Our Reactionary President
He seeks to restore the good old days, which never actually existed.


Victor Davis Hanson

Barack Obama is the most reactionary president in the recent history of the United States. Obama seems intent on turning back the clock to the good old days of the 1960s and 1970s, when rigid political orthodoxy, not an open mind, guided government.

Take the economy. The 1980s collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union proved that state control of the means of production guaranteed poverty. The currently insolvent and fragmenting European Union and the stagnant economics of the exploding Middle East remind us that state socialism does not work.

Why, then, would Obama, in horse-and-buggy fashion, go back to such fossilized concepts as absorbing the nation’s health-care system, increasing the federal government’s role in the economy by taking over automobile companies, borrowing $5 trillion to spend on new entitlements, or proposing an array of much higher taxes — all in a vain effort to ensure an equality of result?

Almost every key indicator of the current economy — unemployment, deficits, housing, energy — argues that Obama’s reactionary, all-powerful statist approach has only made things far worse.

In a bygone era without full workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and overtime pay, big unions ran the United States. Today less than 7 percent of Americans belong to them.

Yet President Obama wants to block the Boeing aircraft company from opening an assembly plant in South Carolina, on the grounds that it is a right-to-work state and new workers might be free to reject union representation. The administration is now allowing union-backed Democrats in Congress to block free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea in order to limit competition with domestic unionized industries.

Apparently the decades-old idea that globalized free trade encourages competition, enhances productivity, lowers prices for strapped consumers, and helps developing nations never existed.

Obama is still bragging about massive federal subsidies to the wind- and solar-power industries, while making it nearly impossible to obtain new leases for fossil-fuel exploration. Yet for all the billions spent, the percentage of new energy produced by subsidized high-cost “green” projects has not changed much.

Meanwhile, revolutionary breakthroughs in the exploration for and recovery of natural gas, oil, tar sands, shale oil, and coal deposits in just a year or two have vastly expanded the nation’s fossil-fuel reserves and the ability to produce clean energy from them.

It turns out that the U.S. may be the world’s new Saudi Arabia when it comes to known reserves of all forms of gas, oil, and coal. As our president still harps on solar panels and windmills, private enterprise on its own is exploring new ways of powering industries, homes, and cars with cheap and plentiful natural gas — hoping to free us from dependence on OPEC.

On illegal immigration, the president sounds like a calcified relic from the 1960s, as he evokes the southern border in terms of civil rights and racial prejudice. Those blinders explain why he recently suggested that Latinos should “punish” their supposed conservative “enemies,” and quite falsely claimed that the border fence was completed, despite the supposed wish of his Republican opponents to add moats and alligators. All that rhetoric sounds as if it came from a beads-and-bell-bottoms ’60s campus activist, not the 21st-century White House.

In the coming decades, the United States will need new legal immigrants — those of all races and from all places of origin who are skilled and highly educated, or who have capital. The new critical benchmark to keep America competitive will be an immigrant’s merit — not just his race, family ties, or proximity to the border, or his usefulness as a pawn in partisan politics.

The United States is now a multiracial society, one never more intermarried and assimilated. Yet this administration still acts as if particular racial groups are forever preserved in amber, and so deserve particular racial set-aside spoils. The attorney general weirdly talks of “my people.” The president himself offered a campaign video in 2010 targeted in part to those defined by their race, as part of a larger strategy to appeal to racial bloc voting. Promises of more federal entitlement money are still couched in thinly veiled racial terms — as if there were no awareness that five decades of such Great Society programs have done much to ensure dependency and destroy the traditional inner-city family.

“Hope and change” turned out not to be a liberal call to consider new ways of solving problems. It was not even a conservative slogan to keep all that has worked well in the past.

Instead, Barack Obama proved to be an old-fashioned reactionary. He hoped to change things back to the politically correct 1960s and 1970s way of doing them — whether it ever worked or not.

 Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


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