by Jack Hunter
In true Franklin Roosevelt-fashion, President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus, or what many are calling his own “New Deal,” is being applauded by supporters as bold and progressive. Few liberals have accused the president of dragging the United States “backwards,” because in terms of massive government expansion, most “progressives” consider 1930’s America a good place to be.
The same cannot be said of 1830’s America, when the concept of unlimited federal government was still considered a menace, not a solution. When South Carolina recently joined a number of states in passing a state sovereignty resolution, the bill’s author, Rep. Michael Pitts, said it was a “wake-up call,” and that Americans had ignored federal intrusions for too long â€” economic, cultural or otherwise. Said Civil War historian W. Scott Poole of the bill, “I was fairly horrified actually … it clearly harkens back to nullification,” referring to U.S. Sen. John C. Calhoun’s famous defiance of federal tariffs in 1832.
So being “backward” or “reactionary” now means questioning the power of government or invoking “horrible” men like Calhoun. And being “progressive” or “forward-thinking” now means fully embracing government and invoking those like Obama and liberal hero FDR.
And yet, I know few liberals who support the War on Drugs, marriage “protection” amendments, or the Patriot Act. In fact, if you talk to the most vocal Leftists about drug criminalization, gay marriage, or the loss of civil liberties, their anti-government rhetoric can sound downright reactionary. “Government has within it a tendency to abuse its powers,” Calhoun said. Today, much of the American Left agrees with him.
So how do liberals square their fear of intrusive government with their enthusiasm for Obama? The opposite question could also be asked: how did so many conservatives square their fear of big government with their enthusiasm for President George W. Bush, whose unprecedented spending and increasing of the power of the state set the stage for Obama?