A nation should be concerned when it seems its leader has tired of the grueling work of democracy.
One of the most remarkable and frightening aspects of President Barack Obama’s inaugural address was his dismissal of his opposition – presumably the House Republican caucus – as “absolutists” who are without “principle.”
They are mucking up Obama’s agenda, and he won’t have it.
“For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay,” Obama said. “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.”
Absolutism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a form of despotism – “government by an absolute ruler or authority.” That the president of the United States is accusing his democratically-elected opponents of acting in a tyrannical fashion is a remarkable development with potentially profound implications.
Once the president’s opponents have been defined in the American mind as despotically inclined, unsusceptible to reason, and unwilling to play by the normal rules of politics, it is only natural that extreme measures are permitted in response.
This White House has already shown a propensity toward ruling by executive fiat – whether by executive action that effectively enacts rejected legislation, by refusing to enforce existing law, or by crafting rules for legislation to grant vast new powers to bureaucrats.
Once it has de-legitimized the opposition, the White House can claim it is left with no choice but to accelerate and expand its use of executive power. What else can they do, the president and his operatives will argue, when faced with the insanity of the Republicans?
The press, which avidly buys into the notion that much of the House Republican caucus is beyond reason, will lend a sympathetic ear to Obama as he struggles with the forces of darkness.
That reporters have been tapped to assist with Obama’s incipient GOP demonization campaign was made clear this week by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who in the handful of days since the inaugural, has already repeated the “absolutism” charge twice.
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