Obama's "you didn't build that" continues to resonate -- far more than a political gaffe. There is a reason: the implications are far bigger than his attempt to discredit the successful. He didn't simply go from "it takes a village" to "it takes a government." His statement challenges the fundamental relationship between America and its government.
In his recent Roanoke, VA, remarks, Obama attempted to unmake the ideal of the self-made man: "…[L]ook, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own…. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." He overshot. In an effort to exalt the government, he not only denigrated the individual, he inverted America's historical view of their relationship.
Many liberals may think this, but few -- even in their most unguarded moments -- would dare say it publicly. Over our nation's two-plus centuries, we have so exalted the independent pioneer spirit that it is virtually synonymous with being an American. We as a people are imbued with that sense, even if some do not share in the sentiment.
Savvy politicians of all stripes know this, and at the very least pay lipservice to it. Still, Obama said it.
The logic of Obama's words is as refutable as his public utterance is inexplicable. If the government's spending was the catalyst for innovation, then why are we not all Steve Jobs? Why did so many of America's greatest inventors appear prior to America's biggest government?
Logically if, as Obama says, we all share in a boost from the government, then that boost really cannot be the determinative element in the innovation equation -- precisely because we all share in it. Instead, it is a constant on both sides of the equation -- success and failure alike. The catalyst therefore must lie elsewhere.
Why is it so difficult for liberals to accept that it must lie in the truly and obviously unique element in the innovation equation: The individual?