James Madison was a freedom man. Barack Obama is a government man. This doesn’t mean that Madison was an anarchist who didn’t believe in government or that Obama is a totalitarian who doesn’t believe in freedom. For his part, Madison was a main catalyst for the Constitutional Convention because he felt that the federal government under the Articles of Confederation was too weak to perform the limited but necessary functions of an effective national sovereign. Accordingly, he sought to frame a new constitution that equipped the federal government with sufficient authority to discharge its core duties, such as the defense of the nation, its people, and their property. He thought government was an evil made necessary by the defects in human nature, and he worried as much about anarchy bred by too little government as he worried about the despotism that too much government power would guarantee. In neither case would individual liberty survive. It didn’t matter to Madison whether oppression occurred at the hands of a mob or a single tyrant. More than anything else, Madison’s Constitution was designed to secure the desired end of liberty.
Barack Obama is no Madisonian. Sure, he sees value in certain aspects of individual liberty. For example, he spoke out forcefully in favor of the right of a Muslim group to build a mosque near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, even though the issue didn’t involve the federal government and even though few, if anyone, disputed the right of the group to build the mosque. Obama stressed “that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country …. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” But individual freedom is not the central animating principle of his political conscience. Indeed, he has criticized what he considers America’s “strong bias towards individual action,” declaring that America “must unite in collective action [and] build collective institutions” while minimizing the importance of “individual actions, individual dreams.” He has even argued that the protection of individual freedom by government is much less important than the taxpayer-financed economic benefits dished out by government, telling the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that “it matters little if you have the right to sit at the front of the bus if you can’t afford the bus fare; it matters little if you have the right to sit at the lunch counter if you can’t afford the lunch.”?
Obama’s transformational project represents an attempt to reorient the nation away from its traditional focus on individual liberty and towards his collectivist vision. This should not be surprising, as Obama has a different philosophical starting point than Constitution creators like Madison. In addition to mastering the philosophical principles articulated by some of the world’s greatest thinkers, Madison studied history to identify the flaws that have plagued popular governments because he wanted to be sure that he and his brethren created a constitution that effectively protected the freedom of the individual. He knew that most republics throughout history had failed spectacularly, and he wanted to capitalize on his opportunity to confound history by creating a durable, liberty-protecting constitution. The breadth of Madison’s influences stand in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s very narrow set of political influences, most all of which embrace the need for government to plan and execute collective schemes that redistribute wealth-the biological father who advocated a tax rate of 100%, the organizing father whose writings explained how to get the power necessary for effectuating redistribution, the spiritual father who indicted American greed as the root of all of society’s ills.
Madison placed individual liberty at the heart of his political philosophy because he believed that each individual is endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Government has no inherent value, and is entitled to wield no authority beyond that authority delegated to it by the people; it thus has to be limited to its delegated functions, lest it infringe upon the people’s authority. Obama has frequently mentioned “inalienable rights” without acknowledging the role of the “Creator,” including omitting the mention of the Creator when reciting the Declaration of Independence on more than one occasion,” and it is clear that his political philosophy is not something that grows out of his religious faith; rather, his religious faith buttresses his pre-existing collectivist vision.
Obama has been criticized, on religious grounds, for his expressed view that “my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country,” and it is certainly true that the notion of collective salvation is foreign to traditional Christian thought. But these critics misunderstand Obama, for he is not asserting a collective religious salvation so much as a collective political salvation, a national utopia in which enlightened political leaders, like him, bring about, through the coercive power of government, the “redistributive change” that he craves. Like his father, this is his true foundational faith.
This vision elevates the prerogative of the government over the dreams and liberty of the individual, reflecting the major influences of Obama’s life, influences that are wildly divergent from the liberty centric influences that made an impact on Madison and his Convention colleagues. As we will see, Obama has, in a number of different contexts, failed to keep faith with the Founding Fathers and the principles that they espoused, but, given his political socialization, this should not be too surprising. He never had faith in their beliefs and principles in the first place.
by Ron DeSantis