The 2010 election is not simply a campaign against Obama. It needs to be a campaign against liberalism as a whole.
Obama remains the major target, and he deserves the honor. No president in my lifetime has been as incompetent, as obtuse, or as polarizing. There's a particular type of incompetence that involves applying serious energy and diligence to doing the wrong thing. Obama is the master of this style of governance. Sure, he passed his stimulus bill, his health care plan, his financial regulatory act -- all of which are loathed by the country at large and all of which, without exception, are guaranteed to make the problems they're designed to address worse. The stimulus stimulated nothing. Health care costs have risen 20% since O's grand triumph. The regulatory bill addresses precisely none of the problems that led to the recent slump.
Obama's obtuseness is evident in the endless vacations, the bowing and scraping before assorted potentates, his leaping into events (the Gates imbroglio, the Ground Zero mosque, this latest sideshow act with the backwoods wrestler...uhh, pastor) that are none of his business, and his continual rhetorical fumbles. A week doesn't go by without a new addition to the list, his whining that his critics "talk about me like a dog" being only the latest. (Quick, hand me that newspaper...) A president must be a center of calm and poise amid the whirlwind of events. Obama is usually just another piece of flotsam.
The word "polarizing" is generally limited to Republican presidents, though, in fact, it could be said to be part of the job description. But Obama has taken this to new heights -- presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush certainly aroused opposition, occasionally well-organized and well-funded. But they are nothing to compare with Obama, who has ignited a vast political movement of a depth unseen for well over a century. The Tea Parties are a unique phenomenon, potentially as powerful and earthshaking as the abolitionist movement in the 19th century. It's not often an individual acts as the trigger for such a movement. That may well be Obama's major contribution.
So it's quite proper that this election should be a referendum on Obama. But it can't be limited to that, because Obama is not the threat. He's only this moment's representation of the threat. Consider: if you were asked in 2005 who was the major threat among liberal politicians, you would probably have mentioned Hillary Clinton. A few other names might have come to mind as well -- Pelosi or Dean above all. But would it have occurred to you to mention the junior senator from Illinois?
The powers that make men presidents -- both real and metaphysical -- liked Barack Obama. They liked his looks, his voice, the crease of his pants. So they wrote him a book or two, cleaned up his résumé, and pointed him toward the top. I imagine they were as surprised as anyone else at how quickly and easily it went. I doubt they were expecting such results in 2008 -- maybe in 2016 or 2020.
The point is that the same can happen to anyone. Obama, with all his manifest flaws, was transformed not only into presidential material, but into a candidate for messiah. There is no lack of would-be redeemers in the liberal ranks. Liberalism can toss up one after another for years and decades as long as the ideology remains vigorous. That's why the system, and not merely the individual, must be the target. The threat is liberalism, which is utilizing this presidency to accomplish assorted progressive daydreams at great cost to the country as a whole, to organize itself a permanent position within government, and to line the pockets of liberal politicians and their cronies.
Concentrating on single issues and individuals rather than the big picture is a mistake in emphasis, a flaw in strategy. This is why speculations concerning O's birthplace, religion, etc., while amusing and interesting, are somewhat beside the point. They divert energy and effort from the assault on liberalism as a whole.
One thing that the Obama presidency has raised to the level of an axiom is the fact that no aspect of liberalism ever dies. The administration has reached back to the New Deal, the British National Health Service, and the Great Society for its "new, unheralded policies" to overcome our current problems. It seems that no policy or concept is too antiquated, over the hill, or moribund for the Obama administration. The New Deal began in 1933, the NHS was founded in 1948, and the Great Society was started in 1964. All of these attempts to remake society began before men had walked the moon, before the internet existed, before abortion was legalized, before such movements as feminism and gay rights were initiated, before such problems as large-scale drug abuse, failing schools, mass homelessness, and illegal immigration appeared. There is no possible contribution any of them can make to our current impasse. You almost expect to hear the cry of "free silver!" from this White House.
All these programs have been repeatedly discredited. Like other collectivist, state-oriented ideologies, liberalism degrades by encouraging the lowest expressions of behavior -- greed, hatred, and envy. Liberalism robs all levels of society to fund its efforts -- and not only contemporary society, but generations to come, yea, even unto the grandchildren's grandchildren. Liberalism destroys entire social networks -- unions, the educational system, and today, even the military, along with neighborhoods and cities such as Detroit, Newark, East St. Louis, and Camden.
Even worse, liberalism is lethal. We are all aware that statist governments in Europe, Asia, and Africa have killed myriads of their own citizens numbering from the thousands to the tens of millions. How equivalent liberal offenses have been overlooked remains unclear to me, but overlooked they have been. My upcoming book Death by Liberalism demonstrates that liberal policies such as criminal justice reform, federal fuel standards, child "protection" agencies, and environmental regulations have killed up to 500,000 Americans over the past fifty years. These were programs initiated and carried out in everyone's best interests and with the highest level of professional expertise by people who were not named Obama, but thought the same way he does.
There may well be worse coming. While the criminal justice fiasco killed in excess of 250,000 and the CAFE standards killed up to 128,000, ObamaCare, through its destruction of the existing health care system, its leveling of all forms of treatment, and its slavish imitation of the dysfunctional British NHS, threatens up to 450,000 lives per year.
Under such circumstances, demolishing liberalism becomes a moral imperative. To overthrow only its current figurehead while leaving the critical machinery operating is similar to meticulously sinking every ship that attacked Pearl Harbor while leaving the Japanese Imperium itself intact.
How do we go about it? By frightening the politicians. This past Labor Day weekend, Russ Feingold, one of the most left-wing politicians in the historical record, avoided Obama as if he were carrying rabies, remaining at the far end of the state while Obama addressed union members, certainly some of Feingold's favorite constituents. Dozens of Democrats are now distancing themselves from ObamaCare in a desperate effort to dodge the electoral tsunami now on the horizon. It is possible to make an individual or an issue so radioactive that no sane politician will touch it. We need to work out how to use the same techniques against a complete ideology. It can be done: recall all the wailing a few years back about how "liberalism" had been turned into a dirty word.
A final point: it's widely acknowledged that it was the West that kept the USSR alive all those decades. So murderous was the Soviet state, so demented its policies, that it should have collapsed in short order. But every time the Soviets looked creaky, some Western nation came running with loans, credits, food shipments, or Lend-lease acts. As a result, the communist nightmare lasted far longer than it should have.
The same may well be true of liberalism. There's something in the conservative mindset that will not strike the killing blow, that allows a misplaced sense of "fairness" to dictate actions, that looks the other way at gross violations of morality and law. So we cover for the liberals. We refuse to bring down the hammer on a Waters or a Rangel; we fail to protest at blatant cheating and chicanery, even to the extent of ignoring violence directed at our own people.
This attitude must change. Our standards mean nothing if we are the only ones they apply to. With serious intent and concerted effort, we can, over the generation to come, erase this last vestige of the "Glorious State," this perversion of democracy, this tool of megalomaniacs. It merely requires the will to do it.
I'm not suggesting that we simply ignore Obama. Presidents have access to considerable resources, and there is plenty of mischief remaining on his agenda. But Obama already has seen his glory days. His own party is abandoning him, and it should require relatively little effort to bring him to heel. He has fallen quite a long way since his debut as the Illinois messiah and has quite a long way yet to go.
But we must direct at least some of our batteries toward his supporters and accomplices: the Reids, the Pelosis, the lesser figures scarcely worth naming, and beyond them the whole rotten structure they represent. The great conservative novelist Evelyn Waugh wrote years ago, "There are still things worth fighting against." Clearly, liberalism is one of those things.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.