2013 has been a banner year for self-portraits of American progressivism. Just when you thought no one could top Hillary Clinton’s agonized “What difference, at this point, does it make?” – perhaps the most concise account of the leftist strategy of incremental subversion ever recorded – along comes President Obama’s revelatory time bomb, set ticking back in 2009 for detonation on October 1 of this year: “If you like your plan, you can keep it.”
With her “What difference” outburst, Clinton told the world what the progressive elite think of their subjects. They think you are stupid, morally shallow, and have the attention span of three year olds – exactly as progressive schooling and entertainment are designed to make you. Hence they need only wait you out, until the haze of time dulls your capacity for outrage about whether your leaders knowingly took the phone off the hook as your fellow citizens called for help with killers closing in on them. Hence they need only bide their time after passing rights-violating, spirit-diminishing legislation, and weather the storm of criticism until the majority of you get used to the new shackles, and carry on with your little lives. Hence, in all things, they need only embrace the necessity of working through their totalitarian dreams gradually, so as not to allow any particular “transformation” to seem fundamental enough to disturb your equilibrium.
Obama, not to be outdone, has matched Clinton’s bid for Self-exposed Authoritarian of the Year, and raised it several degrees of amplification. “If you like your plan, you can keep it” gives clear expression to one installment in the multigenerational bait-and-switch strategy with which progressivism has undermined modernity.
First of all, to state the obvious, the fact that Obama spoke those words, or words extremely like them, a thousand times during the ObamaCare debate proves they were carefully scripted, and not a throwaway remark. (Mark Levin has featured a compilation of these statements on his radio program.) And to state the equally obvious, Obama knew – or at least his strategists knew – that he was making a promise he would not keep, for at least three reasons: first, the cancelled policy wave that ObamaCare’s implementation has instigated was expected and predictable; second, no politician can guarantee that you will be able to keep something over which politicians have no direct control, such as a private insurance policy; and third, that you should keep your plan was exactly the outcome they were hoping to thwart.
Obama’s scripted and oft-repeated assurance, therefore, was more than a garden variety lie. It perfectly encapsulated the progressive method of civilizational betrayal, the deliberate poisoning of the well of representative government by means of what we might call “performative politics.”
All politicians subject to election make promises. And all politicians know that keeping every promise they make will be difficult, if not impossible. But when a politician promises a certain outcome, not because he actually wishes he could provide it (realistically or otherwise), nor even because he knows it is what the voters want to hear, but rather because he desires exactly the opposite outcome, then we have entered the corrupt realm of performative politics, the grand theater of fake representative government.
Regarding healthcare, you have all heard America’s progressive leadership, from Obama, Reid, and Pelosi on down, state explicitly that what they want is a single-payer healthcare system, i.e., socialized medicine. You also know that the ObamaCare “compromise” was intended, and has been described by various high-ranking Democrats, as a big turn of the ratchet in the direction of a single-payer system. (That is, it is a step “forward” into the dream of comprehensive government control over your physical preservation.) The progressives were, in effect, compromising with themselves: calculating that a complete government takeover of American healthcare would cause unmanageable outrage, they settled for an interim takeover by means of a labyrinth of unfathomable regulations and advisory boards.
Whether they intended this compromise to crumble under its own weight immediately, thereby opening the door right away to the “fix” of even more direct government control, is debateable. What is not debateable, however, is that their ultimate goal, the definitive aim of socialized medicine, is precisely to deny Americans the “the plan they like” – that is, the healthcare arrangements of their own free choice. Therefore, when Obama and his various mouthpieces promised that Americans could keep those arrangements, they were not merely lying in the ordinary political sense – making promises they knew they couldn’t keep (“No new taxes,” “Ten million jobs,” etc.) – but rather defrauding a nation, by pretending they were happy and eager to allow people to do the very thing these planners were dead set on preventing people from doing.
A typical politician is a slick used car salesman. A progressive politician is Iago. The former seeks to gain his advantage within the existing political machinery, while leaving that machinery more or less intact. The latter seeks a fundamental transformation of the existing arrangements, much as Iago seeks a fundamental transformation of Othello’s marriage to Desdemona. And the methods used are virtually identical: foster in the victim a trust of his destroyer through pretended loyalty against imaginary rivals, stir doubts about the virtue of the innocent through insinuation and half-truth, and finally promote the victim’s self-destruction through traitorous trickery.
“If you like your plan, you can keep it.” This is a perfect iteration of the basic lie that has fueled modernity’s “progress” down the drain of history – or History, as progressive thinkers would have it. It is not so much a lie as a mask, the necessary first step, or thesis if you will, in each stage of the dialectical deflowering of a civilization against its better judgment and best instincts. It is the emphatic reassurance that the latest “five year plan” will in no way threaten the freedom, opportunity, and prosperity to which you have become accustomed – a necessary buffer against reality which buys the progressives time to work their black magic, until the nasty truth arrives, obscured in the fog of time and cushioned by the human capacity for “learning to live with it.” You have heard this lie, and witnessed the tyrannical dialectic it sets in motion, your whole life, as have your parents and grandparents. Variations on this theme have become the soundtrack of late modernity’s decline. The theme remains the same; only the melodic details are changed to suit the collectivist totalitarian agenda item of the moment.
“If you like your current healthcare arrangements, you can keep them” – except that our intention is to delegitimize, denigrate, and finally outlaw all private healthcare arrangements.
“If you like your ‘negative rights,’ you can keep them” – except that the new positive rights we are gradually introducing into the political lexicon will necessarily override your life, liberty, and property, not to mention trumping all the secondary rights derived from those initial three, such as speech, association, and religion.
“If you like your individual mind, you can keep it” – except that our compulsory school laws are designed to enforce mediocrity, retard intellectual maturation, define universal, legally binding standards of what constitutes an educated person, and replace your years of youthful enthusiasm for knowledge and skills-acquisition with the life-draining boredom of learning in abstraction from experience, and the soul-sapping conformism of collectivist indoctrination.
“If you like your private family, you can keep it” – except that public schools were expressly designed, and the school day and year gradually expanded, to monopolize your child’s waking hours and energy, thus reducing the family home to a glorified dormitory, and parents to the state’s free meal and entertainment service.
“If you like your free market economy, you can keep it” – except that our regulatory bodies and corporate overseers will determine who gets to participate in this market and on what terms, in order to preserve our conception of the proper flow of goods and services, the proper utilization of labor, and the proper distribution of profits.
“If you like your moral heritage, you can keep it” – except that that heritage is being aggressively diminished, through legislation and school indoctrination, to a mere background hue in a kaleidoscope of moral relativity in which your old standbys, wisdom, courage, moderation and justice, enjoy somewhat less than equal status with our new progressive code: submission to authority, mindless thuggery, promiscuity and parasitism.
“If you like your private land ownership (historically a fundamental principle of all civilized political arrangements), you can keep it” – except that we are aggressively pursuing regulations to incentivize, and eventually to coerce, mass migration into urban housing, under the rubric of “sustainability,” as promoted globally by our warmed over United Nations.
“If you like your private life, you can keep it” – except that we seek to collect and store information on every “private” phone call, text message, e-mail, or financial transaction in which you participate, in the name of “security” (don’t ask whose security).
In total effect, “If you like your natural freedom, self-determination, and voluntary pursuit of happiness, you can keep them,” – except that we must periodically adjust the rules just a little further, and then just a little further again, in the direction of coercion, totalitarian micromanagement, and social conditions in which your survival, your value, and any contentment you are permitted to enjoy are dependent on your universal parent and guardian, Government.
To the defenders of this progressive view of History – that is, of the irresistible slide into universal socialist oppression, poverty, intellectual conformism and moral surrender – I make this promise: “If you like your tyranny, you can keep it. Period.” Except that those of us around the world who still feel and think like human beings will continue to resist you, expose you, subvert you, and stab at your progressive monster when and as we can. You may have your theoretical fantasy, “History,” on your side, but we have real human history on ours. And – short term wishful thinking and Pollyanna blinders aside – history teaches that in the long run, inexorably, somehow, nature, reason, and virtue always survive.
You may try to fight a war of attrition against reason itself. You may even feel as though you are on the brink of ultimate victory, and at the gates of your totalitarian paradise. But history demonstrates that you are not quite where you think you are. You will get yours.
(This article first appeared at American Thinker.)
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