Some weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed for The Center for Vision & Values titled "Meet John Podesta: Architect and Principal Salesman for the New Progressivism's Agenda," in which I pointed out that Mr. Podesta heads up a very large organization that seeks to "reform" American society. Reform should, of course, be read as "re-make" American society.
Podesta and hundreds of like-minded friends had been working on plans for years to remake American society in which the foundational principle would be that "the government can solve all of our problems."
Remarkably, by early 2008, a breathtaking stroke of good fortune came the Podesta group's way: A liberal/progressive of their own stripe fell into their lap when it became evident that Democrat Barack Obama had an excellent chance to become president.
As everyone knows, a common theme in the Obama campaign was an incessant call for, or promise of, change. Surprisingly, the media has not asked what change means. The word, of course, begs, no, screams, for an adjective.
What kind of change? Change can be progressive or regressive, good or bad.
Recently, I looked into the meaning of change in Obama's thinking. I picked up a book titled Change We Can Believe In (2008). With Obama's picture and name displayed prominently on the cover, I thought this book would provide Obama's definition of the term he made famous. With great anticipation I began to read.
To my surprise, Change We Can Believe In was not written by Obama, though he did write a six page "Foreword." The first 150 pages of text are about programs and the last 120 pages consist of Obama campaign speeches. Closer examination of the 150 pages indicated that they were composed and compiled by other unnamed persons. The book has no author or editor mentioned anywhere. The only clue to its origin is the copyright: "Obama for America." Yet the subtitle makes clear that the book is "Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise."
The content within these pages are actually more like "lists." Indeed, there were so many proposals listed that I resolved to try to count them. The grand total turned out to be 353. Yes, 353.
Now we come to the heart of the matter: Does Obama really support that many changes? Are the hundreds of changes proposed in the Obama book really his?
As a practical matter, could Obama even know and understand that many programs?
It's true that some of the proposals appeared in another Obama book: a 2006 book not on change but on hope, while others appeared in his speeches, but not 353 programs!
Very interesting, however, is the connection to John Podesta: Virtually all of the programs suggested in Change We Can Believe In also appeared in either Podesta's The Power of Progress: How America's Progressives can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and our Country, noted above--or--in its 2009 companion written by Podesta's friends, Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President. The latter is a huge tome (665 pages) of more than 67 articles proposing scores of new programs.
Even if Obama does know and understand that many reform proposals, is it politically wise to support so many radical changes?
Podesta and his friends, including more than 100 liberal (some radical) members of Congress, certainly do embrace these programs to re-make American society. Yet, it is also true that the American public is politically still center-right, not left or radical left, like the Obama/Podesta agenda.
Indeed, the public's dramatic reaction to Obama-embraced programs this summer, including nationalized health care, suggests that it is politically suicidal to promote such programs. The last president who presented so many changes so rapidly and radically was Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. Obama has obvious brain power, a mellow voice, reads the teleprompter well, and has a winsome personality, but he has no experience as an arm-twisting Senate majority leader like Lyndon Johnson before becoming president.
If Obama wants to retain public support, he will need to move to the center, just like President Bill Clinton was forced to do after the 1994 mid-term elections.
Finally, one closing thought: Some may wonder how the public elected a president whose programs would be so radical or left of center. Truth be told, Obama won because: 1) he campaigned only with general statements, such as "change," therein masking his radical goals; 2) some Republicans and many Independents were frustrated with George W. Bush; and 3) the economy was in a frightful free-fall. Given these factors, the public was willing to elect any Democrat to the presidency in 2008.
But do those Americans today support what they voted for last fall? How about all 353 programs?
-- L. John Van Til, Ph.D., is a fellow for law & humanities with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
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