I try to think about interesting things as often as I can, so I don’t pay much attention to American politics. Except when I need a good laugh. Our Imperial Leader gave us one the other day by flying off to Osawatomie, Kansas, to beat up on the Wall Street guys and gals who are coughing up large for his reelection campaign. My colleague Paul Moreno pointed out in the WSJ a few weeks ago that Mr. Obama’s election strategy is just like the second Roosevelt’s in 1936, that is, “anti-business demagoguery.” That insight is both obvious and profound, and seems to play well in Osawatomie every hundred years or so.
President Obama will probably give a title to his presidency. All progressives do. We had the Square Deal, the New Freedom, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society. Mr. Carter was probably too modest, and not progressive enough; Mr. Clinton, well, his imagination ran to lower things. What name will President Obama lodge in our history books? He used the word “fair” about a zillion times the other day, but that one is taken, by Harry Truman, who was from about an hour up the road from Osawatomie.
It doesn’t matter. The progressive agenda is always a New Deal. It means:
- All stories start in Washington
- Equality and democracy are rules of nature
- Politics trumps religion
- Everybody can be bought.
Think about it. TR (this is another thing progressives like to do—make acronyms of themselves) gave us the New Nationalism, which meant that Washington was greater than the sum of its parts. His cousin FDR taught us how to purchase certain constituencies on that national level, and how to take the first steps towards nannyism. Harry (too much a redneck Pendergast guy to anacronize himself) made us the Saviour of the World. JFK ritualized what Harry had done, and completed the nationalization of the political machine (the best voter booths Daly could buy). LBJ completed the New Deal, but was way too crude to convince anybody who counted that it had happened. President Obama (we will not call him BO, or even HBO) will complete the purchase of big business and big pharma even while calling them names, and has already become a metaphor for what we used to call “civil rights.”
There is not one idea in the mind of the Obamanation that is not a rehearsal of the New Deal. In fact, there has not been an idea in the mind of any powerful politician since 1953 (the death of Robert Taft) that is not a rehearsal of the New Deal. Yes, that includes General Ike, who gave us Health, Education, and Welfare, the hated Nixon, who reminded us that we are all Wilsonians and Keynesians, and Mr. Reagan, who was a progressive through and through, one who got mugged harder even than Mr. Kristol and other neocons. The only original American political idea is Limited Government—everything else from equality to social democracy to communism is European—and since Taft there has been no serious American political figure who has truly believed in it.
The New Deal is a powerful deal. It is built on promises. “The Government promises…” you fill in the blank, depending on what group is seeking the promise. The “Dominant Dogma of the Age,” Walter Lippmann called it in 1938; whatever name one gives it (progressivism, liberalism, socialism, communism) it is all the same. Government can make us happy.
Maybe the Obamanation will become the “Stimulus To Deal,” or STD. We have certainly felt stimulated since about the 60s. More likely it will be just another pale imitator: a “Like Really Newer Deal.” Or “Like Change We Can Really Believe In.” Or “The Really Fair Deal.”
Mr. Obama was trying to be a metaphor in Osawatomie, for a Republican who has been widely adopted by a certain kind of self-proclaimed “conservative.” I wonder if he knew, before the trip, that Osawatomie hosts the historic site dedicated to one of the early true progressives, the gentle John Brown, who supervised the hacking to death of several Kansans who stood on the wrong side of progress?
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