Former first lady Michelle Obama uniquely lays bare what is both right and wrong in this nation. She doesn’t mean to do it, but by demonstrating that she lives in an extraordinary bubble of profound misunderstanding, she makes clear what was fundamentally wrong with the presidency of husband Barack, and what, utterly unbeknownst to her, and, indeed, too many progressives, is actually quite right with the presidency of Donald Trump.
The foundation for Mrs. Obama’s view was laid when she acknowledged, during her husband’s campaign for president, that for the first time in her adult life she was actually proud of her country, but the capstone was put in place with her remarks this weekend to Gayle King, when she explained Mr. Obama made being president "look too easy," and she followed up by suggesting that this had led to the conclusion that "I guess it’s kind of like if the black guy can do it, anybody can do it."
Michelle Obama did not mention him by name, but it is hard to interpret her remarks as anything but a swipe at Donald Trump, and, indeed, at her fellow Americans who elected him, much in the manner Hillary Clinton dismissed so many Trump supporters as "a basket of deplorables."
If one seeks an explanation for the source of the current polarization in our politics, Mrs. Obama is helpful indeed. She, and many liberals and progressives, still are unable to grasp that Mr. Obama actually demonstrated that the job of the president was anything but too easy.
This had nothing to do with race.
Perhaps Barack H. Obama was elected president because many Americans wanted to put divisions over race behind them, but what was unique and uniquely wrong about his presidency had nothing to do with the color of his skin.
When he ran for the office, Mr. Obama, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear revealed that he wished to use his office to redistribute the nation’s resources, and to rein in private enterprise in order to promote policies, such as government provision of health insurance, which would move us closer to the European model of the welfare state.
The belief of Barack Obama and those around him was that the federal government ought to grow to shepherd Americans — from cradle to grave.
While this ideology dominates in most of the nation’s universities and media, it runs counter to American traditions in several striking ways, and it is this inconsistency with what Americans believed for many years that led to Mr. Trump’s triumph.
If there was one thing our Framers understood it was that a good government exists to protect the rights Jefferson thought were given to us by our Creator — not by our government — and that rather than redistributing resources, it was the task of government to secure Americans in their persons and property.
To an unprecedented degree, the Obama administration hobbled American productivity with crippling regulations, maintained a heavy tax burden on individuals and businesses, and undermined the rule of law on which the stability of our economy depends.
Mr. Obama, failing to get much of his program through the federal legislature, explained that he had "a phone and a pen," and proceeded to seek to govern by the rule of executive fiat.
The arrogance that that betrayed was also reflected in the fact that under the Obama presidency, as we are learning, the intelligence services and the Department of Justice (DOJ) may have been wrongly used to attack and undermine the candidacy, and then the presidency of Donald Trump in the course of the perpetration of the Russia collusion hoax.
Mrs. Obama’s clear devotion to what she must believe is the legacy of her husband is certainly laudable spousal loyalty, and Mr. Obama was fond of saying that the arc of history bent in his direction.
Objective historians are likely to determine that the Obamas erred.
Another old American notion, probably from Henry David Thoreau, is that the government that governs least governs best.
Still another is that it is not bureaucrats at the center, but the state and local governments — those closest to the people — who ought to have the most responsibility for our lives.
These are the things that Donald J. Trump understood.
Thus, his candidacy was a wholesale repudiation of everything Mr. and Mrs. Obama — and their believed to be successor — Hillary Clinton stood for.
Michelle Obama has helpfully pointed out that we have the same choice to make as we approach the election of 2020. In 2016 those whom Mrs. Obama disparages had come to understand that her husband, and those around him, got it wrong on immigration, economics, and foreign affairs.
Mr. Trump, whether or not he makes it look easy, is now getting it right.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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