Presidential rhetoric shows the antidemocratic strain in progressivism
One of President Obama’s most annoying habits is his tendency to mistake the 300 million people of the United States for soldiers in an army charged with national reconstruction. He, of course, is the general.
The tic is often barely perceptible, revealed subtly in those moments when Obama decries partisan politics for interfering with his plans; when he speaks of coming together for the common purpose of redistributing private income to—sorry, “investing” taxpayer dollars in—Democratic client groups; and during the rare occasions when he feels it necessary to address the nation on matters of national security and war.
Here is the president in August 2010, announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq: “And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.”
The way to “honor” American heroes who serve overseas, Obama said, is “by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for—the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.”
What does “coming together” mean? Why, silly, it means passing Obama’s domestic agenda: more money for education and job training and to “jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil,” and just happen to be owned by donors to the president’s campaigns. Missing from the 2010 speech was a line saying the path to heroism is through support for the Buffett Rule, probably because David Axelrod hadn’t yet come up with that particular gimmick.
The nation-as-army metaphor reemerged, dramatically, as the 2012 campaign began. Jonah Goldberg was justifiably disgusted at the message of this year’s State of the Union Address, in which the president suggested that Americans as a whole might take their cues from uniformed soldiers who are “not consumed with personal ambition,” “don’t obsess over their differences,” “focus on the mission at hand,” and “work together.”
Obama finds inspiration in the most hierarchical and selfless elements of military life. “Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example,” he said. We imagine all of us would have to buy health insurance. Taxes and spending would be high. A new Volt would sit in every driveway.
The commander-in-chief issued additional orders in recent days. When he unveiled his latest campaign slogan Monday, he told his supporters, and presumably the rest of the country, that it is time to march “Forward,” lemming-like, off a cliff.