Imagine if, during the campaign of 2008, someone had written the following: “If Barack Obama is elected president, then each year from now on the federal budget will be a trillion dollars in the red. He will pile up in two terms more debt than all previous presidents combined. Interest rates will stay at near zero; 7.6 percent unemployment will be proof of progress in creating jobs. Record use of food stamps, unemployment, and disability insurance will be hallmarks of recovery. The government will take over health care, and the costs will skyrocket. During Obama’s second term, ammunition will vanish from America’s store shelves in panic buying. Gay marriage will become uncontroversial. Women will be eligible for infantry combat. The only question about amnesty for illegal aliens will be when, not if, it is enacted. States will begin legalizing marijuana.” Obviously, such a conspiracist would have been dismissed as an unhinged nut.
You may object that Obama himself has hardly been responsible for all these radical transformations. True, but he helped to create, in brilliant fashion, a “hope and change,” quasi-revolutionary climate — the political cover, if you will, for the media, the universities, federal judges, state legislatures, and Congress to reinvent American popular culture and tradition in a manner rarely if ever seen in the past.
How, then, did the Obama team do that?
First were the necessary changes in language. In the Obama age, as in Orwell’s 1984, the natural meanings of words had to change. See the third book of Thucydides’ history for the details.
Running up serial trillion-dollar deficits was not profligacy, but rather making “investments” for “the children.” Irresponsible borrowing became “stimulus.” Indeed, “trillion” — not a frequently used part of most people’s vocabulary before 2009 — suddenly replaced “billion” as a familiar fiscal numerical adjective. A takeover of health care that would spike premiums and ration services, devices, and procedures was aptly named the “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
“Assault weapons” superseded “semi-automatic rifles,” even as “semi-automatic” and “automatic” were no longer distinct adjectives. The obvious purpose of rapid-fire weapons was to kill innocent children, not to protect your household from intruders, to shoot fast-moving game, or to practice a sport at a shooting range, much less to remind the government, in Second Amendment fashion, that the populace was autonomous and vigilant.
“Illegal alien” disappeared in favor of the inexact “undocumented immigrant” or “undocumented worker,” even though most illegal aliens never had proper documents of any sort, and sizable minorities of them were not working. The key was to convince the American public that millions of people had inadvertently wandered over the poorly demarcated border, all in search of work. They sort of lost track of both their bearings and their legal documents in the process. “Comprehensive immigration reform” superseded “amnesty,” as if the new proposed reforms focused mostly on hordes of brilliant Ph.D.s from the Czech Republic, queuing up to acquire legal authorization to work in Silicon Valley — rather than some 11 million or so Latin Americans who entered the country unlawfully, mostly without capital, English, or a high-school diploma.
“Homosexual” became a derogatory substitute for the proper term “gay,” and male homosexuality was redefined almost as an asexual act — a fun or “gay” Platonic experience rather than one connected with any particular sort of sexual congress.
“Global warming” begat “climate change,” which eventually begat “climate chaos,” once tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis had to be enlisted in the good fight — given that there was no proof of rising temperatures in the last decade, and even the specter of melting polar ice caps, rising seas, and drowning polar bears had not proved enough to scare the public into banning coal and enacting cap-and-trade.