The Social Advocacy Lure: Whom will it catch?

(Article first published as The Social Advocacy Lure: Whom will it catch? on Blogcritics.) Last month, the Obama re-election campaign began an effort in earnest to redefine the major issues in this election year. Treating superficially the still weak economy, the persistently high jobless rate and the skyrocketing national debt, Obama’s main messaging is now on social issues. He addresses the rights of discrete groups, like women. But, he speaks most passionately of, in essence, a national ‘oneness’. It is a social concept he uses to justify the continual expansion of the scope and power of the federal government. From it flows many proposed social engineering regulations that necessarily erode individual freedoms.

Obama’s recent defense of women’s rights in the free contraceptives fight is a good, but not great, display of his social restructuring strategy. It was a two-fer: (1) an opportunity to label Republicans as anti-woman and (2) a needed distraction from his freedom of religion gaffe. It seems, as far as the first point is concerned, that the stumblebums at the GOP are all too willing, albeit unwittingly, to help him out. During the dust up, credible discussions about whether contraceptives should be available gratis went largely unnoticed. Not really surprising as those pieces lacked an emotional element.

Individual skirmishes such as the free contraceptive example may be interesting, but they aren’t especially telling in trying to identify a cohesive campaign strategy. That comes from the main theme of speeches over time as well as other campaign outreach efforts. In Obama’s case, the overarching pitch is his oneness assertion. As he sees it, we are one nation, one people. We owe a responsibility to each other and a shared responsibility to future Americans. We rise or fall as one. Under this view, the purpose of government is to protect and expand the interests of the one.

A great example of oneness is the justification for increasing taxes on the rich to raise the standard of living for everyone else. Enlarging the levy on fat wallets was once couched in strictly economic terms, but not any longer because it makes no economic sense. So, now days, it’s mostly characterized as one of the many fair and decent things the federal government can do for all of us. It is a manifestation of Obama’s personal belief that some people simply have too much money and get tax breaks they don’t need.

Complementing that social argument is Warren Buffet’s statement that decent rich people don’t mind having their taxes raised. So, there it is. Decent people don’t object to the government being decent, which means only the indecent protest. But, the government does not exist to protect them. The argument does have a horrifyingly attractive allure, like being transfixed by the lights of an oncoming train. But, it is failed logic.

Taking from the rich is just one example of the application of Obama’s social strategy. Obamacare with its individual mandate was an early instance of the strategy. Wall Street regulation is another recurring theme. While Obamacare is an easy target, it is difficult to take a pro Wall Street stance, although the Occupy movement is a great motivator. The President’s social agenda also limits consumer choices. So, global warming justifies shutting down the oil and gas industry in favor of solar energy, high speed trains, algae-based fuel products and so forth. Pipe dreams replace pipelines in the President’s social order.

Team Obama believes that social advocacy will attract the much-coveted independent vote by doggedly labeling the GOP as the party of fundamental unfairness. If the Republicans can be made to look bad enough, voters won’t be able to stomach voting for them despite razor-thin pocketbooks. It’s a risky bet. Traditionally, voters in U.S. elections cast their ballots based on their economic well-being. If Obama’s re-election strategy is to prevail, it must not merely buck the tide of history. It must do so by convincing voters that traditional virtues such as individual responsibility and achievement have become vices.

Will the strategy succeed? Possibly, but only if voters surrender to the mob mentality that Obama appeals to in every campaign speech. It is never enough for him to state his positions on the issues he chooses to address and criticize those of his opponents. His re-election spiels are clarion calls to grab our pitchforks, light up our torches and storm the castle of the individual rights monster.

You can almost see the trail of lights going up the hill from here.

See you in the mirror.