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Obama and the End of Liberalism?
National Review Online ^ | January 16, 2013 | Charles Kesler

Posted on 01/18/2013 8:27:33 AM PST by Kenny

‘He was much more liberal than his presidential campaign let on,” Charles Kesler writes of Barack Obama in 2008. You can say that again. “Liberals like crises, and one shouldn’t spoil them by handing them another on a silver salver. The kind of crisis that is approaching . . . is probably not their favorite kind, an emergency that presents an opportunity to enlarge government, but one that will find liberalism at a crossroads, a turning point,” he argues in I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism. “Liberalism can’t go on as it is, not for very long. It faces difficulties both philosophical and fiscal that will compel it either to go out of business or to become something quite different from what it has been.” As we approach President Obama’s second inaugural, is this really so? Kesler looks at the president’s first term and the future of liberalism with National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You wrote a whole book about “Barack Obama and the crisis of liberalism” before the 2012 election, which he won fairly easily. Is your analysis still relevant?

CHARLES KESLER: Highly relevant. I began writing about Obama in 2007, when his speeches struck me as more interesting and ambitious than the usual Democratic pablum. His two books — one a strikingly postmodern memoir, the other a more conventional campaign book that displayed his highly unconventional view of how to transform our politics — confirmed my judgment that conservatives (and at the time, the Clintons) were dangerously underestimating him. By the time I began I Am the Change in 2011, he had run the table, winning on the stimulus, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank the kind of liberal legislative breakthroughs that bring to mind the New Deal or the Great Society.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
Interesting big picture look at the current Administration.
1 posted on 01/18/2013 8:27:38 AM PST by Kenny
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To: Kenny

Liberalism is communism in sheep’s clothing. This one is easy. The American liberal will rapidly adopt communism as their basis, (those who haven’t already).

The American public is stupid, and “the new normal” is simply the concept of shared misery. If things are bad for everyone, then it’s not so bad is it? Fairness, social justice, the communist mantra. And the Obama press will always be there to cover, no matter how bad things get, and how large the party members are living.

Sorry, that is reality.

2 posted on 01/18/2013 8:43:10 AM PST by brownsfan (Behold, the power of government cheese.)
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To: Kenny
I'm glad Kesler mentioned Jonah's book on Liberal Fascism, though it's not clear to me that he see it as centrally important. I do. When I see how Kesler describes Obama, and describes Liberalism, it just screams FASCISM to me. The Will to Power. The rejection of absolute truth. The notion that both Faith and Works matter -- and that a political cult is where you demonstrate these things.

Liberalism is fated to die. Obama wants to kill Liberalism. Cloward-Piven is all about killing Liberalism. The end goal is far more sweeping. Obama will give us the boot on the neck that lasts a thouand years.

3 posted on 01/18/2013 8:47:37 AM PST by ClearCase_guy (Nothing will change until after the war.)
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To: brownsfan

I find the comments at the article interesting. They like his “optimism”. Thing is, I agree with him about liberalism is what is in crisis as it is about to be exposed for what it is. However, when it does collapse it is going to do to western civilization (because it is global, not just the US) what the collapse of Nazism did to Germany.

4 posted on 01/18/2013 9:02:00 AM PST by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: Kenny

I have hope the even some of the “low information voters” (i.e. morons) will reach a point where Obama’s Marxism is unbearable. Sadly it may take reaching a point where America begins to resemble East Germany when enough people will get fed up. By that time it may be too late to save this great nation. However, we still have a two party system and IF the GOP gets their act together liberalism may be crushed. However, the GOP will have to stop being the eunuchs in Emperor Obama’s court and get some backbone and articular conservative values. After the Dole, McCane and Romney disasters someone should realize that RINOs posing as liberalism lite can’t get elected.

5 posted on 01/18/2013 9:29:28 AM PST by The Great RJ
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To: Kenny; All
In the latter part of the interview, Kesler notes: ". . . the obvious point that in America the liberal movement traces itself back through a series of prophet-leaders (LBJ, JFK, FDR, etc.) to Wilsonian-style Progressivism. (TR was also important, and Jean Yarbrough’s new book on him is splendid. Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism tells the story brilliantly, but from a different angle.) That’s the liberalism we suffer from. The “living constitution,” the cult of the charismatic leader who mesmerizes the masses with a “vision” of the future, entitlement rights and programs, the State that replaces God by offering complete material and spiritual fulfillment in this life, the disillusionment that follows that hubris — all these familiar tropes of our contemporary politics emerge from the century of liberalism that in a way culminates in Barack Obama."

Earlier, Kesler had made important points regarding "progressivism's" decades-long argument on behalf of a "living constitution" school of thought which, in effect, promoted a false premise that the Constitution must be kept by them "in tune with the times," without regard to what its Framers called "self-evident truth," or enduring principles:

" His (Obama's) own view was that Ronald Reagan had been a transformative figure in American politics and that no Democrat since had had the gumption, the vision, and the discipline to challenge Reaganism. But Obama thought it challengeable, and his 2008 campaign was all about restoring liberals’ Hope that sweeping political Change was still possible, despite the Reagan Revolution. He had to restore liberals’ faith in liberalism, and then translate that faith into works, which he did in his first term. By unleashing a new New Deal, as it were, he showed his followers that Reagan had merely interrupted, not overturned, the country’s destiny to move ever leftward.

"LOPEZ: So what was at stake in 2012 wasn’t just the fate of one liberal administration but of liberalism itself?

"KESLER: Yes, to the extent that a repudiation of Obama and his agenda would have led to a very deep crisis of confidence on the left. To paraphrase Woody Allen, liberalism is like a shark. It has to move forward constantly or it dies. Think, for example, of the liberals’ so-called living Constitution, which has to be continually adjusted (by them) to keep up with the times. The alternative to the living Constitution is, by implication, a dead one. As a form of progressivism, liberalism has to conceive of itself as being on the right side of history, which means the winning side. Anything that shakes that confidence — a long series of defeats and policy reversals, e.g., if Obama had lost, Obamacare had gone on to be repealed and replaced, and the Bush tax cuts made permanent — shakes liberals’ belief in their own inevitability, which is key to their own sense of their right to rule.

"LOPEZ: But they didn’t lose in 2012. It’s conservatism that now seems to be an endangered species.

"KESLER: Exactly, and Obama’s ambition to be liberalism’s reviver and savior appears to have been realized. But the emphasis is on “appears.” Obama thinks he has saved liberalism because he’s put it on the winning side again, and in a big way. He takes pride in showing that the era of big government is not over, that in fact the future belongs to much higher taxes and to much more activist government. I think he’s profoundly wrong about that. Before suggesting why, may I say something briefly about how differently conservatives think, or ought to think, about the relation between principles and politics?

"For us, to put it simply, principles are rooted in what our fathers called the laws of nature and of nature’s God. These are timeless, that is, they call to us in every age. Some ages live up to the minimal demands of moral decency and the maximum demands of political excellence better than others; no age lives up to them perfectly. That’s why conservatives are inherently moderate in their demands and expectations of politics, recognizing that neither political defeat nor victory affects the inherent authority and goodness of first principles. Our losses in 2012 are therefore not cause for despair. Like everything in politics they are temporary. We shouldn’t run around like liberals, afraid that the times are against us and that we need to exchange old principles for new ones that allegedly fit the times better. Our calling is, so far as possible, to keep the times in tune with our principles, not to adjust our principles to match the times. As Churchill put it, it isn’t possible to guarantee success in politics or war; it’s possible only to deserve it. By contrast, progressives believe in happy endings, in the inevitability of progress. They cannot separate might from right, success from legitimacy, and so don’t have the consolation of believing in principles in the conservative sense. They insist that the good guys must always or at least eventually win, a standard which slides easily into the deeply immoral belief that, in the end, whoever wins must be right."

All citizens who understand the Founders' philosophy of liberty, as expressed in our Declaration of Independence and protected by the 1787 Constitution's limitations on the coercive use of power by elected officials in government, should be motivated to use every means available to them to educate new generations in the enduring foundations which formed the basis for their liberty.

The late 1800's movement, self-identified then as "liberal," and now as "progressive," may have attempted to redefine the Constitution, but it stands, until amended by its own provisions, as a block to all who would subvert its protections in the name of "helping" us.

All is not lost. An arrogant man who trusts his own judgment, largely informed by late-19th Century ideologues and the university professors and "progressives" who influenced his thinking, is no match for the wisdom and genius of the Framers of the United States Constitution.

The words of America's Founders, its Supreme Court Justices, its early Presidents and Statesmen attest to the wisdom of its structuring of, and strictly limiting, the coercive powers of all who might be elected to serve under and by its authority. Kesler's observation on the liberals' "living constitution" fraud which has been promoted over several decades, is discussed in the following essay, quoted with permission, and originally published in the Constitution's Bicentennial Year - 1987 - may be downloaded here.

Our Ageless Constitution

"The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its components are beautiful, as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order...."
-Justice Joseph Story

Justice Story's words pay tribute to the United States Constitution and its Framers. Shortly before the 100th year of the Constitution, in his "History of the United States of America," written in 1886, historian George Bancroft said:

"The Constitution is to the American people a possession for the ages."

He went on to say:

"In America, a new people had risen up without king, or princes, or nobles....By calm meditation and friendly councils they had prepared a constitution which, in the union of freedom with strength and order, excelled every one known before; and which secured itself against violence and revolution by providing a peaceful method for every needed reform. In the happy morning of their existence as one of the powers of the world, they had chosen Justice as their guide."

And two hundred years after the adoption of this singularly-important document, praised by Justice Story in one century and Historian Bancroft in the next and said by Sir William Gladstone to be "the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given moment by the brain and purpose of man," the Constitution of 1787 - with its Bill of Rights - remains. . . a bulwark for liberty, an ageless formula for the government of a free people.

In what sense can any document prepared by human hands be said to be ageless? What are the qualities or attributes which give it permanence?

The Qualities of Agelessness

America's Constitution had its roots in the nature, experience, and habits of humankind, in the experience of the American people themselves - their beliefs, customs, and traditions, and in the practical aspects of politics and government. It was based on the experience of the ages. Its provisions were designed in recognition of principles which do not change with time and circumstance, because they are inherent in human nature.

"The foundation of every government," said John Adams, "is some principle or passion in the minds of the people." The founding generation, aware of its unique place in the ongoing human struggle for liberty, were willing to risk everything for its attainment. Roger Sherman stated that as government is "instituted for those who live under it ... it ought, therefore, to be so constituted as not to be dangerous to liberty." And the American government was structured with that primary purpose in mind - the protection of the peoples liberty.

Of their historic role, in framing a government to secure liberty, the Framers believed that the degree of wisdom and foresight brought to the task at hand might well determine whether future generations would live in liberty or tyranny. As President Washington so aptly put it, "the sacred fire of liberty" might depend "on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people" That experiment, they hoped, would serve as a beacon of liberty throughout the world.

The Framers of America's Constitution were guided by the wisdom of previous generations and the lessons of history for guidance in structuring a government to secure for untold millions in the future the unalienable rights of individuals. As Jefferson wisely observed:

"History, by apprising the people of the past, will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views."(Underlining added for emphasis)

The Constitution, it has been said, was "not formed upon abstraction," but upon practicality. Its philosophy and prin­ciples, among others, incorporated these practical aspects:

The Constitution of the United States of America structured a government for what the Founders called a "virtuous people - that is, a people who would be able, as Burke put it, to "put chains on their own appetites" and, without the coercive hand of government, to live peaceably without violating the rights of others. Such a society would need no standing armies to insure internal order, for the moral beliefs, customs, and love for liberty motivating the actions of the people and their representatives in government - the "unwritten" constitution - would be in keeping with their written constitution.

George Washington, in a speech to the State Governors, shared his own sense of the deep roots and foundations of the new nation:

"The foundation of our empire was not laid in the gloomy age of ignorance and superstition; but at an epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period.... the treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labors of philosophers, sages, and legislators, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collective wisdom may be happily applied in the establishment of our forms of government."

And Abraham Lincoln, in the mid-1800's, in celebrating the blessings of liberty, challenged Americans to transmit the "political edifice of liberty and equal rights" of their constitutional government to future generations:

"In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running ... We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth....We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them - They are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic...race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights, 'tis ours only, to transmit the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know...."

Because it rests on sound philosophical foundations and is rooted in enduring principles, the United States Constitution can, indeed, properly be described as "ageless," for it provides the formula for securing the blessings of liberty, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquillity, promoting the general welfare, and providing for the common defense of a free people who understand its philosophy and principles and who will, with dedication, see that its integrity and vigor are preserved.

Justice Joseph Story was quoted in the caption of this essay as attesting to the skill and fidelity of the architects of the Constitution, its solid foundations, the practical aspects of its features, and its wisdom and order. The closing words of his statement, however, were reserved for use here; for in his 1789 remarks, he recognized the "ageless" quality of the magnificent document, and at the same time, issued a grave warning for Americans of all centuries. He concluded his statement with these words:

"...and its defenses are impregnable from without. It has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, THE PEOPLE. Republics are created by virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens."

Our ageless constitution can be shared with the world and passed on to generations far distant if its formula is not altered in violation of principle through the neglect of its keepers - THE PEOPLE.

Our Ageless Constitution, W. David Stedman & La Vaughn G. Lewis, Editors (Asheboro, NC, W. David Stedman Associates, 1987) Part VII:  ISBN 0-937047-01-5

6 posted on 01/18/2013 9:37:33 AM PST by loveliberty2 ( -)
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To: loveliberty2


I am actually going to read your entire post.

I may skip a few of the links.

7 posted on 01/18/2013 9:49:18 AM PST by Zeneta (Why are so many people searching for something that has already found us ?)
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To: Kenny

Obama was the end of “Liberalism” and the beginning of outright Bolshevism.

8 posted on 01/18/2013 9:56:29 AM PST by Little Ray (Waiting for the return of the Gods of the Copybook Headings.)
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To: Zeneta
Embarrassed does not begin to describe my reaction to my over-selection of material from a previous post!

Hope you (and others) can glean enough good from it to compensate for my obvious carelessness in re-reading the post before clicking. I do believe, however, that between Kesler's observations and those in Dr. Walter Berns' essay from the 1980's, we can see how that "living constitution" school's false ideas are influencing today's actions in violation of constitutional principle.

9 posted on 01/18/2013 10:23:05 AM PST by loveliberty2 ( -)
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To: loveliberty2

Our constitution won’t work without virtue.

The character of man based on first principles that was not written into these documents. It was assumed that these characteristics of human nature would remain evident and be provided for by the first amendment.

A reinterpretation of “MAN” was never under consideration.

This incremental erosion of man, and those societies they build, have simply become the “new natural” law. Laws by man for man, and therefore subject to change by man.

The natural evolution of society with its foundations now shifted to those of the group and away from the individual. After all, isn’t the survival of the group how we got here in the first place.

Advocates of the “living Constitution” would just as soon have no constitution at all. Or, in the interim, a “Constitution for the Living”. Complete with any and all rationalizations that play on the guilt and selfishness inherent in man.

Just a few of the battle grounds:

Liberty Vs. The disparity of intelligence.

The democratization of ability and outcomes.

Free thought.

Negative vs. Positive Freedom.

The creation and exploitation of uncertainty.

This is a bad dream for anybody that can dream. A world in which “you” as an individual don’t matter, or only matter if you can extend the group toward parity. You will be held up as a great champion and get your 15 minutes. Accolades all around as you take down the selfish freethinker. And just when you have reached your place, you become a martyr for the cause of social justice.

I for one, will not go quietly.

I will challenge the false foundations of belief at every turn.

I will not be defined.

10 posted on 01/18/2013 11:52:31 AM PST by Zeneta (Why are so many people searching for something that has already found us ?)
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To: Zeneta
Thanks. As you say: "Our constitution won’t work without virtue."

The Founders affirmed that assertion, as can be determined by a search of their writings.

In the essay entitled, "Our Ageless Constitution," above, is this paragraph:

"The Constitution of the United States of America structured a government for what the Founders called a "virtuous people" - that is, a people who would be able, as Burke put it, to "put chains on their own appetites" and, without the coercive hand of government, to live peaceably without violating the rights of others. Such a society would need no standing armies to insure internal order, for the moral beliefs, customs, and love for liberty motivating the actions of the people and their representatives in government - the "unwritten" constitution - would be in keeping with their written constitution."

In 2008, Michael Ledeen, on another subject altogether, wrote of the degree to which Americans have been "dumbed down" on some basic ideas underlying our freedom:

Ledeen said, "Our educational system has long since banished religion from its texts, and an amazing number of Americans are intellectually unprepared for a discussion in which religion is the central organizing principle."

In the Pope's speech in Germany a few years ago, he observed:

"A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."

Ledeen put his finger on a problem that stifles meaningful dialogue and debate in America. Censors [disguised as "protectors" (the Radical Left's ACLU, NEA, education bureaucracies, etc., etc.)] have imposed their limited understanding of freedom (one which may be more likened to "license") upon generations of school children.

From America's founding to the 1950's, ideas derived from religious literature were included in textbooks, through the poetry and prose used to teach children to read and to identify with their world and their country.

Suddenly, those ideas began to disappear from textbooks, until now, faceless, mindless copy editors sit in cubicles in the nation's textbook publishing companies, instructed by their supervisors to remove mere words that refer to family, to the Divine, and to any of the ancient ideas that have sustained intelligent discourse for centuries.

Now, it is the ACLU which accuses middle Americans of "censorship" if they object to books, films, etc., that offend their sensibilities and undermine the character training of their young. Sadly, many of those books and films are themselves products of the minds that have been robbed of exposure to wisdom literaturein the nation's schools and universities.

11 posted on 01/18/2013 12:33:43 PM PST by loveliberty2 ( -)
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To: loveliberty2

Ledeen is spot on, however there remains the battle between indoctrination and youthful cynicism.

Relativism should only take them so far. At some stage of learning, the ability to ask why ? remains.

There are certainly educators that disallow any expression that may disrupt these false foundations.

I have a 21 year old child at American University. She has had profs that have declared their Marxism and luckily others that are steadfast constitutional conservatives. Thankfully, she maintains a scientific/logical perspective and objectiveness that keeps her entertained.

She is a hard core conservative that has yet to find Christ.

Can’t tell her anything.

I’m so thankful.

Her peers easily acquiesce and slip beneath “HIS” wisdom, like a stone.

Here’s the deal.

Some people find meaning in words.

Some people actually listen.

Most folks don’t want to be bothered by any words or concepts that may cause them examine their own worldview.

I had a very liberal girlfriend that made a comment, that “more blacks” died in the Vietnam war than whites. She was so convinced of this fact, since “everybody knew this”, she was up for my challenge. We proceeded independently on dueling internet connections for verification. When we agreed on the source of the data, and when she recognized that what she had been taught was a LIE. Her reaction was to attack me !!, Called me and a**hole.

What I am saying is that the foundations of conservatism, the foundations of truth, have been so undermined generationally, as to make any attempt the new enemy.

We are so far gone that the message will never be heard because of the messenger.

I propose another way.

12 posted on 01/18/2013 2:47:02 PM PST by Zeneta (Why are so many people searching for something that has already found us ?)
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To: loveliberty2


Let’s cut to the chase.

Our rights, our very life, comes from our Creator.

Remove the Creator and you remove our rights.

Now, the compromise.

Creator “maybe” however we certainly “evolved”.

This is the issue.

13 posted on 01/18/2013 3:06:39 PM PST by Zeneta (Why are so many people searching for something that has already found us ?)
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To: Kenny
Thanks for posting this. I find the psychology behind the progressive's actions that Kesler reveals to be accurate and compelling.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, liberalism is like a shark. It has to move forward constantly or it dies.

That analogy against the backdrop of the successful Reagan Revolution explains their radical push and shove it down our throats behind obamacare and everything else.

Either the gop is their willing accomplice or they are giving the progs enough rope to hang themselves when they go too far, as they have and will continue to do.

More likely, the eGOP is a willing accomplice and the rest of the moderates are spineless and waiting for the political winds to carry them to an opinion.

With no opposing leadership from the gop, we're headed for a painful, bloody experience.

14 posted on 01/19/2013 3:56:08 PM PST by GBA (Here in the Matrix, life is but a dream.)
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