Obama: 'You Belong to Me'

"Government is the only thing we all belong to."  That assertion was the theme of a now infamous DNC video that aired during the Democratic convention in Charlotte.  After it was lambasted by everyone from Rush Limbaugh to the Romney campaign, Obama staffers distanced themselves from the video, blaming it on "the host committee of the city of Charlotte."  That should make North Carolinians ecstatic -- now they're under the bus with everyone from Larry Summers to the Rev. Wright.  But no matter how the DNC attempts to disown the video in question, it can't disavow the message.  For this president, government is the only thing that matters.  We all belong to government, and Obama is the government.

Human Events author John Hayward labeled the video "one of the worst monsters from the Democratic id," and he was right.  The Democratic id has long sought to strip Americans of their liberty and confer greater power on government.  Government now has its hand in everything from prenatal to end-of-life care (for which Obama's Medicare czar Donald Berwick prescribed "morphine and counseling" over treatments that might prolong life).  The American people already belong to government more than any of the nation's Founders could have imagined.  But Obama wants us to belong more.

That idea of belonging did not just pop into Obama's head one morning while he was out community organizing.  It is an idea that has had a long and appalling history.  It is the Trojan horse by which progressives, as liberals now call themselves, have always sought to undermine our democratic system and replace it with government imbued with dictatorial powers.

"We stand in the presence of a revolution," Woodrow Wilson observed at the beginning of his presidency -- a revolution in which the people will "hold their honor steady to a common end" (my italics).  Or, as Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, "[t]he liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself."  In other words, the state must dominate the private economy, or citizens will lose their liberty.  Huh?  Or, according to Lyndon Baines Johnson, "[t]here are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves."  ("You didn't build that...")  Then there was Jimmy Carter, who equated liberalism with a higher power: "I've never detected any conflict between God's will and my own political duty."  And now Barack Obama, who thinks he is the higher power.

Liberals have never answered the question: what of those who do not choose to join in a "common end" that government has chosen for them?  What of those who refuse to "belong to government"?  These unfortunate souls must be dealt with, as Obama's departments and agencies are dealing with them: by silencing them, litigating against them, jailing them, and ruining their businesses and reputations.  Those tactics, and more, were exactly what European leftists from Mussolini to Stalin resorted to.

Obama's tactics include his continual attacks on the opposition for what he calls "partisan bickering" -- a charge he repeated on Sept. 20 during a television interview on Univision.  Actually, Obama labels every divergence from his own opinions "partisanship."  This refusal to engage in reasonable discussion is the president's most distressing trait, because it is a trait that he shares with tyrants of the past.  Just this week, when the Romney campaign raised the issue of the president's "bumps in the road" comment, Obama's press secretary suggested that it was "offensive" for an opponent to question the president's language.  Are we at the point where a president's judgment can no longer be examined? 

Actually, "partisan" is one of the more polite words that this president and his henchmen have used to attack those who disagree with him.  Paul Ryan, the president's arch-rival on budgetary issues, has been attacked as everything from "far right" to "extremist" to "evil."  It is not simply that liberals want to retain power; they believe that they are fighting for "the cause," as one AARP official put it, which no one is allowed to oppose.  It's not surprising that Rep. Ryan's unequivocal opposition to Big Government seems evil to the left.

"My program is simple: I want to govern," Mussolini wrote in his autobiography.  Not issues, not policy -- just power.  I want to govern.  Or as Obama put it at a Wisconsin campaign stop: he just wants to "finish the job."  There's nothing in his four-year record to suggest he should be permitted another term, but that's not the point.  Obama's rationale for a second term is that he wants to govern, and that should be enough.  Or as Jay Carney suggested, just shut up.

The Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Elias Canetti had a lot to say about this sort of obsession with power.  In his great book, Crowds and Power (New York, orig. 1960; trans. 1984), Canetti analyzed what he called the "elements of power," one of which was the ruler's sense of being the godlike object of adoration.  It seems that the only time Obama smiles is when he is receiving the applause of a friendly and obsequious audience.

Here is the frightening thing about Obama.  He is not just a politician who believes he is right.  He is a true believer who thinks that ordinary human beings are fodder for the state.  And it is not the democratic state or constitutional state that is the ideal.  It is the leftist state bestowed with unlimited powers and ruled by one man.

George Washington called government "a dangerous servant and a fearful master."  Thomas Paine called it "a necessary evil."  For Obama, government is the thing we all belong to, the thing that "made this country great."  Four more years of Obama will not make this country great, but it will ensure that we belong to government to an unimaginable extent.  Obama's message is: "You and everything you own belong to me."  If the American people don't stop him, they will.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).