Obama or Reagan.
In the end, that’s the choice.
As the country enters the final week of what may be the most important election in a lifetime, these two presidents and their starkly differing visions of America are at the center of what has become a political earthquake.
Barack Obama, of course, would seem to have the advantage. He is the flesh-and-blood sitting president of the moment, with actual, real-time command of the White House and all the accompanying assets that includes. Air Force One responds to his beck and call, along with the helicopters, shiny limousines, the staff and the entire executive branch of the United States government. Not to mention the total control his party has had over the House and Senate. The seal may have fallen off his podium the other week, but no matter. As he accurately pointed out, everyone does indeed know exactly who he is.
A bit late, some would say. Amid all the exuberance about electing a man because of his skin color was a deliberate refusal to understand that this particular man was a hard-core radical leftist. For some, the knowledge of just what then-Senator Obama intended to do if elected president was apparently hard to discern. For others, electing a man who had sat in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s church for twenty years and launched his first campaign from the living room of Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers was an appallingly dangerous mistake.
What else, they now ask, could America possibly have expected?
The unexpected answer?
An infinitely better understanding of both Ronald Reagan and the conservative principles he championed. An understanding borne of new experience for this latest generation as it struggles to grasp the hard reality of what Reagan himself learned the hard way: if socialism, statism, and government planning had the necessary answers to America’s problems, those problems would have been resolved long ago.
And Ronald Reagan, passed into death and history six years earlier, vanished from any active public life by Alzheimer’s a full decade before that, would not be on the cusp of a mammoth centennial birthday celebration three months and four days from this election.
Obama and Reagan have become the face of each side’s arguments in 2010, the personification of the now furious struggle between statism — the supremacy of the state, as Mark Levin succinctly describes the goal of the left in Liberty and Tyranny — and individual freedom and liberty.
The New York Times says that “Washington is on the brink of a substantial shift in the balance of power.” Poll after poll after poll indicates the GOP is in some fashion on the edge of a tidal wave sweeping the country.
Which is to say Reagan is poised to beat Obama.
But if this turns out to be true — if Republicans do in fact re-take the House and fire Nancy Pelosi, if they upend Harry Reid and begin flooding the Senate with conservatives — why? Why will this have happened? And is that the end of this ferocious battle? Can we all just go home now?
The answers are as predictable as they were easy to reject by all manner of self-proclaimed political savants who really did think America had parted ways with both Reagan and conservatives.
Ronald Reagan saw America as a “shining city upon a hill.” It was beyond foolish for Obama and Democrats to dismiss this as some sort of old news — irrelevant, hokey, out of date. To dismiss Reagan and his vision is to totally misread America, its culture, and exactly how Americans see both their country and themselves. And more to the point, how Americans have seen themselves right from the moment the first Pilgrims stepped off the boat at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620.
The imagery of the “shining city upon a hill” in American history is a phrase Reagan used all his political life, the phrase coming from John Winthrop, the early Puritan governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop in turn took his version of the shining city on a hill from Matthew 5:14, the Sermon on the Mount; “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”
Winthrop’s vision is the founding expression of what is now called American exceptionalism. A nation made possible by the idea of freedom as later enshrined in the founding documents of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. A nation that is endlessly capable of creating a vibrant future for its citizens in a free society based on a clear understanding of the experience of the past. Reagan’s America, the America that he and millions of others saw throughout four centuries as the Shining City Upon a Hill, is brought to life by free men and women in a colorblind society who believe there are no bounds to the human spirit and what it can accomplish. Reagan believed to his core that an American’s rights and opportunities come always not from the generosity of the state but the hand of God. He was neither shy nor embarrassed about saying so, either.
Barack Obama believes something quite different. As millions of Americans now understand, the effective results of this latest detour to socialism and statism is a trip to the usual disaster. Every major Obama initiative from Obamanomics to ObamaCare is inevitably attempting to transform America just as Obama promised: taking the prosperous America Ronald Reagan saw as The Shining City Upon a Hill and turning it into a Society of Beggars. Sending Americans begging — literally. Turning Reagan’s “Morning in America” into what Rush Limbaugh has termed Obama’s endless Dark Night of the Soup Kitchen. All of this based on the idea that building the American economy (or for that matter any economy), as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said, must be done based on the philosophy that “the biggest bang for the buck [comes] when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance — the biggest bang for the buck.”
This is, of course, straight from Marx.
It is often noted that Marx wrote “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” But the origin of the phrase goes further back, to the ideas of a French Utopian communist named Morelly, who wrote a screed in 1755 called The Code of Nature. In it were the core thoughts that would eventually be picked up by Marx and generations of Socialists and Communists to follow:
Wrote the man who preached the Obamanomics of his day:
• ” Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work.”
• “Every citizen will be a public man, sustained by, supported by, and occupied at the public expense.”
• “Every citizen will make his particular contribution to the activities of the community according to his capacity, his talent and his age; it is on this basis that his duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws.”
And there, in those three thoughts, are the essentials of Barack Obama and the modern American Left.
Nothing in society will belong to anyone? The Obama era, as David Limbaugh points out in his current New York Times bestseller, Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of President Barack Obama, is replete with episode after episode of the Obama Administration demonizing drug companies, declaring war on insurance companies, attacking doctors, taking over car companies, threatening talk radio and Fox News — and that’s before zeroing in on a government takeover of America’s private health care system and stripping Americans of everything from their choice of health care coverage to their choice of a doctor to their choice of a hospital.
Every citizen “sustained by, supported by and occupied at the public expense”? This is Nancy Pelosi’s food stamp society; it is the Obamanomics of the stimulus creating government jobs, enlarging the government payrolls as private sector unemployment soars into double-digits nationally, some 14% in Harry Reid’s Nevada alone.
Living in “conformity with the distributive laws”? This is the Obama pay czar Kenneth Feinburg, deciding how much money which company executive at GM or Chrysler or AIG or Citigroup and others can earn. This, as David Limbaugh again points out, is Obama suggesting he would demand of the Securities and Exchange Commission that it force — say again that word is “force” — to structure the manner public companies pay their executives to Obama’s liking.
The result — as always through global history — is an Obamaesque Society of Beggars in which citizens wind up begging from government. In the 21st century of Barack Obama the only thing new is what people must now beg for. Can I please have a government-approved mammogram? Can I please have enough to eat from government food stamps? Can I please have unlimited government unemployment insurance? Can I please get a government student loan? Can I please keep my job at government-owned General Motors? Can I please have a government-backed mortgage? Can I please have a government-approved raise? Will you please let me keep my non-government approved talk radio show? Can I please keep my non-government supporting network that I created from scratch?
Or, if you are Juan Williams working at Government-Funded NPR: “Please, Master, may I say what I really think and keep working at NPR?”
This is the end game of 2010 — and well beyond — that is now represented by Obama and Reagan.
It is the fight in Senate and House races and governor’s races too. The Reagan side in Senate races can be found, among others, with Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, Mike Lee in Utah, Marco Rubio in Florida, Carly Fiorina in California, Dino Rossi in Washington and yes — absolutely yes — Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. In House races it is being carried by Sean Bielat in Massachusetts, John Gomez on New York’s Long Island, Pat Meehan, Lou Barletta, and Tom Marino in Pennsylvania, along with a full complement of others across the country. In governor’s races the principles are being fiercely contested by Meg Whitman in California, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Perry in Texas and Susana Martinez in New Mexico, again among many others.
Over and over and over again, each of these candidates on the Reagan side are asking of their Obama-supporting opponents some version of the central questions of 2010.
Will Americans allow themselves to be forced permanently into an Obama-style Society of Beggars, dooming their children and themselves to a lock-step march into a vast, dreadfully gray Kafka-esque maze of statist bureaucracy to beg and beg again? For everything?
Or will Americans simply refuse? Rebelling against the dismal future of government enforced scarcity, poverty, massive debt and timid obedience accompanied by a healthy dose of state-sponsored intimidation that is the hallmark of all Obama-style visions throughout history?
Will they demand Obama and the powerful, thuggish special interest groups who serve as his ideological Brownshirts stand aside and halt the process of nailing shut the gates to Reagan’s Shining City Upon a Hill, denying access to the historic America ideal envisioned at the nation’s founding? An America President Obama appears to regard with such open contempt? Will they refuse to be force-marched from an America where individual rights are seen as those coming from the hand of God — not selectively doled out to the politically well-heeled by a well-paid bureaucrat who is a dues-paying member of AFSCME or the SEIU?
Will they insist on returning to an understanding of exactly why the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were written the way they were — because the founders understood all too well the fallibility of human beings wielding government power? Whether those human beings were named King George — or Barack Obama?
Will they understand now what Ronald Reagan meant when inaugurated as Governor of California way back there in 1967?
Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.
One suspects that Ronald Reagan would not be surprised by the rise of Barack Obama. Nor would he ever believe that the fight is over, regardless of who wins and who loses on Election Day of 2010. The human urge to grimly control others, to force, to dominate, to suppress personal freedom and individual excellence in the name of the common good has always been and will always be among us.
He would surely not be surprised to know that the American people in 2010 — now understanding the Obama agenda for exactly what it means — are in open rebellion against that agenda.
On October 27, 1964, Reagan famously went on national television as a private citizen to deliver a speech in support of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, that year’s Republican presidential nominee. At the time, Barack Obama was barely three years old.
The speech catapulted Reagan to political stardom, his election as governor of California coming two years later. But Reagan’s speech in 1964 is as timeless now as it was when it was delivered. And while Ronald Reagan never met Barack Obama, he has answered him plainly and forcefully by providing a rebuttal not only to the actual Barack Obama who sits momentarily in Reagan’s chair — but all the Barack Obamas yet to come in generations unborn.
The speech, called A Time for Choosing, is preserved by the Reagan Presidential Library.
“You and I,” he concluded his talk, “have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”
A week from today, this latest generation of Americans will come face to face with a choice. A choice that predates both men but is now seen in our time as a fierce battle between Reagan’s Shining City Upon a Hill — or Obama’s Society of Beggars.
It will indeed mark a moment precisely as Ronald Reagan once described it:
A Time for Choosing.