We the People, a new Netflix show produced by Michelle and Barack Obama, “combines music and animation to educate a new generation of young Americans about the power of the people.” Like many other such efforts, the show confuses busybodyism with good citizenship, downgrading republican virtues and individual freedom while elevating dependency and statism.
Creator Chris Nee explained to NPR that, “President Obama was the one who said, ‘Let’s really shoot for the stars. Let’s age this up from where the Schoolhouse Rock demo is. Let’s go for 14 to 18.’” “I’m Just a Bill,” is an inoffensive but highly useful explainer on how a bill becomes a law. Certainly, We the People comes nowhere close in quality or usefulness.
“Our goal from beginning to end,” Nee says, “was to remind us that, first and foremost, civics is a nonpartisan conversation.” Is it? “The Second Amendment,” sings Adam Lambert in the voice of an unidentified Founder, is “the right to bear arms, which were very different back in my day.” Now, I hate to break the news to the producers, but the press also relied on “very different” technology when the Bill of Rights was ratified. As did the government. “Very different” religions dominated America in those days, as well. The Founding generation not only experienced their own technological advances, but many of them demanded these rights be codified lest someone one day say, “Hey, things change.”
One can debate whether the Second Amendment was a mistake. It takes an imaginary Founder, however, to make the case that “unalienable rights” were conditional on the vagaries of progress.
The song skips other inconvenient parts of the Bill of Rights — the takings clause and state rights, for example. Other episodes aren’t much better. The “tax” song harps on the supposed misappropriation of federal funding. Only 2 percent of taxes go to “medical research.” Only 9 percent go to “provide for the poor, but 15 percent goes to defense and supplyin’ the war.” I’m not keen on war, myself. But kids might be surprised to learn — elsewhere — that the Constitution created powers for national defense but has nothing to say about Medicaid.
Nee claims that bias was avoided because “everything was being run through both university professors and also through a group of people through the Obamas’ team who were looking to make sure that we were really giving voice to all sides.” You have to laugh at the notion of Barack Obama — so antagonistic to individual rights, especially religious liberty — assembling a team that honors “all sides.” One side that doesn’t get a say, for example, are the Founders. And while I guess we should appreciate that We The People doesn’t devolve into trendy antagonism toward the Founding, it embraces Obama’s long-term efforts to reimagine American principles as something they never were.