CNBC’s Rick Santelli hit a raw nerve with his rant against President Obama’s mortgage bailout plan on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade - a 10,000 volt charge of energy and anger that hit the internet with a force that transcended politics and spilled over into popular culture.
His words fell like a jackhammer on the hearts and souls of conservatives who had been struggling in recent weeks to define what was making them so uneasy about President Obama’s “savior based economy.” At stake; the soul of America - the very essence of what makes us different from other countries. Self reliance, personal responsibility, a belief that individuals count for more than the group, and a well developed sense of justice and fair play are being thrown under the bus. They are being tossed in favor of a bail out culture that spits on self reliance, sneers at personal responsibility, lumps Americans into manageable (and malleable) groups of victims, and penalizes those who play by the rules.
These are not the attributes that have animated the American heart since our founding. Rather, it is those cornerstone ideals mentioned above that make up the crux of what it means to be an American. And these values are under attack by a president who is using the economic crisis as an excuse to fundamentally alter the relationship between the governed and the governors - a change that the president never mentioned during his run for the presidency and is accomplishing by means of executive diktat and legislative fiat.
By destroying “American exceptionalism” - a concept that has come under increasing attack by the left over the years - the president, vigorously backed by his base of democratic socialists, is seeking to elevate the importance of government over the primacy of the individual - as clear a violation of the intent of the Constitution as anything President Bush ever did in the name of protecting us. The President may not be shredding the Constitution but he his tearing asunder the spirit of our founding document. What will be left after he is done will be a lifeless husk, a shadow of the way the Founders saw themselves and how we, the inheritors of their dreams, have betrayed their fundamental beliefs about man’s relationship to government.
President Obama apparently believes it is necessary to destroy who we are to save us. Most conservatives disagree. I don’t doubt the president has the best of intentions. Perhaps he even thinks that what he is proposing is not that radical, not so fundamentally abhorrent to I believe a majority of Americans. It is certain he thinks he is doing it for our own good.
But in his determination to solve our severe economic problems, he appears willing to seek solutions that undermine the fabric that sustained our ancestors through even tougher times than these. He is using a nuclear bomb where a scalpel is called for. And the question of whether there will be much of a patient left after he is done goes unanswered.
Mr. Santelli’s rant - a bracing, emotional explosion that elevated flagging spirits and galvanized the hearts of netwise conservatives - is a fine catalyst but to what end? A “tea party” is being planned for several cities on July 4 but realistically, can you say that this is the beginning of a mass movement to oppose the Obama Dependency? Frankly, I see no evidence that millions of people are moving in that direction. And by the time the 4th rolls around, how many who are so excited today will show up?
I don’t doubt the passion Mr. Santelli has generated among conservatives. I just doubt its staying power. To have any effect at all, millions must stand up and make their voices heard. So far, I don’t hear them. In fact, by large majorities, the American people are extremely uneasy about what Mr. Obama is doing but are either so in thrall to his personae or so frightened of losing their jobs that they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Of course, the president stokes this fear at every opportunity - something about which even Bill Clinton is becoming concerned.
But we are seeing only the beginning of massive government intervention and takeover of the economy. What will the majority of people say when Treasury Secretary Geithner finally comes up with details of his plan for TARP II that may cost taxpayers more than a trillion dollars? or Stimulus, The Sequel? Or this mortgage bail out plan that currently stands at $75 billion but that some administration-friendly economists say could run closer to $200 billion? And don’t forget the health insurance plan that will almost certainly have a price tag in the hundreds of billions.
For each, there will be Obama out front, telling us we must have this spending plan or that bail out measure or all is lost. He will slam these bills through Congress in the first 6 months of his presidency because after that, even his own party will balk. By then, it will be way too late - the transformation of America will be complete and it will just be a matter of administering what America will have become; a series of dependent duchies with the federal government dictating the winners and losers in our economy while overseeing a massive transfer of wealth.
It can’t be stopped. Conservatives don’t have the votes. All we can do is rant like Mr. Santelli. But after the feel good rhetoric and the shot in the arm, we are left with a Red Bull rush - a splash of energy and excitement that will eventually fade and leave us feeling groggy and sluggish. Not for all of us, of course. But if conservatives are expecting to build mass opposition to the president using Mr. Santelli’s outburst, that would be wishful thinking indeed. Such a cause needs organization, volunteers, and most of all, money.
Michelle Malkin is trying and if anyone can keep the right at an emotional high, it’s her. But so much more is needed to make an impact that I fear even such noble efforts are a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
When ordinary Americans in their millions become involved, I will be glad to hop aboard the bandwagon and wave the bloody shirt from the battlements. Until then, I think I’m already crashing from my Santelli Energy Drink and feel like taking a nap.
Eeeesh - re-reading this piece, I see that it came out much more negatively than I was actually thinking. Sorry - don’t feel like a massive rewrite but allow me a few points that I should have made above.
1. It is early yet. Much of my negativity is based on the idea that I don’t see the kind of mass groundswell of support beyond the environs of the conservative internet (including social networking sites). I may yet be proved wrong if this is actually the beginnings of a mass movement against dependency.
2. One side benefit is that this will probably serve as a catalyst to organize the right side of the internet in ways that we can only guess at now. I would watch a couple of websites like The Next Right and Rebuild the Party to see how those very smart folks latch on and try and lead this movement.
3. It was not my intent to dampen spirits just as it was not my intent during the campaign when I wrote gloomy analyses of McCain’s chances to discourage anyone from voting. Those who will make the argument that I am trying to spoil the party should really grow up a little. I am a rationalist and am offering my opinion, seeing the situation with gimlet eyed reason and skepticism. I will be overjoyed if I am wrong. But dreaming of a mass movement and creating one out of nothing are two different propositions. We want our dreams to come true but there is a gargantuan amount of work to be done in order to realize that dream. It can’t be done in months. But it very well may bear fruit in 2010.