On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King said this to a multitude of Americans in Washington, DC. He said:
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
A little over a year ago, Barack Obama was elected to be President of the United States based upon the color of his skin. His performance as president will be judged by the content of his character.
We know that, for African Americans, the election of Barack Obama as president was indeed a dream that they thought could never happen. The open weeping in the streets that we witnessed on the night of his election is testimony enough to that.
But for our liberal friends, I soon discovered, Obama's election was another triumphant "first," America's First Black President.
I confess that I was taken aback by that. That's because, over the years, I've become jaded by the constant liberal yammering about First Black This and First Woman That. To me, the actual election of a black man or appointment of a woman is ephemeral. What matters is not the "first," but the principles, the culture that provides a level societal playing field upon which people can be judged upon the content of their character.
People can and will overcome light-to-moderate discrimination. It is the heavy-duty discrimination enshrined in law and backed by the full force of the state that breaks men's hearts. America no longer has frank, state-enforced discrimination. Not unless you include the "conservatives need not apply" signs at the nation's universities. Sooner or later, an African American would become president.
But now President Obama has to govern. Governing is not a question of skin color. It is a question of character. And it is no startling thing to say that his first year in office has been troubling on the character front for a number of reasons.
There was first of all the pivot to partisanship from a man that ran on healing the divisions. You could say that the election of a filibuster-proof Senate changed the game. But politicians have learned down the decades that they need to keep, more-or-less, to their promises.
- There was the failure to pivot from the campaign agenda to fixing the economy. In good times the American people, a generous people, are willing to spend money of the pet projects of earnest activists. We did quite a bit of that in the prosperous Nineties and Noughties. But when the economy is in the tank they expect their leaders to get with the program. It's a question of character.
- There is the cram-down on health care against the will of the American people. Let us rehearse just how extraordinary this is. Back in 1940 and 1941 President Roosevelt famously dithered about entering World War II. He understood that he didn't have the support of the American people. Not until that famous "day which will live in infamy." Back in 2005 President Bush wanted to reform Social Security, but he found that he could not persuade the American people to folow him. He wanted to reform immigration, and had a cram-down all ready, but he found that the American people would not follow him. So he and the leaders of Congress backed off. It's a question of character.
- There is the pivot on the war against terror. All through the campaign and through the first half of 2009 Obama was playing to the liberal gallery about Bush's war, about negotiations, apologizing for America's sins, and treating terrorists as criminals rather than enemy combatants. Now, after the deterioration in Afghanistan and the multiple terror attacks, he has changed his policy and is reverting towards the policy desired by the broad American people, but opposed by his liberal base. Only when confronted by the brute facts of reality has he changed his policy. It raises a question of character.
There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding in the liberal mind about the nature of government. Liberals believe that it is their destiny to create a new society based upon the liberal values of caring, compassion, and social justice. Maybe it is. But that is not a program for government. It is a religious vision of a world saved from sin.
Government is a mundane thing. It is informed by culture and religion, but it is still government. It is the sector of force, and force being an anti-social thing, it is better to limit its scope as much as possible. That is why the United States advertises in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed." It follows that any power of the government not derived from the consent of the governed is unjust.
The extraordinary thing about President Obama in his first year of government is the extent to which he is governing against the consent of the governed. It is not partisan or mean-spirited to say that this is shocking and unprecedented. That President Obama and his advisors do not seem to appreciate this is frightening. It raises a question of character in the president and those that advise him.