So Woody Allen, a good representative of much that is wrong with us, has said that he considers dictatorial powers for Obama to be a desideratum. Wouldn’t it be swell, he argued, if the president could just do all those swell things without incurring all this tacky opposition?
But it is starting to look as though “opposition” understates it. There are a number of indicators that reveal that we are in the midst of a significant political sea change.
First, there is the stark contrast between the populist uprising in Greece, demanding that their slave stipends not be tampered with, and a populist uprising here, demanding that we not be given those slave stipends in the first place. In both cases, there is a fight between the ruling classes and the general populace. But the former is because they are being forced to take the halter off, and in the latter because they are trying to put a halter on. The latter is admirable, the former is contemptible. And the latter is admirable even if it is sometimes expressed a little roughly. A story is told of a European aristocrat who was traveling in America in the nineteenth century, and he was looking for a place to lodge for the night. He came upon a farmer, whom he mistook for a hired hand of some description, and asked if the good man could direct him to his master. “Well,” the man said, “I reckon that sumbitch ain’t been born yet.”
Second, we can tell something is up because there is the contrast between how talking heads
on television and mainstream Republicrats used to speak of Tea Party libertarians like Rand Paul and how they speak of them now. Because Republicrats worship at the altars of electoral success, and because their ultimate dismissal was the epithet “unelectable,” and because it looks like Rand Paul is going to whomp their anointed candidate, they have begun to speak in terms of grudging respect (e.g. “disciplined campaigner”). It used to be the back of the hand — kookery simpliciter. Now it is an acknowledgement of a lot of common sense appeal, mixed in with some regrettable “libertarian kookery.” Seems that Rand Paul wants to abolish the Fed. That’s simply outlandish. But wanting to spend trillions upon trillions of dollars that no one will get around to actually earning until about a century and a half from now, what’s that? Why, that’s mainstream economics! Sure it is, but sometimes the mainstream goes straight over the falls, and that’s your great, great grandkids, folks, there in the canoe.
Third, the indications are that the machinery that used to define for us what was acceptable to say in public (about, say, something like the Arizona immigration law) is machinery that has simply broken down. It used to be that the liberal establishment would point to something like that, invoke the memory of Selma, and everybody would shuffle and say yeah, at least in public. But now they are having to invoke the Holocaust, two Holocausts! three! and nothing seems to work. And then the Obama administration apologizes for Arizona to China. China, you may recall, is a nation that still runs a gulag, for pity’s sake, and when you pull dumb stunts like that in the age of new media, the word gets out. Now keep in mind the fact that ambassadors have always said dumb things. But it used to be that an ambassador could say something egregious like that, and it might make it into a historian’s footnote. But now, when a diplomat pulls a howler like that, the word has gone around the world three times before he gets back to his hotel room.
So when we get to the decisive point of the coming Obamafail, we are going to be looking at a political moon crater that makes Jimmy Carter’s hole in the ground look like the something on the 11th green at Augusta.
Punditry is always risky, and the ebb and flow of political battles always has surprises for everybody. At the same time, it should be possible to see the direction things are going. As Dylan put it, back in the day, you don’t have to be a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing.