The Left Finally Goes for the First Amendment
Nancy Pelosi, good Roman Catholic she, orchestrates Sandra Fluke's testimony against the Catholic Church's 1st Amendment rights. Did Pelosi miscalculate? President Obama began the contraception kerfuffle with the Catholic Church, and then backed off -- rhetorically a wee bit -- but artfully seeks to impose his contraception mandate on Catholic organization insurers. The president's rhetoric may be flexible, but not his aim, which he seeks to satisfy through modest redirection.
The short-sighted may see Mr. Obama's 1st Amendment challenge as a botch politically, an election year goof that's going to cost Democrats in November. That may well be, but that estimate fails to appreciate that the president and the left aren't about one election; they're about radically altering the nation -- its morality, society, culture, and adherence to faith. That's a long-term project, with its beginnings in the early 20th century.
For all the talk on the right about how "political" the left is, it's important to grasp that politics is a means, not an end, for leftists. It's doubtful that Mr. Obama wants to lose his re-election bid; congressional Democrats certainly don't want electoral setbacks. But the president and Democrats "get" the game. They get that a particular election is a battle, not the entire war. No one battle lost over many decades has proven fatal to the left's goals. The Reagan presidency didn't, either.
Mr. Obama is steeped in leftist doctrine; his presidency is about advancing statist goals. The president and leftists possess a sort of Asiatic patience and persistence.
President Obama once mused about being a one-term president. Don't doubt that the notion still lurks in the back of the president's mind. But undercutting the 1st Amendment to diminish churches as rivals to Washington's power and authority may be an acceptable tradeoff to another term in office -- if the tradeoff is a tipping point.
What Mr. Obama and his cohorts figure is that once precedents are established, once inroads are made, they stand -- perhaps with some short-term adjustments or rollback, but at the core they won't be erased or reversed entirely. Since the New Deal at least, the left's precedents in law and policy have served as beachheads for the left's successors, who expand on those precedents, rooting them deeper in the nation's life at every opportunity.
What's the genesis of ObamaCare? Since the New Deal, the left has wanted government-run health care. They couldn't get it outright for decades, so they choose to accomplish it incrementally and insidiously (through stepped up regulations, oversight, grants, and subsidies) and through partial government health care -- Medicare and Medicaid. It took the left about a generation -- from FDR to LBJ -- to get Medicare and Medicaid enacted, but get them they did. It took less time for another shot at an outright takeover of health care (Mr. Clinton's failed attempt in the early '90s to Mr. Obama's legislative achievement in 2010).
The point being that despite setbacks, meanderings, and slow going at times, the left never surrendered its goal of a government takeover of health care. In fact, rather depressingly for freedom-lovers, the left is on the verge of entrenching ObamaCare as the vehicle for a final triumph over the nation's health care system.
But there's more to ObamaCare than health care -- something more sinister and ominous.
As citizens are witnessing with Mr. Obama's clash with the Catholic Church (and, by extension, all churches and synagogues), the president and the left are seeking to use ObamaCare as a wedge to undercut the basic right to the free expression of faith. Mr. Obama and the left desire to aggrandize the state (a long-range goal) and will shrewdly leverage health care laws and policies -- or whatever -- to creatively accomplish that end, which is so critical to radicalizing society.
One more example. Remember George McGovern? Younger conservatives should familiarize themselves with McGovern's 1972 presidential run. At the time, McGovern's liberalism was considered extreme. McGovern was buried in a landslide, losing to President Richard Nixon. McGovern's loss was supposed to be the end of "extreme" liberalism. No such luck.
What's so different between McGovern's 1972 election platform and Mr. Obama's policy aims today? Not much. The difference is in the persons of McGovern and Mr. Obama (and today's leftists, generally).
Mr. Obama and contemporary leftists are more sophisticated manipulators and, perhaps, more staunchly doctrinaire than McGovern and his cohort. Mr. Obama and his colleagues have profited from the '60s radicalization experience and are steeped in Alinsky precepts, which have stiffened their ideological resolve and refined their cunning. The president and his fellows may also receive more effective support from their allies in the academy, the news media, and the arts, who are more brazen than McGovern-era liberals.
The bigger point is that differences between today's and yesterday's leftists focus on approach, expertness, and -- maybe -- intensity, not commitment. Whereas Candidate McGovern was naively open about his aims, Candidate Obama had the guile to present himself as a centrist. Yet once Mr. Obama assumed the presidency, he began governing to the left, though the centrist rhetoric continues.
Mr. Obama declares no intent to establish a precedent by trumping the Catholic Church's 1st-Amendment rights. In fact, Mr. Obama blandly offers a "compromise" to the Catholic Church that is no compromise in fact. Court challenges on constitutional grounds to the president's 1st Amendment insult may eventually succeed, but for leftists, a high court ruling will never be the final word -- the ultimate obstacle -- to gaining the power they seek over churches. Leftists will keep pushing and pushing, burrowing and burrowing, seeking pathways and routes, obvious but often hidden, to undermine the basic right to faith's free expression.
The remedy to the decades-old leftist onslaught isn't easy. It involves big doses of vigilance, willpower, and Breitbart guts. It means aggressively challenging the very legitimacy of the left's principles and outing the left's anti-liberty intent -- politically, culturally, and morally -- in the face of vicious counterattacks. It means ceaselessly striving to give Americans stark choices -- liberty or tyranny, as Mark Levin would say.
It discomfits so-called moderates that genuine conservatives argue that there is no middle ground with the left. Most Americans are reasonable, practical, and non-ideological; they prefer commodity to confrontation. But where are the compromises and accommodations with the left? Should liberty-lovers agree to undermine the 1st Amendment half as much? Should liberty-lovers split differences on ObamaCare? Should they acquiesce in the nation's cultural and moral debasement in some ways but not in others?
The left is playing for keeps -- and always shows a determination to go the distance to win. Freedom-loving Americans need to match or surpass the left's tenacity to reclaim the nation and secure liberty for posterity.