Politics will get even more “intense and bitter” if President Barack Obama is re-elected, Charles Kesler, senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, told Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview, and Obama may be one of the last liberal presidents.
Kesler, a leading conservative scholar and distinguished political philosopher, authored a new book called “I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism.”
Watch the exclusive interview here.
He said that “liberalism is not in good fettle these days and there are two problems. One is fiscal, that is that the welfare state is costing too much money and there’s no way to pay for it in sight. And the other crisis is really philosophical.”
“Liberalism has sort of exhausted its intellectual ammunition and the chief exhibit here would be Obamacare which is the kind of massive, top-down, bureaucratic structure that you would expect out of a 1930s government program,” he continued. “It’s something that could have been designed in the Rex Tugwell School of Public Administration back in 1932. It doesn’t seem like a fleet footed, modern, adaptable kind of solution to the problems of American healthcare.”
As a political thinker, Obama is “very much in the liberal mainstream running back through Lyndon Johnson to FDR to Woodrow Wilson,” Kesler said.
“In my book I try to sort of tell the story of liberalism from Wilson to the present and showing how the problems of liberalism and the potential of liberalism culminate in Obama,” he said. “I don’t think, unlike other conservatives, that we ought to understand him simply as a socialist or as a kind of third world ideologue, but as a figure in the mainstream American liberal tradition. But, having said that, he is pushing the limits, he is on the left of that liberal tradition and pushing hard against.”
Obama’s legacy will be tied to Obamacare, Kesler said.
“If he’s re-elected and Obamacare survives, his face will go up on the Mount Rushmore of American liberalism. If he is defeated and if Obamacare is repealed and replaced, then all turns to ashes. He may not be the last liberal president but he may be one of the last liberal presidents. That blow to liberalism would be a very server one.”
Politics will take on an even more bitter and intense edge, Kesler said, should Obama be re-elected in November.
“He will fight to defend Obamacare and his other signature legislative achievements from his first term,” he said. “It depends a lot on what happens in the Senate and the House. If he’s up against Republican opposition in the legislature, I would expect our politics intensely confrontational. I don’t see any way that the polarization of the last four years will be alleviated in that case. In fact, probably, our politics will be more intense and bitter because the conflicts between Republicans and Democrats today are very hard to compromise. They are issues of principle, when you get right down to the bedrock. If he does win a Democratic House and Senate or one or the other, he will proceed down the chief items of the liberal agenda. I would think that some kind of federal rights to child care and a program to provide it might be high on the list.”
The “Crisis of Liberalism,” Kesler said, “opens a conservative opportunity but a defeat for liberalism is by no means a victory for conservatives. Conservatives have to up their game. They’ve got to return to politics of constitutional principle to take advantage of the problems of liberalism. Liberalism will not go gently into that good night and conservatives may find themselves irrelevant rather than dominating in the absence of liberalism or in the process of its collapse.”
Reacting to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, Kesler noted Romney seized upon a real problem, although he talked about it “inelegantly,” as Romney said.
“His remarks paradoxically delighted some conservatives because they showed that he has a backbone and, of course, they cheered liberals too because it suggests that he was writing off 47 percent of the voters and, indeed insulting while he did so,” Kesler said. “It was, as he put it, inelegantly expressed but the problem that he was putting his finger on, the problem of government dependency, is a real problem and a growing problem and from a conservative point of view, the whole liberal agenda has consisted of discovering new rights that the government can then create programs to fulfill.”
He concluded, “These are socioeconomic rights, not like free speech which doesn’t cost anything, but Social Security and Medicare and Obamacare cost a lot and the question is when we become dependent upon these programs and dependent upon someone else to fund them, it is a problem both financially and morally for the American people.”
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