Did Ike repeal the New Deal? Did Richard Nixon roll back the Great Society? Nope. He funded the Great Society. Did Ronald Reagan cut federal spending? Nope, defense spending soared. Bill Clinton slashed defense, but George Bush II set social spending records with No Child Left Behind and prescription drug benefits for the elderly under Medicare. Surpluses vanished, deficits returned, the national debt almost doubled.
Is the old republic then dead and gone, in the irretrievable past? Are we engaged in an argument settled before we were born?
In his 1938 essay "The Revolution Was," Garet Garrett wrote:
"There are those who think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of the Depression, singing songs to freedom."
Nevertheless, there is a difference not just of degree but of kind between unemployment compensation for jobless workers, welfare for destitute families, and confiscating the income of taxpayers who earned it -- to hand out to chronic tax consumers who did not.
This last is the socialism Winston Churchill called "the philosophy of envy and gospel of greed." And it is this suggestion of socialist ideology in Obama's words that has produced the belated pause by a nation that seemed to be moving into his camp. What did Barack say in 2001?
He spoke of the inadequacy of the courts as institutions to bring about "redistributive change" in society, of the "tragedy" of the civil rights movement in losing sight of the "political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change."
Normal people don't talk like that. Socialists do.
This is ideology speaking. This is the redistributionist drivel one hears from cosseted college radicals and the "Marxist professors" Obama says in his memoir he sought out at the university. It is the language of social parasites like William Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn and Father Pfleger.
Enforced egalitarianism entails the death of excellence. For it seizes the rewards that excellence earns and turns them over to politicians and bureaucrats for distribution to the mediocrities upon whose votes they depend. One need not be Ayn Rand to see that Barack has picked up from past associates utopian notions that have ever produced nightmare states.