Friday, November 22, 2013

The Politicization of Everything

From Victor Davis Hanson:

The Obama presidency has had very little legislative success. Even the signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is imploding, and was dubbed a “train wreck” by one of its own Senatorial authors. The lead-from-behind retrenchment abroad from America’s traditional leadership role has won few adherents. The Benghazi tragedy and the series of alphabet-soup debacles involving the IRS, the NSA, and the AP journalists are the most disturbing political scandals we’ve seen since the Nixon administration.

What, then, is the Obama legacy? An insidious politicization of almost everything. Obamism has become a holistic concept of “fundamentally transforming America” that, like all ideologies, cannot be assessed solely by concrete laws and policies, but rather through a change in the mentality and spirit of Americans and those who govern them. Obama early on emphasized in messianic fashion that his hope-and-change agenda was not to be adjudicated by traditional metrics, but involved a cosmic transformation of hearts and minds: “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

  Illustration by Barbara Kelley
More specifically, the president himself through such colorful rhetoric has often outlined his all-encompassing “spread-the-wealth” ideology. Self-employed business people did not really “build” their successful operations without government help: “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” “Fat cats” and “corporate jet owners” have preyed on the body politic. Profit-driven doctors have unnecessarily lopped off limbs and yanked out tonsils. In a more philosophical vein, Obama advised that an individual should recognize a point beyond which he need not make any more money. The subtext is always that in this zero-sum world, personal success comes not through the individual’s efforts, but at the expense of someone else.
The Affordable Care Act was not intended just to extend health insurance to the uninsured or to decrease premium costs. Indeed, so far Obamacare has had the opposite effect of raising costs and increasing the numbers of the uninsured. Aside from growing government, increasing federal jobs, and limiting free choice, Obamacare federalized healthcare to ensure Americans fairness, defined as the economic equality of result as technocrats decide who had wrongly acquired too much healthcare, who unfairly had access to too little, and so on.

In that regard, the recent disclosures that some Obamacare “navigators” acted like politicized operatives (e.g., “turning Texas blue”), have sometimes offered advice to consumers to defraud the government, and often worked in league with liberal activist groups and the Democratic Party were not surprising. It is the duty of a progressive federal government to make the necessary redistributive changes to ensure that the more deserving obtained more healthcare and the less deserving were to pay for it. Only elites possess the savvy to oversee the necessary transaction for the ignorant. Or, as the President said of popular anger at Obamacare, “the majority of folks will end up being better off, of course… They don’t necessarily know it right [now].”

When Barack Obama advised his Latino supporters to adopt a political stance in which “We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,” he simply illustrated how the immigration debate had become driven by ideology. The issues are not non-partisan criteria about qualifications for legal immigration—education levels, skill sets, or capital. Nor is there much nonpartisan concern with border enforcement and the sanctity of federal law.
Instead, the influx of millions of mostly poor Latin Americans and Mexican nationals and their incorporation into the United States, as liberal citizen constituents and consumers of federal programs, drive the debate. Anything or anyone that might hamper those political efforts prompts the necessary philological rejoinders—both the overblown invectives of “nativist” or “racist” and the usual Orwellian euphemisms (“illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” must be replaced by the politically-correct “undocumented worker”).

To make legal immigration entirely meritocratic and ethnically- and racially-blind would not necessarily ensure the sort of immigrant pool receptive to the Obama ideological agenda, and is therefore opposed by Democrats. Predicating amnesties on criteria like prior crime-free residence without dependence on federal and state entitlements would likewise be ideologically incorrect and not serve the larger agenda. No one believes that the present immigration debate is concerned with the bureaucratic dilemma over granting green cards or citizenship to Eastern European doctors or South Korean engineers.

Read the rest here.

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