In his piece released today, Charles Krauthammer dissects the Obama presidency from a historical perspective. In particular, he argues that Obama wanted to halt a political trajectory set into motion in the 1980s, in which President Reagan rejected the philosophical argument that government was the answer to our problems. President Reagan argued the polar opposite, famously saying “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Krauthammer makes an interesting analysis on how past administrations will generally follow the arc of the previous president. (I.e. Nixon expanding government reach after LBJ, and conversely, Bill Clinton echoing Reagan’s government view by declaring the era of “big government is over.”)
Obama’s intention has always been to re-normalize, to reverse ideological course, to be the anti-Reagan — the author of a new liberal ascendancy. Nor did he hide his ambition. In his February 2009 address to Congress he declared his intention to transform America. This was no abstraction. He would do it in three areas: health care, education and energy.
Think about that. Health care is one-sixth of the economy. Education is the future. And energy is the lifeblood of any advanced country — control pricing and production, and you’ve controlled the industrial economy.
Krauthammer then goes on to lay out why this election actually is the most important election of our lifetimes. This election, according to Mr. Krauthammer, is a battle for the core of the American experiment:
An Obama second term means that the movement toward European-style social democracy continues, in part by legislation, in part by executive decree. The American experiment — the more individualistic, energetic, innovative, risk-taking model of democratic governance — continues to recede, yielding to the supervised life of the entitlement state.
If Obama loses, however, his presidency becomes a historical parenthesis, a passing interlude of overreaching hyper-liberalism, rejected by a center-right country that is 80 percent nonliberal.
Should they summon the skill and dexterity, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan could guide the country to the restoration of a more austere and modest government with more restrained entitlements and a more equitable and efficient tax code. Those achievements alone would mark a new trajectory — a return to what Reagan started three decades ago.
Every four years we are told that the coming election is the most important of one’s life. This time it might actually be true. At stake is the relation between citizen and state, the very nature of the American social contract.