The latest National Review features Heritage Foundation Vice President Matthew Spalding‘s musings about key elements of President Obama’s recent speech in Osawatomie, Kan., also the site of a 1910 address in which former President Theodore Roosevelt outlined a progressive notion of a “New Nationalism.”
Obama denies the charge of class warfare, and, as class warfare is conventionally understood, he is correct. What he is actually doing is abandoning the average, middle-class voter and his middle-class values and cobbling together an alliance of state dependents, government hangers-on, and political elites who claim the capacity to run things. Obama’s program is fundamentally about the rise of a new governing class that insists on enforcing political and economic “fairness” rather than letting us govern ourselves. The managed quest for fairness inevitably leads to bureaucratic favoritism, inequalities based on special interests, and undue political influence.
At some point in every presidential campaign, there is a speech that defines the candidate and provides the rationale for his policies in light of the larger meaning of the country. By turning to TR’s New Nationalism model, Obama has revealed once and for all that the intellectual antecedent of his administration is the progressive theory of governance. He is calling his party back to its most radical roots. His objective as president is to complete the progressive transformation of America, and define its next phase as assuring not equal opportunity, but “fair” outcomes, by redistributing wealth and benefits through an ever more complicated and extensive government that regulates more and more of the economy and society.