Is Obama Frodo? Or Liberalism in General?
By Anthony Gregory • Thursday June 17, 2010 9:40 AM PST •
David, Stewart’s bit was indeed insightful and encouraging, one of the best he’s done in a while, and I found it very funny and compelling. All your points are well taken. But I must nitpick Stewart’s comparison of Obama to Frodo. It was hilarious, but it seems to be a bit too charitable. While Stewart is correct that taking the oath of office and assuming power was a defining moment in changing Obama from a left-liberal politician to the most powerful executive power holder on earth, I don’t think he ever intended to go to Washington to destroy the ring — he always wanted his precious power. Of course, Stewart can’t be faulted too much for making this type of joke, and considering his audience he is probably doing a service in educating the left on the follies of the “hope and change” of Obama, who did indeed promise some good-sounding things in the national-security arena before assuming the throne.
I would say, however, that the real Frodo in America is the liberal movement in general. Starting off as an essentially freedom-oriented movement in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, American liberalism became the premier champion of state power in the twentieth. Initially a movement interested in breaking down government power structures to liberate the common man, liberalism was taken in by the lure of power and the promise that it could be exercised for the good of all. At first a movement interested in ridding of coercive redistribution of wealth, correctly seeing it as a bane on the poor and a blessing for the politically connected wealthy, liberalism eventually succumbed to the temptation of utilitarianism and socialism—the ghastly prospect that the same tyranny that for centuries enslaved man and empowered oligarchs could somehow be turned to the benefit of the masses and against the interests of those same oligarchs. Along the way the movement embraced war, militarism, corporatism, the police state, secular puritanism, mass imprisonment, social engineering, central planning and all the other great enemies of mass prosperity and freedom that we now suffer under, regardless of the man with the ring.
This story of liberalism is told in Ekirch’s masterful The Decline of American Liberalism, put back in print by the Independent Institute, and is an important and tragically neglected facet in American intellectual history. The liberals were corrupted by the ring a century before Obama ever went to Mordor.