In the wonderfully goofy 1980 version of Flash Gordon, there???s a scene where the evil Emperor Ming offers to put Our Hero in charge of a subjugated Earth. Flash asks if the people of his beaten home planet would be nothing more than slaves. ???Let???s just say they???ll be??? satisfied with less,??? Ming replies.
If you???ll forgive me for plucking a bit of dialogue from one of my favorite slices of cinematic cheese, that???s what the 2012 election is all about. Is America willing to re-elect Barack Obama, because we???ve become satisfied with less?
It used to be held that no incumbent President had a chance of re-election if unemployment was higher than 6 percent. But like so many other standards he???s encountered during his life, that bar has been lowered dramatically for Obama. Now a hair under 8 percent is supposedly good enough. We???re told to be happy with a ???recovery??? in which nothing has recovered, following a recession caused in no small part by the kind of hyper-regulation that Obama says is essential to protect American citizens from each others??? ambitions.
Once upon a time, we had spirited arguments over the federal budget, but now it???s been four years since Obama and his Party gave us one to argue about. No one in the President???s own party even bothers pretending to support the absurd fantasy proposals he skates across his desk. And yet, Obama still likes to tell us that ???budgets reflect our priorities,??? and he does it with a straight face. That???s because in his mind, the concept of ???budgeting??? has been replaced entirely with spending. What he means when he says ???budgets reflect our priorities??? is that we only really care about things we let Washington spend titanic amounts of money on.
$400 billion deficits were once considered outrageous, but now Obama claims the federal government will never get that close to spending as much money as it takes in. His best-case wishful projections for 10 years into the future feature projected deficits of $800 billion and more. He is not made to feel ashamed of himself for this clear dereliction of duty.
Instead, he is still taken seriously when he pretends to care about the deficit. In his mind, the term ???deficit reduction??? has no meaning beyond tax increases. If taxes are increased, there will be ???deficit reduction,??? even if the deficit doesn???t actually get any smaller, and the national debt continues to pile up.
Concepts such as ???responsibility??? and ???accountability??? have become entirely symbolic under Obama. He, or his Cabinet officials, merely chant ???I take responsibility??? as a magic spell to make problems go away. From Attorney General Eric Holder???s evasion of accountability for Operation Fast and Furious, to Barack Obama???s astonishing refusal to come clean about Benghazi, it has become common practice for high officials in this immense government to openly assert incompetence as a defense against criticism. They simply claim they don???t know what their underlings have been up to, or they don???t read their emails??? and this is supposed to excuse them. Admissions of ineptitude that belong in letters of resignation are now routinely presented as if they were a satisfactory explanation for even the deadliest lapse in judgment.
If America re-elects Barack Obama despite all of this, his world-view will be validated, and the corruption he has brought to American government will be ratified. No matter how thin his margin of victory might be, we???ll be told he has won an irresistible ???mandate??? to do whatever he wants. In fact, the media will cite his scandals and perilously deflated approval numbers as evidence that his victory is all the more remarkable.
And Obama???s bitterly divisive, dishonest tactics will become part of conventional political wisdom, written into a playbook that future candidates ??? at least, those of the media???s preferred Party ??? will follow. In his last big stump speech before the election, Obama actually told his supporters that ???voting is the best revenge.??? So much for Hope and Change, unity, reaching across the aisle, and other political daydreams! The new conventional wisdom will be that hard-edged, vicious, ultra-negative campaigning is the way to win. Build a winning coalition, convince them to hate everyone else, and get them to the polls ??? that???s the cold but reliable path to victory!
Of course, a second Obama term will ratify ObamaCare, permanently changing the relationship between Americans and the unlimited State. No consideration of socialized medicine, anywhere in the world, can lead to any other conclusion. If you???re tired of hearing the Left insist that the first penny of every proposed government spending cut will come from the hides of cops, teachers, and firefighters, just wait until they tell you that fiscal sanity means cutting off your medicine. It won???t matter how bad ObamaCare gets, how high it drives up our insurance costs, or how brutally health care is rationed. ???Turning back the clock??? to an hour of greater freedom and free-market efficiency will be declared both impossible and immoral.
Obama???s re-election will chisel in stone the leftist concept of ???progress??? as the perpetual growth of the State. Our faith in one another will be increasingly displaced by faith in government. Obama???s view of freedom as a harsh wasteland, which his child-citizens are not equipped to survive, will be reinforced. These ideas have a way of working their way into popular culture and the public imagination. The battle to keep Bill Clinton in office after adultery and perjury changed us, too. Our standards for high office have fallen dangerously low. And the days when we expected more are fast receding from memory into legend.
We can do better than Barack Obama. We don???t have to accept the limits of his imagination, or live within the boundaries drawn by his ideology. We don???t need centralized government weighing and measuring our ambitions. And if we ratify what Obama has done, that???s exactly what we???ll get, until the scales collapse beneath the weight heaped upon them. Our lives will be encompassed by more laws no one really understands??? laws that haven???t even been fully written before they are imposed on us. Meanwhile, the government will feel itself increasingly less constrained by law, as long as it can make a suitably passionate case that it wants to secure some greater good. We will be told by our betters, with mounting irritation, how it is sinful to expect greater prosperity, and demand more freedom of action. Haven???t we heard more than enough of that already?
Obama presents Big Government as an almighty genie in service to the popular will. As Mitt Romney once famously said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me, if someone doesn’t give me the good service I need.” I like being able to withhold my consent, because that’s how I know my consent – and therefore my freedom – still have value. The only good government – honest, accountable, and efficient – is the kind you can say “no” to, all day long. I’m not willing to trade that right of refusal away, in exchange for a tiny share of the vote in choosing my overlords ever few years. I’d like to be persuaded before a plan is enacted, not persuaded to contain my anger after it fails. That’s why it’s so important to fire Barack Obama – a failure by his own standards, according to virtually every prediction and commitment he made before 2010, and most assuredly not equal to mine. I’m willing to admit that my standards are tough to meet. I invite Mitt Romney to give it his best shot.
Update: Pursuant to my point above about Obama’s world view, at an Ohio rally on Friday afternoon, he actually said “our ideas are responsible for reducing the deficit.” The key to understanding this apparently insane statement is that Obama thinks “deficit reduction” is wholly and entirely synonymous with “tax increases,” and he most certainly has increased taxes.