The real Barack Obama is still unknown, supposedly. One take is that he is a smart guy who will move toward the center and govern moderately and competently. Another take is that he is the most radical person to ever hold the position of President who will take the US on a hard left course into a socialist state lacking any resemblance to the country our founders gave us.
I also have a third scenario, and it is my scariest one: he will do the latter, but make it appear like the former. That is, he will be take the US on a hard left course, but in such a way so as to not scare the Christopher Buckleys and soccer moms of the world too much, too soon.
The Good. The first scenario is the one believed by Christopher Buckley and other "conservatives" who voted for Obama. They believe that Obama will moderate himself once in power and govern like the reasonable fellow in his campaign ads. This would not be that terrible of a situation. Yes, we would get more liberal policies, but nothing too terrible or irreversible - probably not much worse than if McCain had won. If the electorate wants to fix things after experiencing some of this, it will swing from 52% liberal to perhaps 52% conservative in 2010 or 2012. No harm, no foul.
The Bad. The second scenario is what Rush Limbaugh believes. Obama, with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, will so overdo it that the electorate will quickly rectify things starting in 2010, just like it did in 1994. In 1993, President Clinton's first executive order was to allow open gays to serve in the military. Then he appointed his wife to the secret committee to socialize the 15% of the economy that is health care. Both efforts failed, one in the courts and the other in Congress, and set the electorate to trying to fix its mistake. An all-Republican Congress was voted into office in 1994, the first time since 1952, shortly followed by capital-gains tax cuts, free trade, the end of welfare and budget surpluses. (Remember those Republicans?)
The Bad scenario might be characterized by the following.
- Gays in the military. Congress could change US Code, Title 10, Section 654 to allow open gays in the military. (Congress sets such rules. President Clinton tried to change them by Executive Order, but the courts ruled only Congress can change its own rules on military regulations.)
- Gay marriage. The Democrats could overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and thus make gay marriage the law of the land throughout the country, including how such couples are treated on federal taxes and Social Security rules. That is, since gay marriage is already the law in at least two states (by court rulings, not legislation or popular support), ending DOMA would force recognition of those marriages throughout the states and federal government.
- Stem cell research. Federal funding of research that destroys human embryos, beyond a few existing embryos, was restricted by Executive Order under President Bush. President Obama can eliminate this Order immediately, and Congress could then get to work passing legislation to fund human embryonic stem cell research, thus incentivizing early abortions that yield such embryos.
- Abortion. Congress could pass the Freedom of Choice Act and overturn the Hyde Amendment, and thus eliminate all restrictions on abortion and get the federal government back into the business of funding abortions in the US and around the world.
- Censorship. By bringing back the so-called fairness doctrine, conservative voices such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and virtually all of talk radio would be eliminated. The internet could be regulated and political speech further restricted under McCain-Feingold type rules.
- Mandatory national service. Obama stated that national service would be the "central cause" of his Presidency. At a minimum, this would likely entail dramatic expansion of AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps as well as mandatory "public service" hours as part of high school and college requirements. It could mean a draft, or mandatory service, and a national force in size and funding comparable to the current US military. Think of it as ACORN with $500 billion in annual funding and that your sons and daughters must serve.
- Socialized health care. While I have stated tepid support for some kind of universal health coverage (with significant caveats), what we will likely get from the all-Democrat federal government will be full-blooded socialized medicine from price controls on drug companies to insurance mandates and a Medicare-like bureaucracy imposed throughout the system, with no simplification of or reductions in Medicare and Medicaid. A single-payer system like Canada's or the UK's will look good by comparison.
- Court appointments. President Obama will nominate, and the Senate will approve, the most leftist, "living-breathing Constitution", judges to federal courts. Such judges could easily rule that the right to keep and bear arms is not an individual right; that gay marriage is a Constitutional right; that women must receive comparable pay for like work; that the 14th Amendment's equal treatment clause requires taxpayer funding of just about anything you can think of, from schools to sports programs; that the Boy Scouts must allow openly gay adults to take 12-year-old boys camping; that school administrators have more say in your child's upbringing than you do; that "private property" is effectively a meaningless concept if you do not use it to serve "the public purpose" as conceived by any public official; etc. (Here's a secret: courts have already ruled in favor of many of these concepts.)
- Taxes, spending, regulation. Taxes will be increased, especially on people who pay them. Social Security taxes will be applied to all income levels. The Death Tax will be restored in full, and then some. We might get totally new taxes, such as a national sales tax, a value added tax, or a wealth tax. Spending will go up, perhaps dramatically, on everything but Defense. New regulations will be imposed on everything from investment banking and hedge funds to work rules and insurance mandates.
- Foreign policy. It will be all talk and no action when it comes to national defense. We will reward enemies (e.g., Venezuela, Cuba, Russia) and punish friends (e.g., Columbia, Israel). We will work through the UN as much as possible, and we'll probably put ourselves under the jurisdiction of the World Court. Look for Donald Rumsfeld and perhaps George W. Bush to be prosecuted in the Hague.
- Rule of law. Voting rules will be weakened so that vote fraud will be widespread but undetected. The border will become a meaningless line on a map, since border enforcement will be weakened, no one will be considered "illegal", and every border-crosser will get all the rights and benefits of citizenship once foot is set here. Generally, think Chicago-Daley on a national scale.
If the more dramatic and least popular of these policies are enacted early, the electorate will want to change the change, maybe even as soon as 2010 -- especially if the economy continues to struggle. In that sense, we conservatives (meaning anyone not socialist) should hope the Obama/Reid/Pelosi ruling coalition gives it to us good and hard and soon.
The Ugly. The trouble is that Obama is smart -- a smart leftist. He will make no sudden moves. He will essentially enact The Bad scenario incrementally and by stealth. And every move will have a reasonable-sounding narrative, fully supported by the mass media, popular culture, the education industry and "experts". He will avoid the truly unpopular moves.
The tax increases will not be some massive new taxes or big rate increases. There will be just an iddy-biddy rate increase from 36% to 39% on those making over, say, $200,000. They will not "increase" taxes; they just won't continue the existing tax cuts. Social Security taxes won't be "increased", they will just be applied to higher incomes.
Not all the social issues will be changed all at once. We'll get federal funding of embryonic stem cell research because it is popular. We won't get full-bore gay marriage, though, because it isn't popular. The Freedom of Choice Act will likely pass, because most people don't care all that much, and we generally expected it from Obama.
Spending increases will be under the guise of getting us out of economic trouble. And how much worse could he look than the Republicans who passed a $150 billion stimulus (when Obama at the time was proposing only $120 billion) and an $850 billion bailout supported by both Bush and McCain? We are already talking in increments of trillions.
The details of spending (i.e., funding the left), regulation and judicial appointments will all be beneath the radar. No one but insiders, wonks and pundits pay attention to such things. A smart administration (and one run by Rahm Emanuel is smart) can get away with almost anything here. Leftist organizations like ACORN, Planned Parenthood and legal aid societies don't need the amounts of money that earn the notice of Joe Six-Pack. Regulations that apply only to corporations are usually just too hard to follow, and who cares about corporations anyway? Almost anything goes, regulation-wise. Law schools have been pumping out so many leftists that there will be plenty to choose from, all well-credentialed, ABA approved and with no smoking-gun scary rulings in their past.
President Obama will not have to appoint Bill Ayers to be Education Secretary to get a Bill Ayer's agenda. The National Education Association, for example, is full of Bill Ayers, but ones with no histories of setting bombs or admitting to being communists. We'll get the communist agenda, but without the fireworks.
We are in some rough economic shape right now, but whatever recession we are in should end in the first year or so of Obama's first term. He will get the credit for getting us out of the economic mess that George W. Bush got us into. The war in Iraq is essentially over, with the only uncertainty being whether we pull our troops out in 2009, 2010 or 2011. Again, Obama will get the credit for getting us out of a mess that Bush got us into.
Unless a recession turns into another Great Depression and/or the jihadis go nuclear, and maybe even if so, President Obama stands a very good chance of being declared our Savior. As Hoover was to FDR, so Bush will be to BHO.
Welcome to the end of the end of the era of big government. And say hello to our new friends Hugo, Raul, Vladimir, Mahmoud and Muammar and good-bye to dead white males like Jefferson and Madison. It's about to get ugly.