The Corner

Barack Obama’s World of Them vs. Us

On his latest speaking tour, the president has continued to talk about a traditional midterm election — in which the country assesses the sitting administration’s agenda — as if it were some epic Manichean struggle, something akin to race relations: Jim Crow, civil rights, and now, most recently, the abolition of slavery. At best, Obama is implying that a referendum on his policies is of similar magnitude to an existential battle like the Civil War; at worst, he implies by analogy that he is the crusading abolitionist and his opponents the forces of slaveholding evil. And all of this from someone who campaigned on the notion of unity and national healing.

I’m sorry, but opposing higher deficits or cap-and-trade is not the same as denying someone civil rights, and Obama, the Ivy League graduate, is not a Susan B. Anthony or Martin Luther King Jr.

In Obama’s world, there is no such thing as legitimate skepticism of his policies, even though they seem to millions to be radical and contrary to the notions of limited government, lower taxes, and personal freedom, notions that have long set us apart from our Western constitutional cousins in Europe. Instead (as can be seen in his latest Rolling Stone interview), those who oppose his policies — from the tea-party groups that resent his background to that destructive force on the national scene, Fox News — represent darker forces.

Looking back at 20 months, we see this Nixonian them-vs.-us world in which good progressives battle against those who make more than $250,000 per year; greedy doctors taking out tonsils; police who stereotype and act stupidly; Arizonan xenophobes who snatch kids out for ice cream; Islamophobes who would deny constitutional rights to Muslim moderates at Ground Zero; and racists who have traditionally stood in the way (mutatis mutandis, as they do now) of freeing the slaves.

All this psychodrama is beneath a president. It is a prescription for tearing the country in two — and about the dumbest thing you could do just weeks before an election.

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