There sure is something different about President Obama. Usually, the State of the Union address is a laundry list of proposals spiced with sycophantic applause and dipped in an admixture of boredom and bravado. It is rarely a statement of basic philosophy.
Not for President Obama.
President Obama’s State of the Union address was the greatest American rhetorical embrace of fascist trope since the days of Woodrow Wilson. I am not suggesting Obama is a Nazi; he isn’t. I am not suggesting that he is a jackbooted thug; he isn’t (even if we could be forgiven for mistaking Rahm Emanuel for one).
President Obama is, however, a man who embodies all the personal characteristics of a fascist leader, right down to the arrogant chin-up head tilt he utilizes when waiting for applause. He sees democracy as a filthy process that can be cured only by the centralized power of bureaucrats. He sees his presidency as a Hegelian synthesis marking the end of political conflict. He sees himself as embodiment of the collective will. No president should speak in these terms – not in a representative republic. Obama does it habitually.
It would be pointless to discuss at length the dictatorial, demagogic nature of much of Obama’s address – the attacks on the banking system; the unprecedented personal assault on the Supreme Court justices; the dictatorial demands (“I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay”); the scornful looks and high-handed put-downs directed at his political opponents. It would be even more pointless to discuss the incomprehensible stupidity of Obama’s policy proposals. (Export more of our goods? Why didn’t anyone else think of that?)
It is worth examining, however, the deeper philosophy evident from Obama’s address. From the outset, his speech was an ode to himself. He opened, bizarrely, by comparing this moment in history to past American crises: “when the Union was turned back at Bull Run …” He suggested that “America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.” This, of course, is unmitigated, self-serving rubbish – 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War because we didn’t move forward as one nation. But that is irrelevant to Obama – in his mind, today’s crisis is just like the Civil War. He is a modern-day Lincoln, and those who oppose him are benighted rebels. What’s more, only his powerful leadership can lead us through.
Then it was on to his critique of American politics. It should be noted at the outset that American politics is designed to produce gridlock. The governmental structure was carefully calibrated to thwart grand, ambitious programs like Obama’s socialist remolding of America; the founders deliberately shackled government by pitting interest against interest. Obama does not accept that, and so he despises the American system of republicanism. He acknowledged that political debate is deeply entrenched: “These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of democracy.” Then he dismissed the very essence of democracy in a single stroke: “But we still need to govern.”
Obama’s alternative is government as a single blunt instrument wielded by him. “What the American people hope – what they deserve – is for us … to overcome the numbing weight of our politics … it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength.” This is 100 percent wrong. The American government is designed to be limited precisely so that the individual decency and strength of Americans can be unleashed. The government does not embody us – it serves us.
But in Obama’s mind, it is not even the government that embodies us – it is Obama himself who encapsulates our hopes, dreams and spirit. “What keeps me going – what keeps me fighting,” he blathered, as though we were all deeply interested in the state of his psyche, “is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism, that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on.”
After noting several Americans in whom the spirit of America lives, Obama turned to the camera in maudlin fashion and noted, “It lives on in you.” (Note: Quoting the Broadway version of “The Lion King” is heavy-handed theatrics.) Then he capped his sickening papal benediction with this note: “We don’t quit. I don’t quit.”
We are not he. The American spirit is not the Obama spirit. America is not defined by our collective desire to bring about political utopia through abdication of representative democracy to a body of “wise pragmatists.” America is defined by Americans – individuals fighting to support their families, to preserve their values and their freedoms. And that Americanism stands in direct opposition not only to the Obama agenda, but also to Obama’s vision of himself.