Tocqueville Foresaw the Obama Years
February 20, 2012
RUSH: Michael Barone had a piece in National Review Online that I saw posted late last night. It's entitled, "Reversing Obama's Soft Despotism." What intrigued me or what caught my attention about this piece was its references to Alexis de Tocqueville as it relates to our democracy and the Republicans. And let me just paraphrase a little bit here about what Barone says. "They want to turn back the Obama Democrats' advance into what Alexis de Tocqueville ... characterized as soft despotism. Tocqueville, after describing in 'Democracy in America' how Americans avoided the perils of equality..." That right there caught me: "The perils of equality." Now, just stop and think for a moment.
Our culture right now is based on the flawed premise that we can all be equal, particularly that we can all enjoy equal outcomes in life. The left has inculcated in as many people as possible that the definition of "fairness" = "equal," and that everybody can be equal, and that everybody can end up being the same, and that we should be, and that that will lead to heaven on earth. Tocqueville's book was written in 1830. He traveled around America and studied what it was that makes this place special. We hadn't even been in existence a hundred years. And Tocqueville comes over and wants to get to the root of what is unique about America, and thus the book Democracy in America.
And in that book he described "how Americans avoided the perils of equality," not inequality. And what he described Americans doing to avoid "the perils of equality [was] forming voluntary associations, engaging in local government and believing in religions that disciplined their pursuit of self-interest into a pursuit of virtue..." Now, stop and think of that for a moment: "The perils of equality." Everybody can't be equal. They knew in 1830 that that would be the death of the country, the concept of everybody was equal in terms of outcomes. Everybody had the same thing, everybody was the same thing, everybody did the same thing, everybody earned the same thing. That kind of equality.
They were "engaging in local government and believing in religions that disciplined their pursuit of self-interest..." Self-interest was a good thing. Self-interest was the pursuit of happiness. But where were the guardrails? They didn't come from the government. The guardrails were provided by religion. That's where the morality came from: the morality that tamed "their pursuit of self-interest into a pursuit of virtue," which takes me back to Foster Friess and the static he got for simply describing virtue. I'm still getting the biggest kick out of imagining an aspirin tablet between Andrea Mitchell's knees. I mean, he was just describing virtue! It was not... It's even wrong to say he was making a bad joke. It was just a way of describing a virtuous woman back 30 or 40 years ago in a lighthearted, humorous way.
But the point here that Tocqueville says, that the pursuit of self-interest was disciplined by a morality that came from religion that turned it all into a pursuit of virtue. And, of course, all of these things are laughed at now. That's old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy, that doesn't apply, Mr. Limbaugh, that's old-fashioned. Virtue, that doesn't go well with this nonjudgmental society that we have today.
And then Tocqueville wrote this: "... an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, rigid, far-seeing and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood." He's describing government, the way a government seeks, a totalitarian government seeks in a soft despotism or a soft tyranny, is to take charge of providing people's enjoyments and take charge over their fate. "We'll protect you. We'll make sure everything goes well and you don't get hurt, and if you do get hurt you can sue for a gazillion dollars, and we'll take our cut."
"It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary," that's not what government does with its attempt to assure us our enjoyments and watch over our fate. Government "seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood." This is Tocqueville in 1830: Only to keep people irrevocably in childhood. That nails it. That's exactly what the left tries to do. Everybody remains a child, in need, immature, childish. "It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter," of that happiness, i.e., totalitarian states, soft despotism.
One final quote from Tocqueville. "Thus, taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting."
This is the key to this passage: "It does not destroy, it prevents things from being born."
Totalitarian government, soft despotism, well-intentioned, you can't take care of yourself, we'll do it for you. It kills the spirit. It prevents things from being born. It kills off entrepreneurism, creativity, ingenuity. "It does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrial animals of which the government is the shepherd." That's what he was saying America was not, but he wrote that it could easily become that if the ability to fight equality was lost.
Now, this is in a Barone piece. I have to tell you, like I've recommended to you in the past, Mark Levin's book, Ameritopia, makes a star out of Tocqueville. Practically every relevant thing Tocqueville wrote has been explained and written about in Levin's book. Barone just takes a couple pieces here. But I wanted to share it with you because we're in the midst of a culture war whether you want to admit it or not. We always have been. It is at times prominent, sometimes it fades away to below the surface, but it's always there, because the problems in the culture and the seeming perversion and rot that's taking place eat away at people either consciously and subconsciously at the same time. So when somebody like Santorum surfaces and brings all this to the forefront by just simple quirk of fate, people end up discussing it and we see where people fall out, and we can see that the Democrats and the libs and Obama are scared to death of this topic.
They claim to be happy as they can be, "Oh, wow, this is our ticket to victory. These hayseed hick conservative pro-lifers, Good Lord, they're rising up in prominence, and we couldn't have anything better," but they're scared to death of 'em because there are millions of 'em. If they're inspired they vote and not one of them vote Democrat, and they know this. Hence Obama and everybody the on left's attempt to scare everybody with Santorum and probably every other Republican, too, wants to deny women contraception, wants to deny them abortion, wants to deny them all of this. It's a campaign of pure negativity and scaremongering because there's not one thing Obama has in his record he can say, "You want four more years of this, vote for me."
There's not one aspect of Obama's term so far that anybody wants any more of, or a majority of people do, and they know it. So it's back to the usual tactics of lying and impugning the opposition, discrediting them and scaring everybody. But it's not gonna work. There is no alternative. You want more of Obama? Do we want more loss of liberty and freedom? Do we want Obamacare fully implemented? The polling data on every Obama issue, majority oppose it. Still in the sixties, opposing Obamacare's full implementation.
RUSH: I'm still stuck on and amazed by the Tocqueville phrase "the perils of equality" and how the original Americans fought "the perils of equality." Back in the early 1800s, our population, our country, our culture was hell-bent on making sure there was no such thing as "equality" in terms of equality of outcome. And they actually looked at that as a peril, and they formed associations in various ways to make sure that that didn't happen.