For those of us who have lived long enough to see the big picture, and the events of most of our lives written in the history books, America appears to be on an unprecedented course.
We have not been this far to the left in 49 years. Or perhaps ever.
Sure, we have had Democratic presidents and congresses since 1964, but never have so many hard-left policies been enacted or seriously considered since the year Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected president.
For a thousand days since his election in 1960, John F. Kennedy had defined liberalism with his clarion call to land a man on the moon, export the best of America through the peace corps, reduce astronomical tax rates and engage the world with a foreign policy that viewed communism and the Soviet threat in realistic terms. That liberalism died in Dallas on November 22, 1963, to be replaced by a statist vision that has stolen the heart of the Democratic party.
Heading toward a landslide victory fueled by a wave of sympathy following JFK’s assassination, LBJ used his considerable political skill and capital to translate JFK’s new frontier into the great society, engineering passage of the Civil Rights Act and other new legislation that would double down on FDR’s new deal with massive new government programs with the expressed purpose of eliminating poverty. Foremost among these was Medicare, a program now burdened with tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in a nation saddled with an almost inconceivable level of debt and poverty rates that continue to climb.
LBJ destroyed his presidency in Vietnam, where 50 thousand Americans died in a war fought not to lose, rather than win. We lost. South Vietnam was seized by the communist north. LBJ decided not to run again, and we then elected Richard Nixon twice.
While the Watergate scandal, climaxed by Nixon’s resignation, certainly laid the GOP low for several years, and led to the election of Jimmy Carter, little of long-term consequence occurred during that time, and Carter’s presidency was such a disaster that he was wiped out in his re-election bid by Ronald Reagan, America’s first truly conservative president in more than half a century who won a second landslide four years later. George H.W, Bush served, in effect, Reagan’s third term, and then gave way to Bill Clinton, who won twice running as a centrist Democrat before George W. Bush was elected to two terms.
It was during the second half of the second term of George W. Bush that the current leftward trend began. If you fell into a coma in 2007 and woke up now, you would hardly recognize the political state of this country.
Government-controlled health care, a gleam in the eye of statists for a century or more, has now become law. Gay marriage, which would never have even been conceived by FDR, JFK, LBJ or mentioned even by Clinton, was not only broached but endorsed by President Obama in the midst of his re-election campaign. As many as 12 million illegal immigrants may well be granted de facto amnesty. The business sector has been demonized and regulated more than ever. The coal industry has been effectively shuttered through federal regulation. And the call for higher taxes in particular and undiluted class warfare in general succeeded in re-electing the most leftist president in American history.
For Barack Obama to be elected is one thing – he was the spectacularly fortunate beneficiary of the political holy trinity of an unpopular president of the other party, a weak opponent and a financial meltdown.
But for him to be re-elected after a first-term marked by a sour economy, high unemployment, metastasizing debt and a supposedly unpopular transformation of our health care system, seems to signal something deeper than simply a cyclical change of course and/or an isolated attempt to exorcise our past by electing our first black president.
Perhaps the most tangible evidence of an almost seismic shift in the electorate is revealed by demographer Nick Eberstadt: contrary to the left’s attempts to explain away our sharply rising dependence as a temporary bi-product of high unemployment, dependence on government handouts continues to increase despite declining unemployment rates.
Indeed, you need know little more than this: the estimated number of Americans obtaining government benefits has increased by more than five million over the low point of the recent unemployment problem.
Add to all of this a dispirited, disorganized and philosophically confused Republican party clinging to the crumbs offered by the likes of Joe the Plumber and, most recently, Ben Carson, and many believe that we have passed the point of no return. That once Americans falling into Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% are locked into government dependency, there is no turning back. We need only look at the disastrous economic condition of Europe to see where this leads, but that canary in the coal mine has essentially been ignored.
Indeed, for this growing government dependency to defy what history has taught us and reverse course will require a shift in the American electorate almost as unprecedented as the one that landed us in today’s hard-left reality.