Growing up with a father who is an irritable traveler notoriously obsessed with avoiding traffic, I developed a habit of always preparing myself for the worst whenever embarking on a journey.
If I’m waiting for my airplane to take off from a busy airport, I’ll brace for a two-hour delay on the tarmac. If I’m hopping on a 5 p.m. bus from Washington, D.C. to New York, I’ll tell my friends to expect me by midnight, though it’s only a four-hour ride without traffic.
Preparing for the worst case scenario, I find, makes it a lot easier to deal with adverse outcomes, and often makes me pleasantly surprised when things don’t go as bad as feared.
This personality quirk has become such a part of my nature, that in recent weeks I have found myself contemplating the prospect of an Obama administration, and wondering: What’s the worst that could happen?
AMERICA HAS ENDURED liberal presidents before. Jimmy Carter’s single term in office was an unmitigated disaster, but it brought us eight years of Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton’s early stumbles ignited the Gingrich Revolution. Though Clinton’s presidency contained personal political triumphs, he never advanced the liberal agenda in any permanent way, and welfare reform is one of his few domestic accomplishments.
On the other hand, there is Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal created the welfare state as we know it, and more significantly, changed the psychology of Americans so that they would look to government to solve their problems ever after, a legacy that Lyndon Johnson built on with his Great Society programs.
If he’s elected president, there are certain items on the liberal wish list that we can expect Barack Obama to fulfill, especially given the likely expanded majorities he will enjoy in Congress.
The Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire, resulting in the largest tax increase in the nation’s history. Democratic legislation that cleared the House in the Bush years only to be blocked by a Senate filibuster or Bush veto, will get passed and quickly signed into law by Obama. Chief among these will be an expansion of the government-run children’s health care program S-CHIP and “card-check” legislation, which will deny workers access to a secret ballot when voting on unionization, thus allowing big labor to expand its membership through intimidation. Obama also can be expected to appoint liberal judges to any court vacancies that arise during his administration.
All of these developments would be bad, but none of them would do permanent, irreversible, harm in the same way that the New Deal and the Great Society did. Reagan and the current President Bush brought tax rates back down, and each curbed abusive practices by big labor. Should Republicans return to power with a conservative message at some point in the future, they would be able to undue much of Obama’s legacy if it is limited to the items mentioned above.
Even on judges, while the importance of the issue cannot be overstated, it’s worth noting that the oldest Supreme Court justice is the 88-year-old John Paul Stevens. Replacing him with a younger liberal judge would be a setback for conservatives and a missed opportunity, but it won’t change the current ideological makeup of the Court. And Republican presidents, despite notorious mistakes, have offset liberal gains in the judiciary with the appointments of Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito, as well as hundreds of lower court judges.
But even the mighty Reagan couldn’t make a dent in the mammoth government programs of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, and in President Bush’s case, he only made the problem worse by creating an additional entitlement for prescription drugs.
THAT IS WHY, on the domestic front, the worst possible thing that could happen for conservatives during an Obama administration, would be for him to create a government-run health-care system. While Obama has supported a single-payer, or socialized system, in the past, in his current campaign he has adopted a more incremental approach.
His plan would create a new government-run, Medicare-like option, while imposing onerous regulations on insurers requiring them to cover everybody who applies for insurance, regardless of risk factors or preexisting conditions, at rates the government deems affordable. While it is technically true that as currently conceived it is not socialized medicine, Obama’s plan would inevitably lead to a socialized system by expanding the role of government in health care while simultaneously destroying the private market.
Both in terms of the sheer cost, as well as the psychological impact of putting the state in control of our life and death decisions, this would represent the final defeat for advocates of limited government, because if history is a guide, such reforms will never be undone.
National security is even a bigger wild card. Obama has based much of his campaign on reversing the Bush administration’s policies, but those same policies have coincided with a nearly seven-year period devoid of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The most damaging thing Obama could do would be to return America to a time when terrorism was seen as a manageable threat that can be handled by law enforcement, rather than a war of global scope that must be countered with aggressive, proactive action.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?