On Monday, President Barack Obama delivered a monumental address to the nation. It wasn’t monumental in terms of rhetoric — in fact, it wasn’t even memorable. It was monumental because it signaled for the first time just how grand Obama’s ambitions for the left are. No longer is the left content to wage a war against Constitutional principles on behalf of a Marxist philosophical system. Now they will attempt to convince the American people that Constitutional principles dictate Marxism.
Obama opened his address by quoting the Declaration of Independence: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration of Independence sets forth a vision of limited government designed to avoid tyranny. But Obama, employing all the linguistic slight-of-hand in his multitudinous bag of tricks, had a plan to turn the Declaration inside out.
He began by rendering the document meaningless. As it turned out, “when times change, so must we.” More importantly, when times change, so must our concept of liberty. Obama said, “our generation’s task [is] to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.” But what do those high-sounding phrases mean? Obama said they have no meaning: “Being true to our founding … does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.”
In other words, liberty has no meaning.
It is simply a lie to state that our founders did not have a singular definition of liberty. They did. It is expressed in the Declaration itself. Liberty, says the Declaration, is freedom from government “abuses and usurpations.” It is not government guarantees of healthcare, pensions and food stamps. The Constitution was ratified in order to preserve the founders’ vision of liberty and to prevent a “good government” from usurping power in order to achieve the social engineering the left adores.
Obama knows this just as his progressive predecessors knew this. That’s why Woodrow Wilson despised the Constitution. So does Obama. But unlike Wilson, Obama realizes that the American people still like the Constitution. And so he must somehow read his anti-Constitutionalism into founding philosophy itself.
And so he turns liberty into a meaningless word. But it is there that the magic show truly begins. Once liberty is meaningless, how can government preserve it? Only by giving each individual his or her heart’s desire. As Obama said, “preserving our individual freedoms,” he said, “ultimately requires collective action.” This is Orwellian in its reversal of language. Individual freedoms require government to leave us alone, aside from protecting our lives and property rights.
But for Obama, individual freedom cannot exist in the absence of government.
What of those individuals who define liberty in the way the founders defined it? In Obama’s Orwellian world, they are anti-liberty, because government is liberty. Obama used the phrase “We, the people” — the first words of the Constitution — no less than five times. Each time, substituting “government” would have been more accurate. For example, “We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.” How? Via government redistributionism. “We, the people,” said Obama, “will respond to the threat of climate change.” How? Through the government.
Government is liberty. Freedom is tyranny. Individualism is collectivism.
And the Constitution is meaningless unless it is being wielded as a club against those who actually value the founding ideology for which it stands.
Welcome to Barack Obama’s second term.
Ben Shapiro, 28, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KRLA 870 Los Angeles, and Editor-At-Large for Breitbart News. He is the four-time bestselling author of “Primetime Propaganda.”