In the aftermath of President Obama’s historic inauguration, media talking heads have assured us our new president will end the partisan bickering that has recently defined our politics. He will unite the country, and he will move the people to close ranks. Only the bitter and the bigoted will oppose the compelling programs of he to whom one prominent T.V. commentator referred as our nation’s new “ruler,” and the world’s.
But conservatives have not united around Obama, nor should they. What should unite conservatives is devotion to the conservative principles that will help our country, not devotion to the cult of personality.
During the inauguration, many in the media suggested that the absence of protestors among the crowd of nearly 2 million on the mall in Washington, D.C. was proof that all Americans have already united around Obama. But conservatives did not protest partly out of respect for the historic import of the moment, but also because conservatives value civility. Respect for others is a conservative virtue.
Such graciousness can be contrasted with liberals’ vindictive and often violent reactions to defeat. Consider the arsons and assaults by same-sex marriage advocates across the West following the California vote to pass Prop. 8 preserving traditional marriage.
The Left’s sense of vindictiveness was on full display even as it reached the pinnacle of its success on Tuesday. Consider the prayer offered by Rev. Joseph Lowery, a portion of which read:
“Lord…we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around when yellow will be mellow when the red man can get ahead, man and when white will embrace what is right.”
Lowery’s prayer was only part of a larger culture of gratuitous ugliness evident at the inauguration. When President Bush and Vice President Cheney arrived on the Inauguration Dais, they were booed loudly and serenaded mockingly with “Nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” All this underscores how the left often seems to get more enjoyment from tearing conservatives down than from lifting liberals up.
And it underscores that the country is not unified. How could it be? President Obama received the votes of 65 million Americans, which translates to only about 22 percent of the American population. In 2004, George W. Bush received the votes of 62 million Americans, which translated into about 21 percent of the American population. Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t remember the media talking about the nation having united around its president then.
In 2008, 235 million Americans did not vote for Barack Obama (roughly equal to the combined populations of 47 states). More than 60 million Americans cast their ballots for somebody other than Barack Obama for president, while another 100 million eligible voters found the idea of Obama as president so stirring that they couldn’t even drag themselves to the voting booth on Election Day.
To put it another way, Obama’s message of hope resonated so deeply and broadly that it inspired to vote a portion of the electorate not seen since the election of…Richard Nixon. That’s right. A larger share of Americans voted in Richard Nixon’s first presidential win in 1968 (61 percent) than voted in the 2008 election (57 percent).
When the media insist that the nation has united around Obama, what they really mean is that they (the media) have. And now they can get on with their mission to, as Chris Matthews put it in a moment of candor, do everything they can to make sure Obama’s presidency is a success.
Despite the media’s best efforts, Obama will make clear early on that he does not really intend to unite all Americans. Consider:
• We know President Obama will immediately call for another round of deficit spending in a “Big Government bailout” bill (the so-called stimulus package) that is likely to total $1 trillion. Those of us who believe in small government and fiscal discipline will not unite behind that.
• Within days of taking office, President Obama will reverse Bush executive orders and force all of us to pay for abortions not only in the U.S., but around the world. Those of us who believe in the dignity, value and worth of every human life from conception until natural death will be silenced.
• The new president has already ordered the closing of the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility, a move that will likely bring hundreds of jihadist prisoners to American soil where they will be protected by ACLU attorneys and leftwing judges. Those of us who believe our constitutional protections do not extend to enemy combatants will not “unite” behind this misguided plan.
There will also be an expectation for conservatives to rubber stamp everything Obama and his congressional allies want. It’s already happening with Obama’s cabinet appointments. When Texas Senator John Cornyn briefly blocked a “unanimous consent” resolution approving Hillary Clinton’s nomination as secretary of state, the media were aghast and acted as if Cornyn were being unreasonable for asking questions about a possible conflict of interest with her husband’s foundation, which receives funding from the Middle East.
Meanwhile, treasury secretary designate Tim Geithner has had a relatively easy time during his nomination process. The would-be head of the IRS has numerous tax issues, but there has been little attention paid to them in the media.
All this stands in contrast to the experience of George W. Bush, who took office under heavy fire from the Left and its Big Media allies. His “honeymoon” was over before he arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And many of his appointees, such as Attorney General John Ashcroft, endured unrelenting attacks over days of hearings.
Given President Obama’s inaugural promise of “bold and swift” action in the days ahead, conservatives do have a duty to unite, around what’s right. When the president does the right thing, we should unite around him. When he does the wrong thing, we should unite respectfully but steadfastly in opposition to him. We should let principle and policy, not personality, be our guide.