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The Hollow Republic
Can Obama imagine a middle ground between the state and the individual?

Delivering the ‘you didn’t build that’ speech, Roanoke, Va., July 13, 2012 (Don Petersen/AP)



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Indeed, the president and his administration don’t seem to have much use for that space at all. Even the family, which naturally stands between the individual and the community, is not essential. In May, the Obama campaign produced a Web slideshow called “The Life of Julia,” which follows a woman through the different stages of life and shows the many ways in which she benefits from public policies that the president advocates. It was an extraordinarily revealing work of propaganda, and what it revealed was just what the president showed us in Roanoke: a vision of society consisting entirely of the individual and the state. Julia’s life is the product of her individual choices enabled by public policies. She has an exceptional amount of direct contact with the federal government, yet we never meet her family. At the age of 31, we are told, “Julia decides to have a child” and “benefits from maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.” She later benefits from all manner of educational, economic, and social programs, and seems to require and depend upon no one but the president.

A similarly creepy lack of boundaries can be found in a surprising number of the Obama campaign’s appeals to voters. On June 21, the campaign sent supporters an e-mail purportedly from Michelle Obama, which read in part:

For the first 10 years of our marriage, Barack and I lived in an apartment in my hometown of Chicago. The winters there can be pretty harsh, but no matter how snowy or icy it got, Barack would head out into the cold — shovel in hand — to dig my car out before I went to work. In all our years of marriage, he’s always looked out for me. Now, I see that same commitment every day to you and to this country. The only way we’ll win this election is if we can rely on one another like that, all the way to November 6th.

The nation is thus seen as one big woman married to the president. The family is nothing that the government cannot be.


Contents
August 13, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, NO. 15

Articles
Features
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Steven Hayward reviews How to Think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism, by Roger Scruton.
  • Samuel R. Staley reviews Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future, by Grover G. Norquist and John R. Lott Jr.
  • Scott Winship reviews The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It, by Timothy Noah.
  • Florence King reviews Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, by Thomas Penn.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Dark Knight Rises.
  • Richard Brookhiser offers Kerouacian haikus.
Sections
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .