President Obama’s inaugural address was arguably the most ideological such speech in American history–a litany of progressive dreams, devoid of any recognition of the current realities, the most significant of which is the bankruptcy of the post Great Society social contract and the crisis of the entitlement state, about which more below.
We’re a society almost equally split between two different planets and worldviews, as illustrated by this quote from White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer shortly after the inauguration: “There’s a moment of opportunity now that’s important; what’s frustrating is that we don’t have a political system or an opposition party worthy of the opportunity.” Ah yes, of course, that old problem with the Constitution and the messy separation of powers, the 100-year old dilemma of the progressive movement in achieving its moral destiny.
In a commercial for the MSNBC cable channel, Chris Matthews talks of the ongoing so-called “civil war” in this country over liberty and rights, in which, of course, he paints conservatism as the enemy of both. The key ingredients he omits are the source of these rights, which come from our Creator, not the state, and the nature of them in our Constitution, which are negative (what government cannot do) vs. positive (what progressives believe government should do to greatly expand rights read as entitlements).
So what does a good progressive do to overcome these institutional obstacles? More of the same–executive orders to circumvent Congress, for which Obama already holds the record, more regulation dictated by the executive branch, and a final strategy fully enabled by a second term: what Rep. Paul Ryan has characterized as the “delegitimization” of the opposition, the Republican Party, through a campaign to discredit any opposition to progressive ideals as regressive, illegitimate, and out of mainstream conversation.
Not exactly Lincolnian, Reaganesque, or even Rooseveltian, but this is what now passes for presidential leadership in Obama’s progressive world.