Flush with triumphal passion, Washington Post columnist George Will’s celebratory screed in the aftermath of the midterm Republican victories offered ample evidence that he will not easily surrender to President Obama the gold cup for world-class hauteur.
Unwilling to settle for the nation’s joblessness and disgust with Wall Street as the demonstrable sources of voter anger, Will projects onto progressivism the arrogance evident in the all too self-satisfied erudition of the Obama White House.
“The point of progressivism,” the nation’s leading conservative prig lectures with italic emphasis, “is that people must progress up from their backwardness.” Onto this grotesque misrepresentation he adds Constitutional “credibility” by asserting: “Of course the progressive agenda must make infinitely elastic the restraints imposed by the founders’ Constitution and its principles of limited government.”
The real elasticity here is in Will’s purposeful misrepresentation of history. Progressivism did not grow out of a desire for big government, it was a spontaneous political uprising that challenged the concentrations of power that had accrued to corporations following the Industrial Revolution, developments that even the prescient Founders could not have anticipated.
Will’s historical “amnesia” has apparently blinded him as well to the fact that it was Ronald Reagan’s rallying cry of deregulation, shamelessly accommodated by Bill Clinton and Larry Summers, that led to the runaway economic train wreck caused by Wall Street’s recklessness.
There can be little doubt that the federal government has become inefficiently complex and, in some cases, unnecessarily enlarged. But the powerlessness that people feel has more to do with the fact that we’re living in an era in which multinational corporations, financed by Wall Street, have been given license to undercut working people’s income by exporting U.S. jobs.
Further tilting the scales of power is the fact that corporations this year have been given standing by a conservative Supreme Court to contribute to political campaigns, as if they’re individuals exercising the First Amendment right to free speech. So much for the conservatives’ vaunted belief in individualism.
Nor is Will at pains to cite the Founders’ admonition against foreign engagements, two of which have contributed mightily to the massive and growing deficits that the conservatives decry while engaging in flag-waving support for these fiscally debilitating wars.
Obama’s hauteur is one thing, but Will’s is another – an attempt at historical revisionism aimed at aggrandizing the same corporate powers that finance the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s drive to give free reign to globalization without regard to the growing gap between the nation’s wealthy and those who scratch out a living on U.S. soil.
It has been Obama’s deference to these forces – especially those on Wall Street – more than any measure of arrogance that led him to aggrandize and further concentrate the nation’s self-serving banks, thus denying himself the mantel of everyman’s president that FDR so proudly wore.