Obama’s second inaugural Monday was an amazing spectacle. Obama’s speech and other aspects of the event tell us that Obama’s second term will be even more radical and more ambitious than his first. Are we ready for that?
The Republican Party clearly is not ready. Sadly, and more surprisingly, neither are most conservatives.
The tone for the second term was set by the opening prayer and then the Pledge of Allegiance. The invocation for the first time in history was delivered by someone who is not an ordained minister. Then the Pledge of Allegiance was led by someone who omitted the phrase “under God.” We are, after all, now a nation under Obama. God apparently is busy elsewhere.
Given our popular obsession with celebrity, it’s no real surprise there was more controversy over Beyoncé lip-synching the national anthem. As for myself, I would rather have it lip-synched than rewritten.
Liberals for decades have been trying to purge our public life and schools and ceremonies of references to God, and now that scheme has been blessed by the president of the United States in his inaugural ceremony.
If we consider those events in the context of the theme of Obama’s second inaugural address, which metaphorically and explicitly rejects the principles of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the message is clear. The message of the Obama inaugural is that we are entering the final, decisive phase of the progressive takeover of our nation.
What many conservatives and Republicans do not seem to grasp is that no president could get away with such statements and such overt antipathy to traditional religion if the nation had not already undergone a radical cultural transformation. To a large extent, Obama is merely harvesting the political fruit of a century of aggressive progressivism in our cultural institutions – our schools and colleges, our music and art, and in religion as well.
Anyone who doubts that a profound cultural change has enveloped our nation should simply compare the values and political attitudes of 2012’s under-30 voters and the values and attitudes of over-55 voters.
Some Republican political analysts ask us to find comfort – and grounds for complacency – in meaningless numbers. For example, if only 450,000 voters in five swing states had voted differently, Romney would have won the Electoral College majority and been elected president. They say: that’s 450,000 out of 125,000,000 – see how easy it will be to win next time!
What I want to say to those campaign consultants and guns for hire is this: Sit down and shut up. There is a reason why those votes went to Obama, and unless we wake up and recognize the new rules of the game, the 2012 Obama majority will become a permanent majority.
The new rules of the game are that there are no rules. No institution is above attack, and no issue is off the table.
The first thing we must do is cast off the conventional wisdom of the professional political class that “Republicans must avoid social issues.” They seem to forget that it is the left that keeps raising social issue through lawsuits and legislative initiatives. According to the accepted conventional wisdom, liberals can raise any social issue and conservatives should remain silent so as not to offend anyone. How’s that working so far?
Romney followed that advice, and what happened? He and his team were oblivious to the fact that Obama team made the economy a social issue and blunted any advantage Romney had in trying to focus on Obama’s failed economic policies. The election became a choice between job creation and “tax fairness.” Job creation lost.
Newsflash! The First Amendment and the Second Amendment are “social issues” in the most fundamental sense. Religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, those are social issues more than economic issues. The Second Amendment is about personal freedom, self-defense and public safety, not about the economics of gun ownership.
Crime is a social issue, and you can ask Michael Dukakis if a reputation for being soft on crime can be relevant in a presidential election. He has time on his hands, so he may answer you.
It so happens that access to a quality education for our children is a social issue, not an economic one. The progressives’ claim that quality is about levels of public funding rings hollow in view of the history of public-school funding over the past 40 years. Quality is mainly a product of three factors: curriculum, standards and parental involvement, with funding a distant fourth. If Republicans do not seize that issue and ride it to a revolution in educational outcomes, that is a failure of leadership and nothing else.
Obama’s second term will be more ideologically driven, more partisan and more assertive than his first. Conservatives will need to fill the void in political opposition left by a clueless Republican leadership and myopic libertarians. In doing so, conservatives must not shrink from raising and debating the so-called social issues as well as taxes and over-regulation of business. A well-balanced political diet needs issues from all sectors, not just economics.
For decades, progressives have known the potential of the social issues for motivating people to action. It’s time Republicans woke up and joined the battle.