Obama Takes it to the American People

Peter Wilson
President Obama's idea of negotiating a solution to the fiscal cliff crisis is to campaign directly to the American people, encouraging them to pressure Congress to accept his unreasonable demands. He describes the strategy in a letter from the White House:

A year ago, during our last fight to protect middle-class families, tens of thousands of working Americans took action. They wrote in to us, and we put their stories on the front page of the White House website. They called, tweeted, and brought in their friends on Facebook -- and sure enough, it worked. Congress listened.

The same thing happened earlier this year, when college students across the country stood up and demanded that Congress keep rates low on student loans. Lawmakers got that message loud and clear.

When enough people get involved, we have a pretty good track record. And that's important, because this is our biggest challenge yet -- and it's one we can only meet together. I'm going to do my part -- not just by sitting down with CEOs, labor leaders, and leaders in Congress -- but by taking this to the American people.

"Taking it to the American people" sounds so high minded. You know, "we the People" and all that Constitutional stuff. It's a free country, and the People have a right to have their voices heard. Power to the People -- witness the overthrow of dictators in Romania, East Germany and, er, Egypt. The United States is a democracy where the People rule, right?

Actually, no.

We live in a representative republic where the voters elect public officials to make laws. The Founding Fathers warned about the dangers of a pure democracy ruled by a tyranny of the majority.  One quote among many in the Federalist Papers from Alexander Hamilton:

It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.

Obama however talks as if direct contact with the People is more legitimate than all those pointless meetings with greedy Republicans. He promises "to do his part -- not just by sitting down with CEOs, labor leaders, and leaders in Congress." Wait, Congress has equal rank at the table with CEOs and labor leaders? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney goes further, defending Obama's direct-to-the-people governance: "Only inside the Beltway do people think that sitting in a room for a photo spray will solve, necessarily, problems." By "photo spray" he means that quaint custom of the Executive Branch working with our elected representatives in Congress.

It would be fine if Obama's trips "outside the Beltway" were listening tours. It's important for out of touch bureaucrats to hear the concerns of voters in their home districts during Congressional recesses. But Obama doesn't do the listening thing. He wants to persuade. He wants to organize the community. He says, "When enough people get involved, we have a pretty good track record," meaning, "When I get my people organized, I have a pretty good track record."

Obama uses social media to create an illusion of dialogue, but the questions are dictated from on high, framed to support his policies. These social media campaigns are the opposite of a grassroots movement like the Tea Party or an email campaign by a local interest group.

In the examples above: in July 2011, Obama asked "working Americans" to put pressure on Republicans to go along with his so-called bipartisan solution. The White House concluded that "it worked," as seen in this tweet from a New York Times reporter: "Comm Director Dan Pfeiffer affirms that the WH believes emails/tweets helped pressure Congress to act." It's somewhat of a strange boast, given that the "success" of the debt ceiling talks is responsible for today's fiscal cliff.

In the second example, Obama asked students to "demand that Congress keep rates low on student loans," supporting an Obama vote-getting campaign pandering to college students.

This time around, the White House created Twitter hashtag #my2K (as in: "I want my 2K. I want my MTV!") that encourages people to tweet all the things $2,000 in tax savings mean to them. (Can it be a savings if your taxes remain unchanged?)

The White House reports:

President Obama connected directly with Americans via Twitter, where he answered questions about extending middle class tax cuts (watch the video here).

Obama tweeted:

Good to see lots of folks on twitter speaking out on extending middle class tax cuts. I'll answer some Qs on that at 2ET. Ask w/ #My2k -bo

Notice that he's glad to see "folks" -- das Volk -- "speaking out on extending middle class tax cuts." No mention of any dissenters. No mention of his demand to usurp the power to raise the debt ceiling or his other deal-breaking conditions. No mention of his real intent to raise taxes on the rich.

Everywhere you look, Obama refers only to "extending the middle class tax cut." At whitehouse.gov a banner headline screams: "Pass the Middle-Class Tax Cuts." The text explains: "If Congress fails to act before the end of the year, every American family's taxes will automatically go up." On the same page, the White House posted the story, "Increasing Taxes on Middle-Class Families Will Hurt Consumer Spending."

It's a misinformation campaign, promoting the audacious deception that Obama is a crusader for lower taxes, while Republicans want to raise taxes. Part of the strategy behind this fairy tale is that in the likely event that fiscal cliff negotiations fail and taxes go up, Obama can blame "intransigent" Republicans; he's creating the narrative that he fought hard against those Republican tax increases.

The message coming out of the White House is tempered for a wider audience, but Obama's attack dogs over at the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee keep up the class warfare baying at the moon to the faithful, as in this recent email:

Peter - The Republicans have hit a new low.

President Obama's compromise averts the fiscal cliff and protects the middle class, but Republicans would rather destroy our economy than raise taxes on their billionaire donors like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson.

"President Obama's compromise"? It's hard to keep your breakfast down reading this stuff.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." We've heard that pure democracy might be possible in ancient Greece or small town Vermont, but impossible in a country of 310 million. Social media challenges that reassuring platitude. A Twitter mob, riled up by envy and inspired by misinformation, influencing lawmakers to take money from the pockets of others to put into theirs, might not fit the image of a bloodthirsty mob during the French Revolution, but it nevertheless subverts our Constitutional republic.

President Obama's idea of negotiating a solution to the fiscal cliff crisis is to campaign directly to the American people, encouraging them to pressure Congress to accept his unreasonable demands. He describes the strategy in a letter from the White House:

A year ago, during our last fight to protect middle-class families, tens of thousands of working Americans took action. They wrote in to us, and we put their stories on the front page of the White House website. They called, tweeted, and brought in their friends on Facebook -- and sure enough, it worked. Congress listened.

The same thing happened earlier this year, when college students across the country stood up and demanded that Congress keep rates low on student loans. Lawmakers got that message loud and clear.

When enough people get involved, we have a pretty good track record. And that's important, because this is our biggest challenge yet -- and it's one we can only meet together. I'm going to do my part -- not just by sitting down with CEOs, labor leaders, and leaders in Congress -- but by taking this to the American people.

"Taking it to the American people" sounds so high minded. You know, "we the People" and all that Constitutional stuff. It's a free country, and the People have a right to have their voices heard. Power to the People -- witness the overthrow of dictators in Romania, East Germany and, er, Egypt. The United States is a democracy where the People rule, right?

Actually, no.

We live in a representative republic where the voters elect public officials to make laws. The Founding Fathers warned about the dangers of a pure democracy ruled by a tyranny of the majority.  One quote among many in the Federalist Papers from Alexander Hamilton:

It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.

Obama however talks as if direct contact with the People is more legitimate than all those pointless meetings with greedy Republicans. He promises "to do his part -- not just by sitting down with CEOs, labor leaders, and leaders in Congress." Wait, Congress has equal rank at the table with CEOs and labor leaders? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney goes further, defending Obama's direct-to-the-people governance: "Only inside the Beltway do people think that sitting in a room for a photo spray will solve, necessarily, problems." By "photo spray" he means that quaint custom of the Executive Branch working with our elected representatives in Congress.

It would be fine if Obama's trips "outside the Beltway" were listening tours. It's important for out of touch bureaucrats to hear the concerns of voters in their home districts during Congressional recesses. But Obama doesn't do the listening thing. He wants to persuade. He wants to organize the community. He says, "When enough people get involved, we have a pretty good track record," meaning, "When I get my people organized, I have a pretty good track record."

Obama uses social media to create an illusion of dialogue, but the questions are dictated from on high, framed to support his policies. These social media campaigns are the opposite of a grassroots movement like the Tea Party or an email campaign by a local interest group.

In the examples above: in July 2011, Obama asked "working Americans" to put pressure on Republicans to go along with his so-called bipartisan solution. The White House concluded that "it worked," as seen in this tweet from a New York Times reporter: "Comm Director Dan Pfeiffer affirms that the WH believes emails/tweets helped pressure Congress to act." It's somewhat of a strange boast, given that the "success" of the debt ceiling talks is responsible for today's fiscal cliff.

In the second example, Obama asked students to "demand that Congress keep rates low on student loans," supporting an Obama vote-getting campaign pandering to college students.

This time around, the White House created Twitter hashtag #my2K (as in: "I want my 2K. I want my MTV!") that encourages people to tweet all the things $2,000 in tax savings mean to them. (Can it be a savings if your taxes remain unchanged?)

The White House reports:

President Obama connected directly with Americans via Twitter, where he answered questions about extending middle class tax cuts (watch the video here).

Obama tweeted:

Good to see lots of folks on twitter speaking out on extending middle class tax cuts. I'll answer some Qs on that at 2ET. Ask w/ #My2k -bo

Notice that he's glad to see "folks" -- das Volk -- "speaking out on extending middle class tax cuts." No mention of any dissenters. No mention of his demand to usurp the power to raise the debt ceiling or his other deal-breaking conditions. No mention of his real intent to raise taxes on the rich.

Everywhere you look, Obama refers only to "extending the middle class tax cut." At whitehouse.gov a banner headline screams: "Pass the Middle-Class Tax Cuts." The text explains: "If Congress fails to act before the end of the year, every American family's taxes will automatically go up." On the same page, the White House posted the story, "Increasing Taxes on Middle-Class Families Will Hurt Consumer Spending."

It's a misinformation campaign, promoting the audacious deception that Obama is a crusader for lower taxes, while Republicans want to raise taxes. Part of the strategy behind this fairy tale is that in the likely event that fiscal cliff negotiations fail and taxes go up, Obama can blame "intransigent" Republicans; he's creating the narrative that he fought hard against those Republican tax increases.

The message coming out of the White House is tempered for a wider audience, but Obama's attack dogs over at the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee keep up the class warfare baying at the moon to the faithful, as in this recent email:

Peter - The Republicans have hit a new low.

President Obama's compromise averts the fiscal cliff and protects the middle class, but Republicans would rather destroy our economy than raise taxes on their billionaire donors like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson.

"President Obama's compromise"? It's hard to keep your breakfast down reading this stuff.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." We've heard that pure democracy might be possible in ancient Greece or small town Vermont, but impossible in a country of 310 million. Social media challenges that reassuring platitude. A Twitter mob, riled up by envy and inspired by misinformation, influencing lawmakers to take money from the pockets of others to put into theirs, might not fit the image of a bloodthirsty mob during the French Revolution, but it nevertheless subverts our Constitutional republic.