The great tension between liberalism and conservatism involves fidelity to the ideas of the Founders. Conservatives tend to think the Founders were right in their time, and also today. Liberals believe that the Founders were right in their time, but that their ideas need updating to the point of a complete perversion of their original meaning.
Obama premised his inaugural address today on the Founders, citing the famous second sentence of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
But everybody knows that the Founders, who created the country on the bedrock of suspicion of centralized power, would never have countenanced today’s welfare state. And so liberals must do some revisions to the 18th century texts that supposedly guide our lives.
And therefore Obama continued:
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.
Uh oh. Look out. We’re going to bridge Jefferson’s words with “reality.” That means, of course, we are going to change Jeffersons words.
What Obama spends the next part of his speech – the most important part – doing is enunciating the liberal rationale for junking the intentions of the Founders and replacing them with their own.
It is a rationale for creating Socialism on the framework of freedom: That in order for values like equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be realized in modern society, government must act to safeguard them.
If government does not protect you with millions of pages of regulations, greedy capitalists will steal your freedoms; if government does not save man from his worst instincts, man will destroy the earth with non-biodegradable potato chip cannisters; if government does not pay to train workers and invest in the right technologies, people will be too stupid to do it on their own; and if government does not provide a safety net even for those who can succeed by themselves, then all people might not live the lives of the dreams.
Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Franklin trusted the people with a Republic. Liberals say the people can no longer be trusted alone with such things.
And so, Obama says:
We have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.
Collective action meaning the government, not your local church . . .
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers . . .
No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.
And you should get points just for trying.
If you work hard – even if you were making transistor radios and eight-track players – you deserve your reward:
We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship . . .
while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American . . .
Obama says we have to make hard choices to reduce the spending which has already nearly destroyed us.
And then, he adds, really, we don’t have to make such choices:
We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future . . .
The only way to achieve Obama’s vision, then, is to raise taxes exponentially. The money for those who need the government’s pedestal to stand on must come from those who don’t.
Because, Obama insists, only through state control can we be made free:
The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)
The Founders surely would have known that Social Security and Medicare, which steal money from current and future generations to help even those existing retirees who are not needy in their retirements, do indeed make us a nation of takers and sap our initiative.
Jefferson wanted to guarantee the pursuit of happiness. Obama wants to guarantee happiness. The former is the philosophy of capitalism. The latter is Socialism, which uses government to reduce freedom, not create it.
This is not what the Founders intended. But as Obama made clear to anyone who may have presumed him a moderate, it is exactly what you will be getting during the next four years.