I have no great beef with Peggy Noonan. In fact, I frequently enjoy reading her column in the Wall Street Journal. However, in her latest column titled “How Obama Wooed the Middle Class” she missed the mark big time and, as anyone who has read my election analysis and book knows, I cannot let this go without a response.
Piggybacking off of Dan Balz’s “Collision 2012” Noonan claims that focus groups conducted by the Obama campaign “produced three findings. “The first was obvious: People were dissatisfied with the economy. Second, people hadn’t quite given up on the president. Third, they weren’t sure he was up to the job. They feared the nation’s problems were bigger than he was, and they criticized his failed negotiations with the Republicans in Congress.”
That much is certainly true. But what the Obama campaign did with that information is what is important, and it cannot simply be dismissed as typical campaign strategy as Peggy Noonan was inclined to do. The manner in which the Obama campaign team decided to approach reelection is so much more. In reality, it underscores the true difference between conservatism and progressivism. Noonan wrote:
The Obama campaign decided not to make the campaign about the state of the economy, but about who could look after the interests of the middle class in a time of historic transition. At the same time they decided to go after Mitt Romney hard, and remove him as a reasonable alternative. His selling point was that he understood the economy and made it work for him: He was rich. They turned that into a tale of downsizing, layoffs and rapacious capitalism. An Obama adviser: ‘He may get the economy, he may know how to make money . . . but every time he did, folks like you lost your pensions, lost your jobs.’
As was reported by the New York Times, Forbes, and myself alike on Tea Party Tribune, the Obama camp hired a “dream team” of behavioral psychologists to design the campaign message. Only someone who doesn’t fully understand the difference between the behaviorist and humanist schools of psychology would simply take the message as campaign strategy aiming to “woo” middle-class voters, as Peggy Noonan had. Compare to say, President Ronald Reagan, Obama decided that suppressing the white vote, galvanizing his base with the politics of race and victimization, and scaring the hell out of low-income voters, women, etc., was the way to victory.
Ronald Reagan was the complete opposite. When he ran his “happy warrior” campaign against Jimmy Carter, he could have used the tactics of fear and division, but he didn’t. And there in lays the ultimate difference. True conservatism believes in the power of the indomitable human spirit to adapt and overcome, driven by the human desire to meet a material need by fulfilling an intangible, yet very real duty to achieve all that we can. We are all driven by a virtuous obligation to ourselves and those who are connected to us, an idea that humanist Abraham Maslow captured perfectly when he said, “what a man can be, he must be.”
Rather than appeal to the strength of our human spirit, Mr. Obama instead sought to crush it; rather than bringing us together, Obama instead opted for pitting us against each other; rather than instilling both individual and collective confidence in the public, Obama decided instead to place fear in our hearts that perhaps our individual and collective needs may not be met if we chose different leadership. Ultimately, one ideology is all about self-empowerment and confidence, while the other is about dependence and fear.
Barack Obama sold himself as a different politician, but in the end, he is by far one of the worst typical political figures in history. It will be no short time before Americans, especially conservatives, forget how much impact the IRS targeting scandal had on the election, but there’s more to it than structure oppression. Barack Obama chose to exploit the very worst of our human nature, while ignoring those beautifully empowering characteristics that are uniquely human. However, again, that is the normal in politics, especially progressive politics. History has seen but one leader who consciously avoided the all-too easy exploitations that so often come along with politicians who are looking to expedite an agenda.
In what was one of his last appearances, during his speech at the Republican National Convention in 1992, President Reagan said, “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.”
Perhaps it has been so long since we have had a real leader in this country, but Peggy Noonan should think back to when we did the next time she attempts to minimize the disgraceful tactics used by the Obama campaign during the 2012 presidential election. It cannot be overstated, let alone minimized, it means everything. George Washington said, “example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence.” If the leader of the free world doesn’t believe in the spirit of his people, nor their unalienable right to remain so through their own duty to labor and the free exercise of their rights of protection, then how long should his people be expected to remain steadfast and confident in their own ability?
After all, they are only human. Below is the mini movie trailer for “Our Virtuous Republic”. Put the partisanship aside and weigh the differences between Presidents Reagan and Obama. Then, ask yourself what you expect from yourself and what you believe we are all capable of being. We, Americans, should know how much more we are capable of, and how much we are and have been selling ourselves short. Even Peggy Noonan should remember that.