September 18, 2009
Obama the Great DividerBy J. Robert Smith
In one of life's delicious ironies, the President, who campaigned as the Great Uniter, is worsening the split between the right and left and losing support in the process. Ordinary Americans, typically apolitical, are choosing sides -- and more are choosing the side of freedom every day. Lovers of liberty should rejoice.
Division gets a bum rap. Imagine for a minute if Mr. Obama were able to unite Americans behind his radical agenda. We wouldn't just have bank bailouts and auto industry takeovers and a pork-laden stimulus, but, in short order, we'd have Cap and Trade and healthcare reform, Obama-style. We'd have Card Check and a new Fairness Doctrine.
Without a partisan divide, without dissent, without Americans fervent for freedom, the needle on the liberty to tyranny meter would swing more decidedly toward tyranny.
That's not to say that the President and Congressional Democrats haven't done damage to a divided America. Debt and inflation are big problems that will haunt taxpayers for years. Automakers and financial institutions are going to need to be disentangled from government.
And it's not to say that the Democratic leadership won't keep trying to ram through Cap and Trade and healthcare reform. Both are great threats to our freedom, prosperity and health. But even here, divisions among Congressional Democrats may work to the nation's advantage.
The damage done by Mr. Obama can be repaired. The key is to stop any further damage, which would be tougher to fix.
The good news is that pro-freedom Americans are putting up road blocks, with more coming. Grinding to a halt the President's agenda buys valuable time. The 2010 elections are a little more than a year off. A new Congress with, one hopes, more Republicans makes gridlock all the more likely. With Mr. Obama in the White House, a balky Congress is something we should aim for.
Throughout our nation's history, division has been the rule; unity, the exception. That goes back to the Revolution. When it was clear to the Founders and outraged colonists that the British had no interest in redressing their grievances, they elected to divide, to fight for independence.
Lucky for us and the world that they chose to do so.
Today, many Americans aren't acquainted with the fact that colonists weren't unanimous for independence. A sizeable minority -- Tories -- backed the Crown. They supported British troops and some fought alongside them.
The nation's early, formative political era was marked by sharp divisions. Federalists versus Jeffersonians. Pro-Jackson versus Anti-Jackson factions. Disputes over slavery were ongoing. There was a whiskey rebellion and another war with the British.
By the mid 1800s, the nation divided into sections and fought a civil war. That, assuredly, was a tragic division. 620,000 military casualties, north and south, say so. A ravaged South and a depleted North say so, too.
But as Lincoln stated, the war came, despite efforts at reconciliation. The good that resulted from the war was the abolition of slavery. And though it would take another hundred years, and yet more divisions and trials, abolition set African-Americans on the path to gaining their full God-given rights.
In the 20th Century, Americans divided about other wars as well. World Wars I and II, Vietnam and the Iraq War. Toward the end, they divided about the Cold War.
And they've divided about the New Deal, the Fair Deal, The Great Society and the Reagan Revolution. They've divided culturally, starting in the 1960s, over drugs, sex and rock and roll. They've divided over abortion.
As we look back over the long arc of the nation's history, we see that from divisions came resolutions. Freedom, more often than not, was advanced. Our rights better secured. Our nation, strengthened.
We live in a time of momentous divisions. Many of us will not live to see the resolutions completely. Since the early part of the 20th Century, a great conflict has not only been playing out abroad, but at home, between statism and freedom.
At home, the statists - call them progressives, liberals or leftists - have worked diligently to advance government, to centralize authority in a political elite and bureaucracy and to, thereby, abridge the rights of the individual. They dismiss the original intent that undergirds the Constitution, claiming a right to make interpretations that are frequently aimed at pressing their causes and increasing their power. Many disdain our values, faith and traditions.
Where shall we find common ground with the statists? Compromise? Compromise must invariably lead to less, not more, freedom. And wasn't that tried by our parents' and grandparents' generations? Aren't we, in part, struggling against a looming tyranny - albeit a soft tyranny - because of the good will and accommodations of our predecessors?
Note, too, that overseas, in the 20th Century and now, tyrants, established or aspiring, all sought or seek unity. Unity under their rule in the service of the state. Inevitably, they use force to achieve that end. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Pol Pot and an assortment of lesser dictators all bullied, imprisoned, maimed or killed millions who failed to unite with their will.
Today, the Castro brothers are still at it. Hugo Chavez is attempting it in Venezuela. The mullahs are at it in Iran. Kim Jong-Il has been at it in North Korea. So are the Chinese. Putin isn't far from reasserting unity in service to the Russian state.
In our nation, we are fortunate that the Founders had great insight into human nature and the wisdom to arrange our government in ways that divided power and authority. They instituted checks and balances to thwart the tyranny of any faction, or combination of factions, to impose unity on us.
In the last ninety years, the barriers erected by the Founders to protect us from the tyranny of unity have been breached. But they still stand. It falls to us to repair and strengthen those barriers. To reclaim the full measure of freedom which is our birthright and was intended us by the Founders. And pass on that freedom to our children and theirs.