|It is Dr. J.’s understanding that she has ringside seats to watch liberty die
tonight. Let’s see if she provides some thunderous applause.
Washington Post Columnist George Will writes today:
Four years ago, Barack Obama was America’s Rorschach test, upon whom voters could project their disparate yearnings. To govern, however, is to choose, and now his choices have clarified him. He is a conviction politician determined to complete the progressive project of emancipating government from the Founders’ constraining premises, a project Woodrow Wilson embarked on 100 Novembers ago.
Will continues with a rhetorical history of the Progressive movement from Woodrow Wilson through FDR and Lyndon Johnson to President Obama.
It provides an apt prism to refract the President’s acceptance speech tonight at the DNC. Taken in the context of much of the President’s frank words about his own political philosophy and his policy priorites (passed and unpassed) it is clear that Obama’s vision of America is not that of the Founding Fathers, but of those, who have come since then and thought that they were smarter and could do it better than the collective intelligence and wisdom of the American people.
As Will writes:
From the Constitution’s constricting anachronisms. In 1912, Wilson said, “The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of governmental power.” But as Kesler notes, Wilson never said the future of liberty consisted of such limitation.
Instead, he said, “every means . . . by which society may be perfected through the instrumentality of government” should be used so that “individual rights can be fitly adjusted and harmonized with public duties.” Rights “adjusted and harmonized” by government necessarily are defined and apportioned by it. Wilson, the first transformative progressive, called this the “New Freedom.” The old kind was the Founders’ kind — government existing to “secure” natural rights (see the Declaration) that preexist government. Wilson thought this had become an impediment to progress. The pedigree of Obama’s thought runs straight to Wilson.
All one has to do is hear the echo of Wilson’s words in the President’s commentary on Positive and Negative Liberties:
But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical, it didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf and that hasn’t shifted. And one of the I think the tragedies of the Civil Rights movement was because the Civil Rights movement became so court focused I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.”
– Barack Obama, 2001 radio interview with Chicago Public Radio
This is not dissimilar from FDR’s view, as crystalized in his Four Freedoms:
- Freedom of Speech and Expression
- Freedom of Worship (Don’t get Dr. J. started on this)
- Freedom from Want
- Freedom from Fear