March 7, 2012
Barack Obama, CaudilloBy Mark W. Hendrickson
The Spanish term "caudillo" (pronounced cow-THEE-yo) refers to a strongman or autocratic leader. Latin America has had a number of caudillos. Some have been right-wing (i.e., anticommunist, pro-American, such as Somoza in Nicaragua), others left-wing (socialistic and anti-American, like Perón and Chávez), but since Jimmy Carter used his one-term presidency to achieve the extinction of the pro-American species, today's caudillos are all leftists.
Caudillos typically bulldoze political opposition, become the dominant force in the economic life of the country, and establish a personality cult around themselves. They love power as much as they love themselves, and they aren't bashful about using their power in defiance of precedents, constitutions, and democratic principles. Until a couple of years ago, I never dreamed that a caudillo could arise in our Anglo-American legal system, upwardly mobile culture, and enlightened constitutional order, but today it seems to be a distinct possibility. Consider the similarities between Barack Obama and the prototypical Latin caudillo.
1) Demonizes the rich. In Latin America, there have often been legitimate reasons for resenting the rich. The Spanish conquistadors often established a system rigged to keep the poor from making economic, social, and political progress. No similar oppression exists here in the United States, where talent and drive can propel virtually anyone to great success. The nearest thing we have to a built-in systemic barrier to individual advancement might be the lousy inner-city schools in which many Americans are trapped, but the blame there lies more with Obama and Democrats than with "the rich" against whom the lefties rant.
2) Employs populist rhetoric about being the champion of workers, and then forges alliances with powerful labor union bosses while adopting policies that throw many workers under the proverbial bus. Think the UAW, the NLRB, etc. on the one hand and sluggish employment on the other in the Age of Obama.
3) Depletes the national treasury and impoverishes the country through heavy taxes and depreciation of the currency -- the results of spending extravagantly on programs that buy the loyalty of his political supporters. Bailouts, green boondoggles, the (non-)stimulus plan, ObamaCare, etc., show Obama to be a master of this tactic.
4) Knows that money is power, and so grabs de facto control of capital and banks, thereby establishing a chokehold on the economy's windpipe. That is why Obama is so anxious to get the zealous Richard Cordray up and running at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with its unspecified, and therefore arbitrary, mandate.
5) Asserts heavy controls over private businesses, dictating what they must produce (e.g., solar energy, electric cars) or where they may locate (Boeing).
6) Bypasses the legislature and rules by decree -- e.g., czars and rogue agencies like the EPA.
7) Chafes at constitutional limits on his power. Thus, Obama complains to NBC's Matt Lauer, "What's frustrated people is that I have not been able to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008," and then he makes unconstitutional pseudo-recess appointments.
8) Rides roughshod over long established legal principles -- e.g., imperiously overturning two centuries of settled bankruptcy law by stiffing the secured bondholders of Chrysler and GM.
9) Betrays his populist supporters by forging lucrative alliances with select members of the Big Business establishment -- as Obama has done with health care providers, auto-makers, and others, as documented in Tim Carney's book Obamanomics.
10) Aggressively uses his power to harass, weaken, and punish those who don't support his political agenda:
Exhibit A: Obama grants waivers and exemptions from the onerous financial burden of ObamaCare to his allies while leaving them in place to crush his opponents.
Exhibit B: Team Obama won't modify Sarbanes-Oxley, uses Dodd-Frank (the aforementioned CFPB) as a hovering threat, makes life difficult for venture capitalists -- all policies that have the effect of squelching the development of small entrepreneurial companies, a key Republican constituency (unlike AC/DC Big Business, which gives lavishly to both parties).
Exhibit C: The Obama administration dragged its heels to avoid expediting federal aid to disaster-stricken states with Republican governors -- specifically Texas, Virginia, and New Jersey.
11) Has delusions of grandeur, and so makes grandiloquent boasts about such fantasies as stopping the rise of the oceans and healing the planet.
12) Has an outsized ego and manifests narcissistic behavior that causes him to take great offense at those who dare to disagree with him -- like Obama's dismissive treatment of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer at their recent airport meeting.
13) Is notorious for vote-tampering and fraudulent elections, which calls to mind Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's jihad against states that pass laws designed to reduce voter fraud through proper identification.
14) Eventually precipitates a confrontation with Christians and particularly the Catholic Church, since the ego of the caudillo can't abide people regarding anyone else, even the Creator of the universe, as the supreme authority, nor can he tolerate anyone placing obedience to religious convictions and God's rules above his own grand social engineering plans, as we see in Obama's attempt to impose health insurance requirements that are objectionable to many Christian Americans.
Will Barack Obama go down in history as the United States' first caudillo? Probably not, if he loses the election this November. But if he secures a second term -- well, we'll just have to see.
Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
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