Put any fancy name on it you want, Obama’s key strategy this year is division through feigned populism.
A politician who has long branded himself as above political reproach, the guy who would turn red states and blue states into purple states, has determined the best way to win re-election is to gin up populist anger against Wall Street, against job creators, against the rich and, he hopes, against Republicans.
Huey Long pulled this same stunt back in the late 20′s and early 30′s when he grabbed the mantle of populism by dictating a list of demands to make “Every man a king.” For a country that came into existence in large part because of a desire to ditch the monarchy, his slogan, just like the man himself, certainly packed a lot of chutzpah.
Behind the words was a series of proposals to turn our free market society into his version of utopia.
Long “wanted the government to confiscate the wealth of the nation’s rich” in a plan he dubbed “Share Our Wealth.” The plan was simplistic in its radical nature. Every family in America had a federal government “guarantee” of “an annual income of $5,000.” To achieve that goal Long “proposed limiting private fortunes to $50 million, legacies to $5 million, and annual incomes to $1 million.”
Today, Obama dubs similar ideas as “fairness.”
While I’ve not heard him define a minimum rate at which each family should live, he has determined anyone making over $250,000 a year is “rich.” Agree or disagree on the numerical price point, who is Obama to define the term? (In the event that Long’s dream of dictating salaries does become reality, I will promptly disavow this column and humbly request a government-mandated raise. Or beg. We’ll see.)
He’s also on the stump trumpeting “The Buffet Rule” which would ensure all those rich folk pay their “fair share” of taxes in order to reduce the deficit. But even Team Obama has realized how foolish their idea of deficit reduction through this “rule” is as they have pivoted firmly to the populist notion of “fairness” and have ceased making the deficit argument.
Their goal here is to make everyone making less than these folks angry. Very angry. Now, I don’t speak for everyone, but I’m not angry at people who make over $250,000. I envy them and work each day aspiring to that and more.
But that’s not Obama’s point. His point is to achieve the ultimate liberal dream of equal outcomes over equal opportunities. To reach that end, Obama will try to set the terms of the debate on who he can pit against each other when in actuality the election is a referendum on his first term and, more importantly, about the size and scope of government.
We will be reminded throughout this debate that the brand of populism espoused by Long and Obama is completely contrary to how and why our Nation was founded. We were built on the principle of free enterprise and hard work. American Dream, anyone?
What I want to know is what happened to the Obama we once knew? The guy who was going to bring us together and change the tone in Washington. Oh, that’s right, he actually became president.
(The small amount of web-based research I did in writing this column produced a piece written by George Will on the similarities between Barack Obama and Huey Long back in 2009. So, yeah…you can read it here.)