From the trivial — dropping his g’s and clumsily transforming his cadences — to the fundamental — weighing in in mediis rebus on pending court cases — the president’s goal has often been division, not unity. We have reached a surreal situation of reading daily accounts of black-on-white crime in the media, reported by politically correct journalists who dare not mention the perpetrator’s race, followed by enraged readers’ comments that are the most patently racist in modern memory.
Illegal immigration. Before Obama, the debate over illegal immigration was mostly an argument between two schools that transcended politics and ideology: literalists who believed the law had to be enforced to its full extent, postfacto as well as preventatively, and realists who agreed in theory but felt that many of the 11 million who resided illegally in the U.S. could be given a pathway to citizenship, so long as they have no criminal record, have avoided public assistance, and could claim long residence — contingent on closing the border.
Not now. Under Obama, illegal immigration has become a political if not a racially charged issue. Supporters of blanket amnesty saw an evolving demographic process of fundamentally transforming the electorate of the American Southwest, resonating with Obama’s own unfortunate lead, as in his advice to Latinos to “punish our enemies.” Perhaps this vision was best summarized by ACORN’s former CEO, Bertha Lewis. She recently urged African-Americans to support increased immigration on the following rationale: “We got some Latino cousins, we got some Asian cousins, we got some Native-American cousins, we got all kind of cousins. . . . Cousins need to get together, because if we’re going to be [part of the non-white] majority, it makes sense for black people in this country to get down with immigration reform. . . . Everyone, even all white folks in this country, acknowledge that in a minute, [the] United States of America will be a new majority, will be majority minority, a brand-new thing. . . . For the first time ever in history, African-Americans outvoted white Americans. Pooh. That’s the fear of the white man. That could change everything. That’s why [immigration] should matter to us.”
Foreign policy. What is the common theme to the euphemisms about terrorism and radical Islam, the failed reset with Russia, withdrawal from Iraq, confusion in Afghanistan, lead-from-behind in Libya, pink lines and pseudo–“game changers” in Syria, the faux deadlines with Iran, mesmerization with Turkey, peace feelers to Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela, as well as the rhetorical tropes found in the Cairo speech, the U.N. addresses, and the Al-Arabiya interview?
Just as, in Obama’s worldview, the 1 percent exercise undue influence in the United States, so too abroad America has exercised exceptional power and influence that either are not warranted by its traditions and history, or do not contribute to stability and social justice in the world at large. Fundamentally transforming the role of the U.S. means tilting toward countries that are suspicious of the Western tradition, and favoring groups and countries like Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Palestinians that have supposedly legitimate grievances against the United States. The goal? Probably, the transformation of the U.S. into something like the EU, whose democratic socialism is manifested abroad with soft-power lectures.
Guns. There is no new restrictive legislation on firearms; and yet never has the ability to buy reasonably priced ammunition and firearms in quantity been more curtailed. In loudly threatening to enact more gun control after each publicized tragic shooting, the Obama administration has created a climate of fear, which has prompted hoarding, shortages, panic buying, and paranoia, which have accomplished what the federal government could not.
To what degree these changes will be reversed or institutionalized depends on the 2014 and 2016 elections. For now, Obama’s transformations are not to be found only in his legislative record, but far more in his use of the presidency to change the way we envision and talk about America.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is The Savior Generals, published this spring by Bloomsbury Books.