By Quin Hillyer on 9.3.09 @ 6:09AM
Conservatives are taking too much solace in the precipitous drop in Barack Obama’s approval ratings, and too many of us are overconfident that his administration is merely a replay of the hapless presidency of Jimmy Carter that was easily swept out in a landslide election.
Today’s situation is far different, far more conducive to our political adversary’s political power, than that which faced Carter. And Obama is an entirely different breed of cat. He’s more ruthless, more tactically savvy, and has far more dangerous objectives. A drop in his poll ratings isn’t as serious a setback for him as similar occurrences were for the peanut farmer from Plains.
In short, conservatives should beware. The political battle we’re in is far more difficult than any the conservative movement has ever faced. It will take all our energy and all our smarts to win it.
First, consider the differences in political circumstances between Obama and Carter. Unlike Carter, Obama does not face a Kennedy-led left wing of his party that despises him. Unlike Carter, Obama did not take office by an incredibly slim majority vote so close that a few thousands votes in two states would have swung the whole election. Unlike Carter, Obama took office in the middle of a crisis he could blame on his predecessor and coming off an unpopular war that he could blame almost entirely on the Republican Party. On the right, Carter faced a conservative movement (even if not a Republican Party) unified and energized by an inspirational leader — but no similar, single spokesman today galvanizes conservatives like Ronald Reagan did then. Carter also did not have a nationwide movement kept together by a tool like the Internet, and did not have billionaires behind his general aims the way Obama has George Soros.
Finally, Obama has the advantage of a more ethnically diverse nation that has far less of a common culture and less of a common appreciation of shared socio-political history and values. Why is that an advantage? Because it gives him more leeway to make outlandish claims, and still have huge pluralities believe him, than Carter could ever hope for.
More important than all that, though, is that Obama’s personal skills, aims, and training are like nothing we have ever seen before in the White House. Every other president before him has intended at most to achieve change within the American political system. Obama wants to change the system itself.
He is a radical’s radical, with an authoritarian impulse. His Alinskyite training means that social unrest doesn’t unnerve him; it plays right into his hands. Social unrest is both his modus operandi and his mid-term goal. The more unrest, the greater the crisis; the greater the crisis, the more excuse he has to use and consolidate central power in order to completely remake society.
And unlike Carter or most other Democratic presidential nominees of the past 45 years, Obama has tremendous oratorical skills. Sure, Bill Clinton could please lots of audience members with small promises, but he did not possess half the ability to inspire people (however misguidedly) that Obama does. Obama has the talent to raise demagoguery to an art form.
Already we see a cult of personality around Obama, one deliberately encouraged by the Obama political operation. Already we see him push for centralizing, fascistic economic powers. Already we see him creating “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the regular military, complete with uniformed youths (and even senior citizens) formed into “cadres.” And in order to make AmeriCorps less answerable to the public, Obama fired the Inspector General trying to blow the whistle on nefarious AmeriCorps activities. Now he is using AmeriCorps and the National Endowment for the Arts to politically agitate for his “recovery agenda.”
And that’s not to mention the Big Brother-like data-mining and reporting of “casual conversations” to a White House website, or the creepy address to all the nation’s school children — or the continued public trashing, by the permanent Obama campaign known as Organizing For America, of ordinary citizen protesters as “Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists.”
Obama also is politicizing the Census; giving contracts to ACORN; letting a recognized hate group like the New Black Panthers go free; undermining the CIA at every turn, radicalizing the Supreme Court; re-orienting the civil rights division of the Justice Department; appointing more “czars” than anybody can keep track of and who, unlike Cabinet members, do not answer to Congress; resisting transparency on TARP bailout funds; refusing to enforce financial reporting requirements on union political organizers; and doing all sorts of other things designed, as are the items above, to consolidate power, tilt the deck, and rig the political rules in his favor for the long haul.
In foreign affairs, his radicalism is even more apparent. He keeps undermining allies while embracing enemies. He deliberately undercut the brave protesters in Iran. He stubbornly continues to punish Honduras and its citizens, via economic and travel sanctions, because Honduras actually followed its own Constitution in removing a harshly anti-American president from office — when he should have been rewarding Honduras for its commitment to the rule of law. Yet while he punishes friendly Hondurans, he refuses to punish radical leftist Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa when Correa’s government tries to shake down an American company for $27 billion. It’s all very bizarre. One wonders what exactly his agenda is. But it’s clearly something the likes of which we’ve never seen.
Again, the comparison with Carter’s foreign policy is telling. Carter’s was full of woolly-minded, pie-in-the-sky idealism, but it didn’t deliberately mollycoddle sworn enemies. Obama’s, on the other hand, portrays Obama to the world as if Obama himself is more admirable than the nation he supposedly represents — a nation for which he continually apologizes. This attempt, so far quite successful, to garner personal, worldwide glorification is another gambit for power. Again, it makes him nobody for domestic political adversaries to trifle with. It gives him tools never enjoyed by the Jimmy Carter who was burned in effigy by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his pals in 1979 and 1980.
To defeat Obama’s radicalism will take plenty of political savvy on the right. Until the 2010 elections, discontent should simmer, but not boil over. Civil unrest will not win the day; it will only help him. The one, and perhaps only, opportunity to stop his juggernaut will be in those mid-term elections. Every bit of conservatives’ efforts should be directed at building a massive voter turnout to defeat Obama’s leftist allies in 2010. The TEA parties and town hall protests and all the rest should be aimed at building a political infrastructure and political arguments sufficient to win those elections. The energy of conservatives should climax then and only then. Anything premature, anything over the top, will allow Obama to more effectively mobilize his own troops in the supposed name of order and stability.
Finally, it will help Obama that, probably by design, the bulk of the “stimulus” funds remain unspent. What will happen is that at just the right time, those funds will spur a false recovery — a “recovery” hailed by the establishment media as proof of Obama’s wisdom. The recovery won’t last, because it won’t be real. But that won’t matter. Timed just right, it will allow Obama to claim the economic high road — something Jimmy Carter never was able to claim. Relieved Americans who are apolitical could easily be swayed to “stay the course,” just as Americans stayed the course with Ronald Reagan in 1982. But Reagan’s course led to greater freedom; if Obama’s course is stayed and he consolidates power in 2010, the diminution of freedom may be well-nigh irreversible.
In short, the wonderful conservative success in August should not hide the reality that our backs are still against the wall. Obama still owns the upper hand. If we make any major mistake, he will use that hand as a fist to smash the conservative movement to bits. Clear-eyed about this possibility, conservatives must keep fighting. Uphill. Against the wind. And without a Reagan to lead us.
Quin Hillyer is a senior editorial writer at the Washington Times and senior editor of The American Spectator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.