Victor Davis Hanson

Once upon a time, loud dissent, filibustering in the Senate and gridlock in the House were as democratic as apple pie.

A Senator Obama once defended his attempts to block confirmation votes on judicial appointments by alleging, "The Founding Fathers established the filibuster as a means of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority."

In 2005, progressives were relieved that a Democratic minority had just gridlocked Congress -- ending recently re-elected President George W. Bush's plan to reform Social Security. Gridlock, in other words, was a helpful constitutional tool when a minority party wanted to block a president's legislative initiatives. A then-cool Senator Obama suggested Bush and his congressional supporters "back off" and "let go of their egos."

How about loud opposition to a sitting president? Well, in 2003, Sen. Hillary Clinton unloaded on those she claimed had called for less dissent: "I am sick and tired of people who call you unpatriotic if you debate this administration's policies."

These examples could be multiplied. But they are enough to offer contrast with a suddenly much different attitude toward what was only recently seen as the wonderful complexity of American democracy.

Take Obama, now the president and apparently frustrated. He's angry that his progressive efforts are facing legislative opposition: "We knew this was going to take time because we've got this big, messy, tough democracy."

Obama expanded on "messy" to La Raza activists, who wanted amnesty for illegal aliens, by lamenting that he could not somehow "bypass Congress and change the laws on my own." He later added for emphasis: "Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting."

To quote former Sen. Clinton, many people are now "sick and tired" of the Obama administration's efforts to silence critics. First, during the 2008 campaign, there was "Fight the Smears," a website Team Obama started to monitor its critics. JournoList followed, with a liberals-only forum of influential media pundits venting their private anger over criticism of Obama. Now there is yet another version,, a creepy website -- set up with melodramatic photos and "files" like an intelligence service's red and black dossiers -- that implores readers to scout around and send in examples of Obama criticism.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.