Ken Blackwell

Barack Obama was an early and outspoken opponent of welfare reform. Even as an Illinois state senator, he rejected the emerging bi-partisan consensus in the 1990s that the poor needed work, marriage, and dignity.

As President, Barack Obama has loosened the strict work requirements that state governors—including conservative Republicans like John Sununu of New Hampshire and moderate Democrats Bill Clinton of Arkansas—worked for a decade to put in place.

Today, President Obama bitterly denies that he has repealed welfare reform. Welfare reform is still up and running, he indignantly replies. All he has done is to loosen the laces in the running shoes. We will soon see the entire reform tripped up.

Welfare Reform—passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic President—was one of the greatest examples of bi-partisan cooperation since the Great Civil Rights Act of 1964. And yet this important national initiative is being quietly and effectively gutted.

In its place, President Obama wants us to model our lives on “Julia.” This fictional character was created by the Obama team to show their greater concern for women.

“Julia” has no last name. She seems to have no family. She makes her debut as a toddler in Head Start. Her entire education is subsidized and supervised under the mild gaze of Barack Obama. She goes to college with his help. Aided by him, she starts a business—although what this business does is never specified. She “decides to have a child.” No husband is mentioned. Not even a cohabiting male partner. And we don’t know if the child is a son or daughter. Perhaps, like that infamous Canadian couple, the child is to be raised without respect to male or female. In fact, Julia has no father, brother. Not even a male business associate. Her life has only one man in it: Barack Obama.

Paul Ryan was right to describe Barack Obama’s America: “Where everything is free but us.” That brief sentence is the best capsule summary of the timeless wisdom of French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville. In 1835, Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America and warned of the “soft despotism” that could threaten liberty:

Above [all local and family attachments] an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood…It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?

In such a world, Tocqueville warned us, government becomes all-embracing:

“It does not destroy, it prevents things from being born.” What a chilling phrase from our past. Mr. Obama’s vision is a nightmare to millions. Not only does it prevent things from being born—new enterprises, new services, new concepts, new social and commercial arrangements—but it literally prevents from being born millions of human beings through the vast extension of abortion—fully funded and legally protected.

Americans should appeal to President Obama to turn back from the path to soft despotism. We should remember that a government big enough to give us everything we want is strong enough to take all we have—including liberty.

Ken Blackwell

Ken Blackwell, a contributing editor at, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union and is on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is the co-author of the bestseller The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, on sale in bookstores everywhere..
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