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Government grows as does the gorilla in the room under Obama's watch.

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The Invisible 800-Pound Gorilla

Government grows as does the gorilla in the room under Obama’s watch.

“I am not an ideologue.”  Thus declared Barack Obama to House Republicans the other day at their retreat in Baltimore. For dissembling, that ranks up there with his declarations of  bipartisanship, “if you like your current health care policy you can keep it,”  government transparency and an end to earmarks.

His 2008 campaign messages of “hope,” “change” and “yes, we can” let voters fill those empty rhetorical vessels with whatever they wanted, without much reference to ideology. Nevertheless, those interested could find that the impartial National Journal had rated Mr. Obama as the Senate’s most liberal member.

Those on the hard Left, however, knew what they were going to get if he won and went into overdrive to drum up votes. An Obama victory and enlarged majorities in both houses would mean a mandate for shifting national policy away from the center and to the Left.  Once in office, Obama governed as if he believed the same things.

Single-payer (that is, government-run) health care had been a dream cherished by the Left since the late Thirties. During the campaign Obama was recorded several times as favoring  a single-payer system.  As president, he quickly made it clear that health care reform was his highest, most immediate priority. Congress began working up schemes to upend the entire health care system.

Any disagreements in developing the schemes were between Democrats.  Congressional  Republicans weren’t invited.

Along with this went cap-and-trade legislation, a scheme to wring large amounts of money from any business generating “greenhouse” gasses and distribute it to favored hands.  Wild government spending,  trillion-dollar annual deficits for a decade or more to come and tax policies that punish  success all spoke of a strategy intended to greatly redistribute income and to make ever large groups in society dependent upon the government.

Mr. I-am-not-an-ideologue Obama in his early years had been largely exposed to far Left-to- radical influences which continued as he began to climb the ladder of Chicago politics.  As a young “community organizer” in Chicago, his job was to stir up low-income people to force banks to abandon their credit standards on home loans. His followers used the tactics prescribed by the late radical Saul Alinsky.

Judging by many of his actions and statements during his first year in the Oval Office, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Mr. Obama does not like business in general, nor, for that matter, capitalism. He trusts government — provided he and his colleagues are running it.

While his Left-wing “base” rejoiced in what it saw as not only an immediate mandate, but the also beginning of a long-term trend in American politics toward renewed liberalism.

Neither they nor President Obama noticed the 800-pound gorilla in the room. To them, it was invisible, although a growing numbers of citizens were aware of it.

Every January since 2006, the Wall Street journal and NBC News have jointly conducted a poll to measure the ideological composition of the American body politic. It asked the question, “Do you consider yourself to be liberal, moderate or conservative?”  The percentages in the first year were 24, 38 and 34, respectively.  Last year, in the month of President Obama’s inauguration, the numbers were 23 percent “liberal” , 37 percent “moderate” and 35 percent “conservative.”  This last month, liberals were down to 21 percent, moderates were 38 and conservatives 34.  The relative numbers have changed little over five years. In short, we continue to be a determinedly center-right nation, not a left-wing one.

By concentrating his efforts on a health care scheme while unemployment and debt were rising to alarming levels, Mr. Obama and his Left-wing base did not realize that the election of  November 2008 signaled a change in parties, not ideology.  The growing fiscal crisis that Fall and the relentless attacks on Bush’s foreign policy that drove his approval ratings down combined to persuade many voters that it was time to give the other side a chance.

The administration and its amen chorus in the media dismissed last year’s “tea parties” as trivial and fringe in nature. They weren’t.  They, combined with the recent Republican elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts,  are evidence that the big gorilla is growing every day. 

In his State of the Union address, the president exhorted the Democrats to keep working on his agenda, especially health care. As he has lately, he reveled in attacking “Wall Street” for “obscene bonuses.”  While this assuages some public anger it can’t sustain it. If President Obama were to understand the gorilla he would be concentrating on solving the three things that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said are uppermost in Americans’ minds: jobs, debt, terror.

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Written By

Mr. Hannaford was closely associated with former President Reagan for a number of years. His latest book is Ronald Reagan and His Ranch: The Western White House, 1981-1989.

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