Conservatism's Boll Weevil

Obama may, unwittingly, have done for conservatism what a hungry insect accomplished for cotton farmers years ago.

The Town of Enterprise, Alabama is home to one of the world's most unusual monuments. It was erected in 1919 by the farmers of surrounding Coffee County in honor of the boll weevil -- a noxious pest that feeds on cotton buds and flowers. After losing several successive harvests to the weevil, the farmers began to convert to peanuts and other crops. Not only did crop rotation prove beneficial to their land, but the new crops were much more profitable. Realizing that without the weevil, they never would have achieved such a level of prosperity, the local people commissioned a monument. 

At some time in the future, American conservatives might likewise erect a monument to Barack Hussein Obama, without whom the election results of 2010 might have been quite different. By breaking with a traditional liberal strategy, Obama initiated a series of events that will undoubtedly impact the future of the United States for years, if not decades, to come. If one had to point to his single greatest blunder, it was in ignoring what has long been called the salami principle.

Initially defined during the Cold War, the salami principle is an analogy reflecting the way in which liberals have historically advanced their agenda. No sensible individual would eat an entire salami in one sitting. By cutting it into thin slices and feeding it to a person over time, though, it can be entirely consumed. The same has been true with liberal policy. Although the complete platform would be repugnant to the majority of the people, much of it has been achieved through small steps over time. A new regulation, another government department, the extension of an entitlement, an earmark hidden in a bill, a small change in a law, preferential union treatment -- all of these, barely noticeable in and of themselves and lacking publicity in the traditional media, accumulated to create the social and economic problems that we now face. Social Security is an excellent example. Intended as a minimal safety net for retirees, it has burgeoned to include health and disability programs. Its so-called trust fund has been robbed to pay for multiple other projects, to the extent that it currently has the potential to bankrupt the country. It is possible to cite numerous other examples of programs and initiatives that, once instituted, spun wildly -- but practically invisibly -- out of control.

The salami principle says much about those who have followed it. Though certainly aware that what they believe in is not representative of the visions or values of mainstream America, these followers are driven forward by a moral arrogance that justifies virtually any behavior attendant on achieving their goals. In the past, obvious and radical overstepping of the bounds was generally followed by a drubbing at the polls. For instance, the Hillarycare debacle resulted in the midterm defeats of 1994. Political animal that he is, Bill Clinton quickly feinted to the right and managed to save himself. His good fortune was that Hillarycare had not passed and so could be viewed as a temporary lapse of legislative judgment. The situation with Obama is something else. 

His egotism and inexperience, his grounding in the most extreme, ultra-leftist philosophy, his political education at the hands of the Chicago Machine, and the Democrat control of both Houses of Congress persuaded him that he was a creature of destiny. His mission was no less than to remake the basic construct of the United States government, its institutions, and the private sector within the space of a single term in office. 

Nor was it the agenda initiatives alone. The lead-up to the program, as effectuated by Obama, his enablers, and the Democrat leadership, included outright and obvious bribery, closed-door dealings, seizures of property, redistribution of private assets to unions and other supporters, and intimate involvement with the likes of George Soros and Andy Stern. All served to heighten the realization among a shocked public that this was both unprecedented and intolerable. That it happened concurrently with the most serious economic downtown since the Great Depression provided further illumination. Figuratively speaking, the American people awoke choking on a large wedge of putrid salami.

The reaction has been extensive and, in the eyes of the administration's true believers, impossible to accept. The ascendancy of a more right-leaning, if not conservative, philosophy among virtually all groups including an increasing number of Democrats; the emergence of the Tea Party movement; and the combination of anger, optimism, and excitement that has surrounded the 2010 mid-term elections have revolutionized the American political scene and astounded many European observers. Unlike 1994, which proved to be a recoverable mistake, this time the mid- to long-term future will be different.

As the Tea Party has demonstrated, there is a new awareness on the part of many Americans who were not formerly involved that government bears continual watching: that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" (Wendell Phillips). Discovering that they have been betrayed by the traditional media, the people have created an informational and intellectual infrastructure that speaks with an increasingly authoritative voice. It has come to include a variety of sources, including websites, blog posts, e-mails, books, magazines, the Fox News Network, and other communication tools. Now, it is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for formerly unnoticed laws, regulations, earmarks, or entitlement extensions to slip under the radar. Many of the senators and representatives who sponsored and supported the odious legislative products of the administration are being called to account, and their successors are aware that the game has changed.

As the new return-to-old-values movement progresses, conservatives in particular, and the people as a whole, may yet come to realize that, like the boll weevil, it took the Obama administration, in its depredations, to create the reason for and inspire the means to advance toward a better future.