On the campaign trail, Michelle Obama often employs the word "struggle." It was actually Mrs. Obama's peculiar pronunciation -- "shtruggle" -- that first drew my attention to the frequency of her usage. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, her speech referred to some form of "struggle" nine times. Last week, speaking in Durham, Michelle referred to "struggle" five times and as a theme of her address, prompting BuzzFeed to title its report "Michelle Obama: Barack 'Has Been Struggling With Us.'"
Mrs. Obama said her husband has struggled each and every day since he took office nearly four years ago to make life better for people.
"Barack Obama has been working every day since the day he took office," she told an adoring crowd of 3,000 that greeted her with deafening cheers at the historically black university. "He has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us. And together slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in."
Besides noting Michelle's obvious exaggeration of struggling "every day" while visualizing frequent photos of her husband golfing or rubbing celebrity elbows, a very politically incorrect mind might also recall other famous politicians' "struggles," such as Hitler's notorious Mein Kampf, which translates as "My Struggle." Of course, the politically incorrect and very brave Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders also documented the struggle for his life after criticizing Islam (which also translates as "struggle") in Marked for Death. Wilders, in his controversial film Fitna, actually dared to compare the Quran with Mein Kampf (as did another famous politician, Winston Churchill, in his book From War to War). (Note: The Bavarian government has plans to republish Mein Kampf in 2016, and an Arabic translation has reportedly been a bestseller in Middle Eastern countries for several years.)
Of course, the general concept of "struggle" itself can be either good or bad depending on what one is struggling against, or conversely, struggling for, as well as how the struggle is carried out.
Whether Obama personally ever had or now has a life of "struggle" hinges on how one defines or measures the term and which parts of his "composite" history or lifestyle are considered. Michelle charmingly recalled Obama's dumpster-dive coffee table and dates in his rusty car. But Obama's attendance at an elite private school in Hawaii, an expensive college in California earning "mediocre" grades, and the highly selective Ivies of Columbia and Harvard Law; his appointment as Harvard Law Review president (without a resume of articles); his college trip to Pakistan; his several-month "retreat" to Bali to write an account of his "struggle to understand the forces that shaped him" (for which he received large advances); his purchase of a residence in Chicago's pricey Hyde Park; and a few short years of professional then public experience leading to an incredibly rapid ascent into the most powerful office in the world -- well, none of this portrays a "shtruggle" to most folks.
Although blessed with a life of such good fortune (and once with "deep humility," admitting that he has a "gift" for "phenomenal" speeches), Obama is not known for a long record of giving of his personal time or money to either his extended family or private charity. Michelle must have been referring to her husband's shtruggle, as a community-organizer/politician who believes in wealth redistribution, to design and sell programs that raise taxes and "spread the wealth" (of other people) around.
To make government-run wealth-spreading seem like "the right thing to do," "what works," and all about "fairness" should be a struggle for the president of the United States, who is supposed to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and operate within its limitations. This is especially, as economist Thomas Sowell noted in his editorial "Fallacy of Redistribution Has Grave Economic Impact," considering the long and grim history of "examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty."
In a recent interview, Obama asserted that his policies were right and that his biggest mistake was that his storytelling failed to inspire people. In other words, he struggled to wrap up his redistributive philosophy with adequately attractive packaging. Regardless, his job is made easier by a large bloc of adolescent-minded voters who fail to look beyond bumper-sticker slogans, mainstream media manipulation, and enticing "fair share" payouts dangled outside the voting booth.
Redistributive policies have helped to dig our nation into a hole of trillions of dollars of debt -- a hole inhabited by millions of unemployed, dependent, and worried Americans. Obama, while frequently changing or ignoring the rules that he proclaims everybody else should have to play by, holds up fairness cards and perks for bureaucrats and cronies in one hand -- while the other seems to slap the hands of citizens who have avoided the hole or successfully built their own way out of it.
Though Michelle assures voters that Obama has been shtruggling to get out of that hole right along with them, we also see him skipping intelligence briefings and jobs council meetings while struggling to squeeze in more rounds of golf and appointments with "Pimp with the Limp," David Letterman, basketball stars, and Hollywood celebrities.
Lavish fundraisers garner lots of money from wealthy donors for the Obama campaign, but Sowell noted that government "can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth -- and that future wealth is less likely to be produced when people see that it is going to be confiscated." However, Obama hasn't let that fact stop him as he racks up an enormous debt that our nation's future generations will struggle to repay.
Another inconvenient fact is that all redistribution or fairness programs, no matter how well-intentioned, are inherently unfair to someone -- at the very least to the citizens forced to subsidize them. And there will always be the person who is a dollar short or over, or only a day or street away to qualify for the benefit or be subject to its requirements. Because all such programs have to start and stop somewhere, redefining the point where unfairness -- and a real struggle -- begins.
Sowell also noted the struggle of establishing and carrying out redistributive programs in a democracy versus in a dictatorship. Tocqueville is credited with the observations that a democracy will last only until politicians discover that they can bribe the public with the public's money, or a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves the treasury. Looking at recent statistics, we've almost reached that tipping point. And we all know what can fill the vacuum when a democracy fails.
"Mitt Romney and I are not running to redistribute the wealth," Paul Ryan recently said on the campaign trail in Virginia. "Mitt Romney and I are running to help Americans create wealth." Romney declared: "We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution."
Obama struggles to fulfill his dreams of transforming America into some sort of socialist state. Romney's struggle is to convince voters that the Romney/Ryan vision will restore America's economic prosperity and preserve the liberty and freedom of its citizens. America's very survival may depend on whose vision wins the election struggle of 2012.