The Futility of Big Government

A myth drowns slowly in the Gulf.

The old adage was always: “A conservative is a liberal who was mugged by reality.” In just a year, President Obama has been mugged not just by reality, but his own belief in the infallibility of big government.

Disappointment from President Obama’s cult-like following is growing, and it’s easy to see why. It was two years ago this month that Obama uttered his infamous statement on the importance of his election in relation to the environment. “The moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” was the phrase Obama used to describe his own nomination.

In a bit of irony even the most humorless should appreciate, Obama’s administration is now mired in the muck of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The man who promised to roll back the rising tide is now swallowed up in the suffocating black crude that’s seeping across the Gulf coast. The man who was supposed to change the climate can’t do anything about it.

However, the problem isn’t just the leak, or Obama’s fix-all campaign rhetoric, but the expectations of the populace. The lesson is that government has its limits, even a seemingly all-powerful entity such as the White House. It is a lesson many are unwilling to learn, even as Washington sits by hopelessly as oil continues to spew throughout the Gulf.

Megan McArdle described this bizarre perception of Obama and government best when she pointed out then-candidate Obama’s habit of blaming of Bush for the state of the economy and trouble on the warfront. Sure, presidents have varying degrees of competency, but to presume that all problems are fixable from the bully pulpit is to deny reality.

Volumes could be written about why voters accept this meme — the idea that a magic man can fix disasters, ups and downs in the economy, or the usual travails of life. This nonsense of an omnipotent government hit its stride immediately after 911. A refusal to believe that a massive terrorist attack could take place without the government knowing about it resounded in a significant portion of the population. These expectations carried to Hurricane Katrina, where it was construed that the president didn’t “care enough.”

This belief played a central role in Obama’s election. “Yes, we can” isn’t so much a mantra of individualism but of, “Yes, the government can for you.” It has also raised expectations and doomed Obama’s presidency in the short term. His own results can’t match the expectations of his base, an electorate dying for any real economic improvement, and the promises of his own rhetoric.

The reaction to this new reality has been unsurprising, if not predictable. In a bit of cognitive dissonance, Spike Lee (who happens to be a conspiracist in his own right with respect to Hurricane Katrina) implored Obama to get angry, as if a few choice words on a teleprompter could suck millions of gallons of crude back beneath the earth’s crust. This led to Obama dropping a certain three-letter-word on a television interview during one of the more ridiculous presidential moments in recent memory. Most realize political rhetoric and results are two different matters, but to the true believers, and the regular Joes expecting the president to live up to his own promises, it’s important.

Obama’s history-making election may have made for a longer grace period and his soaring oratory and media image may have bought him time, but it has become apparent after a year and a half that Obama is underachieving by his own lofty and impossible standards. There was the unemployment numbers, promised never to cross 8-percent, which now has hovered near 10-percent for the better part of a year. Not to mention the special interest frenzy that preceded the passage of an unpopular health care bill and the supposedly needed stimulus package, which has done nothing but raise our debt.

Cap that with the Gulf spill, and it is no wonder the electorate is growing restless. Restless enough where some are taking the Obama base to task. “Stopping the waves is a job for Neptune, not a president. Obama cannot raise his trident and force the oil back into the hole. There are things he can do, but they’re a lot less impressive. Granted, Obama’s early campaign for president cultivated a myth of his godlike powers. And some still seem to buy into the magic narrative,” said Rasmussen Reports’ Froma Harrop. Granted, but it’s important to note Obama’s myth was of his own making. A myth that’s drowning slowly in the Gulf and taking his presidency down with it. Hopefully this is a lesson to future candidates on what they should promise, and a lesson to voters on what they should demand and expect.