A great new article by Bruce Bartlett for The American Conservative makes the case that “Obama is a Republican.” Shocking as that may sound to many conservatives who believe Obama is the worst communist since Stalin, the facts of the case should lead us to consider a deeper problem.
While I agree with the “Republican” measures the article says Obama has either instituted or continued, the real problem is not so much that Obama is really a “moderate Republican” in disguise. The real problem is that on many issues that really matter, there is no difference between the two major parties. And while this in itself is nearly a worn-out meme—true as it may be—articles like this really ought to awaken us to our real political problems. For it is only then that we can begin to plan real strategies for lasting changes (hint: “the next election” is not really a good one).
And this has been true for a long time. Those more experienced in the political system ought to be wiser and more forthright. I remember, for example, when an acquaintance of mine was sent into alarm mode by Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America. It was the most important and inspiring documentary ever. It exposed the real depravity of the true plans and beliefs of the real Obama. Everyone needs to see this or else we could lose the country! But I smelled a rat.
Sure enough, a day later Gary North published a review of that flick: “A Whitewash of Bush: The Underlying Message of D’Souza’s Documentary, 2016: Obama’s America.” North argued that the propaganda film “misses the fundamental political fact of the last dozen years: the Obama Administration is the operational successor of the Bush Administration. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, on Wall Street, Barack Obama is George W. Bush in blackface. . . . This fact has been deliberately ignored for almost four years by both the neoconservative Right and the grin-and-bear-it Left. Neither side will admit what I regard as the fundamental fact of this documentary. It is a long whitewash of the policies of George W. Bush.”
His conclusion is right:
So, all things considered, I did not think much of the documentary. It is artistically pretty good, and it gets its neoconservative message across to the assembled choir. But on the issues that really matter, it is either wrong-headed or silent. On foreign policy, it is a defense of the neoconservatives’ version of Middle Eastern foreign policy. . . . On the real federal deficit — unfunded liabilities — it is silent. On the on-budget deficit, it ignores Bush and Congress. The deficit is a bipartisan disaster. To suggest otherwise is not just misleading, it is deceptive. It raises hope where there is none. “If only we will not re-elect Obama!” On the deficits — on-budget and off-budget — it makes not a whit of difference. There will be a Great Default.
He fails to pursue the obvious — the influence Jeremiah Wright — while he promotes his own peculiar thesis of Obama as an anti-colonialist son of his absent father. I kept thinking, “Anti-colonialist? If only it were true. If only his foreign policy were not an extension of Bush’s.”
The movie gets very close to the truth of the history of modern American foreign policy. D’Souza spends time interviewing a Hawaiian historian who identified the turning point in American foreign policy: McKinley’s decision to annex Hawaii in 1898. That was the birth of the American Empire, contemporaneous with the Spanish-American War, which the movie does not mention. Apparently, D’Souza expects the viewers to recoil in horror from the idea that it was a bad idea to annex Hawaii. The movie implies that Obama was taught this when he was in high school in Hawaii. “How could Obama believe such a thing?” I kept thinking, “If only he did.”
North argues the point leading to these conclusions convincingly. I linked the article to the enthralled fellow I mentioned. He is literate. He is not dumb. He is by many accounts a successful entrepreneur. He is a millionaire and political activist. He read it. But it literally did not compute with him. “I just can’t see how Obama and Bush are alike,” he said. He had just read how, but could not think outside the box of his party’s propaganda machine.
So when I read Bartlett’s piece this morning, I thought, “Man, we need a whole lot more of this.” Bartlett had even called it before it happened. How so? Because several former Reagan and Bush officials were supporting Obama already in 2008 as a “classic conservative.” Bartlett writes,
I wrote a piece for the New Republic soon afterward about the Obamacon phenomenon—prominent conservatives and Republicans who were openly supporting Obama. Many saw in him a classic conservative temperament: someone who avoided lofty rhetoric, an ambitious agenda, and a Utopian vision that would conflict with human nature, real-world barriers to radical reform, and the American system of government.
Among the Obamacons were Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff; Charles Fried, Reagan’s solicitor general; Ken Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for Reagan; Jeffrey Hart, longtime senior editor of National Review; Colin Powell, Reagan’s national security adviser and secretary of state for George W. Bush; and Scott McClellan, Bush’s press secretary. There were many others as well.
According to exit polls in 2008, Obama ended up with 20 percent of the conservative vote. Even in 2012, after four years of relentless conservative attacks, he still got 17 percent of the conservative vote, with 11 percent of Tea Party supporters saying they cast their ballots for Obama.
They were not wrong. In my opinion, Obama has governed as a moderate conservative—essentially as what used to be called a liberal Republican before all such people disappeared from the GOP. He has been conservative to exactly the same degree that Richard Nixon basically governed as a moderate liberal, something no conservative would deny today.
Fast forward to today, and Bartlett is able to cite national security policy, terrorism policy, stimulus and deficit policy, health reform, the drug war, transparency, race, and corporatism, among other things, as major similarities.
Like North’s argument above, this list is absolutely correct. But both are fundamentally abbreviated. In 2012, a kid writing for IVN.us noted in detail “100 Ways Republicans are Just Like Democrats.” It is an impressive research effort. It will take you a while just to read the whole list. You will get discouraged along the way and want to quit. You will return only to verify by clicking through the links, and you will be even more educated and perhaps angered. I counsel you to take the time and read through this carefully, read also some of the links as you go.
Among the examples are the obvious: both support NDAA; both support endless wars and extrajudicial drone killings; both support the Federal Reserve and Keynesian economics; both increase deficits and national debt, etc. But consider some of the lesser-known facts:
The Republican hypocrisy regarding the trillions of Obama “stimulus”:
33. Republicansand Democrats can agree that the economic stimulus package helped the economy. Romney has stated that he believes an economic stimulus package was necessary and many Republicans have spoke[n] of the success of the Democratic economic stimulus package. Think Progress reports that over half of the opposing GOP — 110 members from the House and Senate — returned to their home states to either claim credit for popular stimulus programs or to tout its success.
And consider how the revolving door of wolves between the federal government and the lobbyists:
32. At least 360 former Democratic and Republicancongresspeople have left office and accepted jobs as lobbyists for corporations or special interest groups who then attempt to influence the same federal government they once worked for. As many as5,400 congressional staffers have done the same in the past 10 years alone. Referred to as the “revolving door,” members of both parties routinely move between influential private sector positions and policy-making positions in the executive or legislative branches.
This is not a partisan problem. This is an issue of wolves preying upon sheep. It is a problem which will not be solved by either of the beneficiaries—the Republican and Democrat Parties.
And consider the outright war on those who perhaps could help solve it: third parties. There is a veritable “War on Third Parties” waged by the tag team of the Republican and Democrat Parties:
19. Both Democrats and Republicans seem to believe that voting for a third party is equivalent to throwing away your vote while in reality, if everyone voted their conscience and avoided voting for the “lesser of two evils,” which46 percentof those polled said they would be doing this election, the two-party stranglehold may actually be broken.
21. Both the Democratic and Republican partiesexcludethird parties from the presidential debates. In 1987, the Democratic and Republican parties founded the nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates to regulate the presidential debates, which excludes third party candidates from participating in the only nationally televised presidential debates.
22. The Democratic and Republican parties have both been suedfor conspiring to exclude third parties from the quadrennial presidential debates.
It has got to be one of the greatest ironies of American politics that proponents of both parties dismiss third parties are fringe and waste, but then see it necessary to erect a vast array of regulations, laws, double standards, dirty tricks, and subsidies to keep them out of view of the mainstream public.
Now it could possibly be true that the author of this list of 100 traits of bipartisan tyranny is a libertarian youth who smokes pot, watches porn, lives in his parent’s basement, and has never accomplished anything in his life, and therefore we can summarily dismiss everything he has said, including all the evidence to which he has linked. I for one do not believe a single thing he says. I am also almost never sarcastic.
Perhaps for the same reasons I am sarcastic, Bartlett concludes on a pessimistic note:
I don’t expect any conservatives to recognize the truth of Obama’s fundamental conservatism for at least a couple of decades—perhaps only after a real progressive presidency. In any case, today they are too invested in painting him as the devil incarnate in order to frighten grassroots Republicans into voting to keep Obama from confiscating all their guns, throwing them into FEMA re-education camps, and other nonsense that is believed by many Republicans. But just as they eventually came to appreciate Bill Clinton’s core conservatism, Republicans will someday see that Obama was no less conservative.
Again, I would not put it in those terms. Obama is not so much a conservative as both parties are absolutely sold out to socialism and interventionism. Yes, there are some obvious differences in regard to social issues such as the LGBT agenda, homosexual marriage, abortion, etc. But contending about these issues while we unquestioningly perpetuate the decades of entrenched, biblically-proclaimed abominations financial, military, and others, will have no impact. Our moral authority before both God and man is nonexistent until we get consistent.
The kings of the earth take counsel together again the Lord and His Anointed (Ps. 2), and Christians are kissing the kings of the earth instead of kissing the Son.
At this point, the solution will not come through the system. The system is the problem—and the two parties are deeply invested in continuing the problem. The solution will only come through radical alternatives based upon biblical freedoms, radically decentralized, and for which we will probably have to sacrifice in terms of fights with government tyranny and bureaucracy and the state and local levels. Until we’re able to get serious about that, the pessimism may be true.
The glimmer of hope comes in the form of the homeschool movement. It is one such alternative that has already scraped and clawed, fought its legal battles and largely won. As long as it can stay viable and vibrant, and protect itself from being coopted by any single voice, personality, or organization, it can remain a potent force and a true inspiration. But it must remain decentralized and faithful.
Christians need to replicate this effort in a dozen other areas. My Restoring America was a very beginning effort along these lines. We absolutely must break outside of the mental box created by the system (the “we” here includes all millionaire political activists). For the two parties who keep entreating us, the system is like one big frat Party. For those who keep saying “yes” and showing up for it, it’s more like date rape. For those of us wed to Christ, it is spiritual adultery to keep showing up. It’s time to get faithful to Christ and tell the kings of the earth what to do.