After Obama Fails

A failed presidency for Barack Obama could turn into liberalism's worst nightmare. Barely six months into his term, the 44th president has succeeded in generating the most widespread and serious discussion of secession since the Civil War.  Despite what Newsweek's Evan Thomas may claim, Obama is not the "God" who will bring us together but the autocratic sponsor of an overbearing, oppressive leviathan from which a growing number of Americans are seeking refuge.

That refuge, according to author Paul Starobin, will come in the form of several regional republics that reflect the diverse character of Americans no longer bound in any meaningful way by our unrecognizable Federal government.  In a riveting exploration of America 's coming breakup, Starobin writes in a recent Wall Street Journal article:

"Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society."

Starobin chronicles in fascinating detail the historical basis for America 's future balkanization. He provides a snapshot of today's most viable and vocal secessionist organizations.  Starobin goes on to argue that the overbearing and stifling "Obama planners and their ilk" will probably be doomed to fail in a land replete with the Jeffersonian impulse of radical self-determination.  Obama's extreme power grab, in other words, will cause a correspondingly extreme backlash:

"All of this adds up to a federal power grab that might make even FDR's New Dealers blush. But that's just the point: Not surprisingly, a lot of folks in the land of Jefferson are taking a stand against an approach that stands to make an indebted citizenry yet more dependent on an already immense federal power. The backlash, already under way, is a prime stimulus for a neo-secessionist movement, the most extreme manifestation of a broader push for some form of devolution."

By focusing most of his attention on how big unwieldy entities devolve into creative little ones, Starobin's analysis misses however the more direct personal role Barack Obama himself has played in fracturing America.

Back in March of last year for example New York Times columnist Roger Cohen told his audience he could "understand the rage" of Obama's former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  Without missing a beat Cohen then concluded in his essay that the "clamoring now in the United States for a presidency that uplifts rather than demeans is a reflection of the intellectual desert of the Bush years." 

Has Barack Obama's been an "uplifting" presidency?  Mr. Obama knew full well that his Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, dismissed the test results of white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, entitled to promotion but denied because they were of the wrong race.  Surely her decision is demeaning to both white males and to those who study diligently for exams.  Did the black firefighters feel uplifted or demeaned when Sotomayor ruled in their favor?  Was the New Haven firehouse more unified or more divided after Sotomayor's ruling?  Was Obama's Sotomayor choice uplifting or demeaning?

Indeed, from the Sotomayor pick and anti-business rhetoric to the endless lecturing about America 's sins, Mr. Obama is starting to sound a lot like his former pastor.  To be sure Obama is not as grating and shrill as Mr. Wright but closer to something more like Jeremiah-lite. In other words, Mr. Obama's strategy seems to be to convince Americans to drink his socialist tonic out of sheer guilt.  I'm not sure what is so inspiring about all of this.

Maybe this is why Starobin claims to be witnessing a lot of neo-secessionist activity. Wouldn't a new American devolution however be a liberal's worst nightmare?  Beyond the psychosis most liberals would have to endure at the thought of losing any kind of control, the prospect of vibrant, happy, and successful conservative republics in places like Texas, South Carolina or Utah  would be an inescapable spotlight forever exposing the failure of liberal ideology in a Republic of California.

But this brings up another problem.  When the framers of the American Constitution favored a multi-state solution to the problem of centralized tyranny they argued that an additional benefit would be that each state could become a unique laboratory displaying the policy successes and failures to its neighbors.  If the Republic of Texas chooses a classics curriculum for its youngsters, celebrates the family and tradition in its media, encourages personal responsibility in lieu of a nanny state, rewards citizens on the basis of merit, is tough on criminals, sends its politicians home after brief excursions to the capitol, is business friendly and generally leaves its citizens alone, how are those controlling the politically liberal Republics like California going to react?

What most liberals fail to understand is that their leisurely dabbling in progressive politics and moral equivalency is made possible by the existence of accumulated conservative moral capital. Remove the conservative anchor and progressive societies become dangerously seasick.  I guess the lesson here is that liberals need conservatives more than conservatives need liberals (although society needs them on occasion).  There is much in progressive ideology that simply seeks to undermine -- a strange method of establishing an identity.

While reading "A Little History of the World" to my kids the other day I came across an interesting observation by the author, E.H. Gombrich:

"Because the Egyptians were so wise and so powerful their empire lasted for a very long time.  Longer than any empire the world has ever known: nearly three thousand years.  And they took just as much care of their corpses, when they preserved them from rotting away, in preserving all their ancient traditions over the centuries.  Their priests made quite sure that no son did anything his father had not done before him.  To them, everything old was sacred."

When Obama fails it will be because he's convinced enough Americans to tire, as he has, of what used to be known as "America."  Imagine what would have happened in Egypt had their priests adopted "liberation theology" rather than the standard of their fathers.  A mere footnote in the pages of history.