The film was representative of our whole eight-year fling. We libertarians, you progressives, united against the common enemy – our ancient enemy – the corporatist, militarized, theocratic police state. You’ve always had a subversive streak and Bush brought out the best in you.
November 5th should be the day we remember the radical ideas in that movie, and of Guy Fawkes Day: "The people should not be afraid of the government. The government should be afraid of the people."
So terrible has been Bush that you began wondering if the true hero in the drama of social struggle was, in fact, the omnipotent politician, as you’ve been tempted to believe for the last century; or, rather, the opponent of tyranny. Maybe those who opposed government, those who both Clinton and Bush told you to fear, had a point all this time.
But then you met Obama. Boy, did he switch things around for you. So well tempered, soft-spoken, seemingly humble and mentally sound.
All the incredibly scary features of the Bush regime – the secrecy, the spying, the lying, the aggressive, presidential wars – are in the Obama catalog. He promises more of the same. He lied about the FISA bill, voted for it after he vowed that he wouldn’t.
And now he is going to be our president. "Our commander in chief," as Joe Biden says.
Yet all those frightening Bush policies that Obama will continue do not seem to matter to most of the left anymore. The right still wants war and the water-board. But it seems that the economy has overcome everything else as an issue, and Obama’s socialism was so sweetly tempting to virtually the entire American left, and now that they have it they are once again content with the federal government.
It is not so much that government should be afraid of the people, after all. And certainly, government in itself is not something so fearful that it should be strictly limited. The more timeless leftist truth, as relearned from Obama, is that the people ought to be afraid of bad Republican government, and instead embrace good, democratic government, one that promises change, hope, a higher minimum wage, more "green" jobs, energy independence, fair trade, much more stringent financial regulation, foreclosure freezes, wealth redistribution, economic justice, national health care, an end to climate change, a civilian national security force, a bigger military, victory in the war on terror, foreign aid and U.S.-enforced international peace.
To be fair, some on the left intend to put pressure on Obama to end the war and civil liberties erosions. And what if he doesn’t? The right has had people trying their darnedest to get Republicans to cut government and that hasn’t worked.
Indeed, now the mainstream left has more or less forgotten the antiwar movement. Once Obama takes power, most of them will embrace the military state. Most of them did during Clinton. Most of their liberal parents did under Johnson, too.
While I’m making post-election predictions, I will say that the conservatives will only get worse. Many on the right will pretend to care about free enterprise as a high principle, but I actually find such hypocrisy obnoxious. Meanwhile, they will always be questioning Obama’s patriotism, demanding that he perpetuate the war on terror properly. No wavering.
Had McCain won, he would have had the possibility (although not the likelihood) of taming things down. Now all the pressure will be on Obama to show he has the strength to lead the world’s one indispensable nation, as his foreign policy adviser Madeline Albright calls it. He will have to bomb. He will have to kill. He is surrounded by others who want him to.
The irony is, the Democrats might end up being less socialistic than the Republicans. Americans will be more on the lookout for big government from them. On the other hand, Obama now has a solidly Democratic Congress. So the chances of another New Deal are not negligible.
As for civil liberties, Obama has still been somewhat better on torture and executive detention. But again, he will have to show how tough he is. We are in for a ride.
I could be wrong. Obama could turn out less bad than I expect. But he will not be good. He could not be even if he wanted to be. He was elected despite having moved to the right on war and surveillance, because Americans wanted a Democrat to centrally plan the economy. There are more libertarians than ever, but the popular ideology at the moment is nevertheless very pro-state.
But there will be a silver lining. Obama will be quite educational to some on the left. He is everything many of them have wanted in a president, but at least some will be very disappointed. The freedom movement got some folks from the right because of Bush. Our ranks will grow, eventually, when Obamania is seen as just another name for imperial wars, state capitalism and police brutality.
When it happens, we libertarians will be waiting with open arms. We can watch V again and reminisce.
November 6, 2008