right. And does it even matter? Obama is, after all, president for another four years.
Well, it does matter. It matters because some people still expect a degree of intellectual honesty from the politicians who would lead this nation, no matter which direction they would take. It matters because Obama and the Democrats claim a mandate—but for what? A mandate for moving forward in a pseudo-centrist manner, reaching reasonable accommodations to produce solutions that work on a bipartisan basis, as he implied he would in both the 2008 and the 2012 campaign? Or for steering the ship of state “hard aport“—as several seasoned political reporters have opined he probably will, perhaps must, do while crushing his political opponents and any who stand in his way?
It is, after all, Obama who has declared—conceivably without meaning to—that everyone must be prepared to take sides. If you are not with him, are not for him, then it is reasonable to infer you are against him. It’s a political tactic he would learned by reading Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and used to great success as a community organizer back in Chicago. No one, it seems, will be able to spend the next four years on the sidelines. The president, in his second inaugural, is admitting that he is going to force each and every one of us to make a choice. Which some people may find a little bit frightening.