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The speech wasn’t merely martial. It suggested that Americans can only accomplish things by ceding power to the government. Or, as the slogan went during a DNC video, “Government is the only thing that we all belong to.” As individuals, we are nothing; as a collective, we are infinitely powerful.
That collectivism formed the central component of Obama’s speech. Obama never used the language of compulsion – he suggested that government was a way we “ask” each other to do things. That, of course, is a lie – government compels people to do things. But according to Obama, that’s just fine. In fact, that’s the only way to get things done and to stop the victimizers from victimizing the victims. Citizenship is, according to Obama, giving up your autonomy and your rights to a government that can protect individuals from each other. “This country,” said Obama, “only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.” Those obligations include forcing CEOs to pay higher salaries; forcing banks to bail out bad borrowers; forcing taxpayers to subsidize the women’s studies courses of every little girl.
More than anything, government, said Obama, is not the problem. We are the problem, if left to our own devices. “We don’t think that the government is the source of all our problems, any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles … America, we understand that this democracy is ours. … America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together.” Individuals are the problem. Government can be the solution.
And the would-be victims in the hall cheered for a leader they would hand as much authority as possible. They saw in him the hope to escape their lonely destinies in favor a greater communal one. As Obama said, “the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you.” Obama is the vessel.
But he isn’t an empty vessel, as the American people will find out during his second term. Government, in the end, is still comprised of men. Men who exercise their power. Men who have agendas. Men who are individuals – the same sort of individuals Obama tells us not to trust, except given unspeakable power.
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