President Obama’s fundamental argument since his campaign and through his first term and second campaign has been that our society can benefit more from government than it has in the past.
This is an easy sell in Europe, but not so much in the United States.
The framers mistrusted government, and felt that freedom can only last in a society where the people keep a close eye on all government activity.
But in the last few decades, many Americans have become used to increasing government benefits and programs. The majority now votes for more government, not less.
Recent events have put a bit of a damper on the big government argument, however. With scandals piling up like dominoes, from IRS targeting and Benghazi to AP phone records and PRISM to surveillance of Americans’ private emails and phone calls, the people are returning to a concern about Big Brother.
Even a number of strong supporters of the Obama Administration are calling for a new look at the current trajectory.
For example, Chris Matthews called on President Obama to take responsibility for his Administration’s actions, and the New York Times Editorial Board wrote:
“The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.”
Both the Bush and Obama Administrations overreached their powers, and in fact such abuses go back to the Clinton, Bush I and earlier administrations.
In short, Washington is in some ways out of control, and our freedoms are at stake.
In the face of all these scandals, President Obama has told the American people that these are simply the normal “inconveniences” of keeping our nation safe.
Note that this is the argument used by many throughout history who wanted to increase the power of government over its people.
But there is a big difference between this round of scandals and those that have come in past decades. Amazingly, the White House isn’t acting as if it is under siege. As David Brooks wrote on June 6 in The New York Times:
“There’s a weird calm around Washington these days. The Obama administration only has a year before the lame-duck status sets in. Yet you don’t get a sense of urgency. White House officials seem busy running the government, but they are not filling the public space with a transformational second-term agenda. Republican leaders aren’t offering bold plans either.”
The current Administration has lost its credibility concerning its main purpose — to expand the role of government. Still, many people really do want government to do more for them.
As long as the majority believes in ever-expanding government, it is going to endure scandals and keep electing leaders who will deliver.