Category Archives: Constitution

2008 Redux?

The prospect of a Biden presidency and a radical left Democratic administration running the country fills me with dread. But I believe it is instructive to compare my dread to what I felt 12 years ago when I contemplated the imminent Obama administration. At that time (December 2008) I wrote the following words:

“One hundred years of programming have borne fruit. The political heirs of John Dewey, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson have taken almost complete control of the media, the legal profession, foundations, even big business to some extent, but especially the American school system. Their relentless brainwashing and propaganda has had the desired effect—namely, installing into the oval office an unrepentant ultra left winger who shares their view of government as God with little or no respect for the founding principles of the United States of America. Together with his like-minded colleagues in the Congress, the courts and the administrative state, he will lead America further down the road towards a top down enforced equality, a heavily government-regulated economy, a belief that America is no better than any other country, and a vile and pornographic culture that denigrates the traditional family. Concomitantly, he will lead us away from the founding fathers’ concept of individual liberty and responsibility, adherence to moral values and a culture based on traditional religious beliefs, the conviction that America under a new and unique form of Constitutional government should serve as a model to the world, and that democratic capitalism — which can only function in a society comprised of moral individuals —brings the greatest prosperity to the most citizens. Well, Obama and his henchmen now have complete run of the farm. We are in for a heavy dose federal paternalism. If I may paraphrase: The Federal Government is God, and Obama is his prophet. May the real God help America!”

So what happened? According to his own words, Obama planned to bring about radical changes to American society. Here’s a partial list of his intentions:

  • Nationalization of health care.
  • Massive tax increases, sharply indexed.
  • Cap & Trade and other crippling societal maneuvers aimed to avert or ameliorate imminent and severe – but unsubstantiated – climate change calamities.
  • Drastic reduction of the military, an end to overseas deployments and the subjugation of American foreign policy interests to international “opinion.”
  • Legalization of illegal aliens, and policies intended to foster more of them.
  • Massive federal spending to address “societal needs.”
  • Crippling new federal regulations to regulate (i.e., overregulate) American business.
  • Card check and other favored programs to elevate the power of unions.
  • Change of tone involving acknowledgment of enormous crimes committed by the USA against peoples of color, indigenous peoples, and victims of foreign colonization.

Joe, and especially leading figures in the Democratic Party, promise those and much more:

  • If not nationalization of health care, then at least a national health care “option” – which of course will destroy private or employer sponsored insurance.
  • Pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices.
  • Add two new, guaranteed Democratic, states.
  • Abolish the Electoral College.
  • Defund the police, drastically reduce criminal prosecutions and empty the prisons.
  • Gut — if not eliminate – the Second Amendment.
  • Enhance racial polarization in the country with the incessant and misleading recitations of America’s failures in race relations.
  • Demonize “European Americans”, play up so-called “white privilege” and inflame race relations.
  • Ensure the success of the revolution that I wrote about in this journal in The Revolution the US is Experiencing – and What if it Succeeds (Oct 14, 2020) and bring about essentially the end of the United States as the Constitutional Republic it has been for a quarter millennium.

So what happened 12 years ago? What will happen in the next 12 months? Regarding the first question, I think it is fair to say that we dodged the bullets. Obama did not bring about a revolutionary change in the United States. He did preside over a further radicalization of the culture; a furtherance of the brainwashing of the American people – especially the youth—through the continued dominance in the educational establishment and the media of the radical left/socialist/totalitarian viewpoint. But the country was no more corrupted in 2016 than it was in 2008 (perhaps as evidenced by the election of a Republican President that year). His failure can be attributed to his obsession with his effort to nationalize health care and his virtually ignoring all the other items on his agenda. By the time he woke up to his malfeasance, the Tea Party had emerged and the Dems got clobbered in the 2010 elections. He did achieve a partial success with Obamacare – but at the expense of ignoring all the other radical ideas he wanted to implement. Even so, the reaction to Obama was so severe that it installed myriad Republicans in state, county and local legislatures (and executive offices) all over the country – effectively putting the brakes on almost all of his agenda. Regarding that agenda, he completely failed at Cap n Trade, defanging the military, union enhancement and other points. He had some limited success in tax policy, illegal immigration policy and of course in his apology tour. But largely through his incompetence, and because the country indicated clearly that it was not interested in a massive overthrow of the Constitutional system, Obama’s efforts to radicalize and remake America must be judged a failure.

So what will happen this time? Biden is clearly not as radical as Obama. Joe is a more-or-less classic late twentieth century liberal who wants what he has always wanted: more government direction of the economy; checks on the “excesses” of big business; equal opportunity for the underdogs; respect for women and minorities; stronger unions; cooperation with our foreign allies. He doesn’t frighten me at all.

But who will staff his administration? Set his legislative agenda? Influence his foreign policy decisions? Shepherd – or shape — his program in Congress? Alas, those of his ilk may be a minority in today’s Democratic Party. The donkeys have moved much further to the left than in the days of Hubert Humphrey, or Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton and perhaps even of Barack Obama. People like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and yes Kamala Harris pose an existential threat to America and the free people who populate it. They scare the hell out of me. I hate to admit it but I expect to spend the next four years saying prayers for the health of one Joe Biden.

So in summary: Biden is far less scary than Obama was. In fact, some of his early picks for his administration are largely cut from the same cloth that he is, and so not so frightening. But today’s Democratic Party is significantly more terrifying than it was a dozen years ago. Furthermore, the country is more polarized; its people less schooled in the nuances and strengths of our society; and the brainwashing that our citizens are subjected to at the hands of our educators and media has had another decade plus to soften up the body politic. The man at the helm is less frightening. But the ship he will be driving is a much more substantial wrecking ball than that wielded by the previous threat.  So I guess on balance I am about roughly equally fearful for the fate of the US today as I was in 2008.

We survived 2008. Whether our society today is as strong and resilient as it apparently was then is debatable. Will we survive 2020? It remains to be seen!

A slightly different version of this essay appeared in The American Thinker on Dec 2, 2020

The Nature of Freedom

The title suggests that there might be something ambiguous about the definition of freedom. Well according to our old friends Merriam and Webster, it is “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” Sounds about right to me. The freedoms enjoyed by all Americans are – according to our Declaration of Independence – natural rights, inherent to us as human beings, granted to us by Nature or God, and not by the Government, but secured for us by the Government. I’ve emphasized the word to for a reason that will be clear momentarily.

OK what are those rights that I have, my possession of which is characterized by the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint? These are spelled out generally in the Declaration, more specifically in the Constitution – including the Bill of Rights – and in the constitutionally permissible laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. There is no secret here; they include:

  • the right to reside where I choose
  • the right to pursue the vocation I choose
  • the right to marry, and more generally associate with, whomever I choose
  • the right to worship as I wish
  • the right to petition the Government
  • the right to peacefully assemble
  • the right to state my opinion
  • the right to a trial by a jury of my peers if accused of a crime.

There are more of course, but note the common word to. That is not surprising since Webster specifies that a freedom entails a choice or an action – that is, things I choose to do or act uponwhich choice or action is free from necessity, coercion or constraint. And so it has been understood – from the time of the American Revolution.

But beginning in the late 1890s, catching fire in the 1910s, and reigniting strongly in the 1930s, 1960s and 2010s, a substantial minority – and increasingly, looking like a majority – of the American people have settled on an alternate definition of the word freedom. If I may be permitted the liberty, I would state the new definition as follows: “the presence of security, comfort or guarantees in state or being.”

Now let us follow on this new definition with an exact parallel to the discussion above following the classic definition. First, the folks who propound the new definition rarely, explicitly discuss the origin or fount for these rights which are to be accorded to all residents of the USA. They – like Mr. Jefferson – hold them to be self-evident; but they scarcely specify their author, originator, source or justification. Self-evidence seems to be enough – although, alas, what is evident to you may be opaque to me.

Well, what are these rights that I should have that will guarantee my well-being by rendering my state more comfortable and secure? They have been spelled out by the presidential founders of progressivism: Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson and Obama. They include:

  • freedom from want (i.e., poverty)
  • freedom from fear (i.e., anything that makes me afraid); e.g.
  • freedom from expression of opinions that make me uncomfortable
  • freedom from prejudice
  • freedom from unfair competition (esp. from those more skilled or experienced than me)
  • freedom from violence (e.g., presence of guns)
  • freedom from superstition (i.e., religion)
  • freedom from incarceration
  • freedom from armed government agents (the police, ICE, etc.)
  • freedom from xenophobia (e.g., about undocumented immigrants).

Note now that the common word is from rather than to. That is because these freedoms do not pertain to an action or choice, but to a feeling or emotion or an external force on one’s person. As with ‘freedom to,’ there are more than those delineated above, e.g., freedom from illness or freedom from ignorance. And as with the first set of freedoms, these new freedoms are to be secured or guaranteed by the Government. But unlike the first set of freedoms, these are not granted or accorded to us by Nature or God; they are not natural rights in that sense. They are simply rights that just ought to be accorded to all individuals – or more precisely – to all groups living in an advanced society.

By whose authority? By the people themselves since the rights are self-evidently manifest to any enlightened member of society. Moreover, unlike the natural rights in the Founders’ society, the rights in the modern, enlightened society may evolve and change over time. New rights may be discovered; old rights may be discarded. Finally, the people, via their primary vehicle, the Government, determine what the current set of rights are, and then enforce them also via the Government. Thus, a “Living Constitution!” Which of course implies: Obsolescence of the Declaration and Abrogation of the Constitution.

It’s not my purpose here to compare the relative merits of the two systems. Rather it is to ensure that we understand the fundamental difference between the two definitions of freedom, and to allow the reader to ponder the drastic and overwhelming changes that would ensue if we the people discard the first definition and adopt the second. I will examine some of those changes in a future piece.

This article appeared in Canada Free Press on July 9, 2020

King Kennedy

Ruminations on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who virtually holds the fate of the US in his hands

The well-respected columnist Charles Krauthammer recently referred to Justice Anthony Kennedy as “essentially the reigning monarch of the United States.” This reference to Justice Kennedy’s presumed exalted stature derives from his long-held position as the unique swing man on the Supreme Court. The Court is – as it has been for a while – comprised of four reliably conservative justices (currently Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas) and four equally reliable liberal justices (currently Bader-Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan). In the last two decades, Kennedy has joined one or the other group to decide some of the weightiest issues confronting the nation by a slim 5-4 majority. Examples wherein Kennedy has sided with the conservatives include: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010, campaign finance) and District of Columbia v. Heller (2009, gun control). On the other hand, Kennedy joined the liberal coterie in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992, abortion).

This ongoing history wherein Kennedy provides the deciding vote on issues of paramount importance before the Court is expected to continue with the forthcoming decision on Obamacare. Following the almost unprecedented three-day long oral arguments before the Court on the merits of President Obama’s signature legislation, expert opinion was nearly unanimous that the Court’s ideological pattern will hold, and that the deciding vote will be cast by “King Anthony.” It will be virtually his decision alone as to whether the individual mandate is constitutional, and if not, then whether the entire statute is to be thrown out.

Now, while the previously cited 5-4 decisions were all vitally important, it is widely believed that the upcoming decision on Obamacare eclipses them by far. Indeed, many conservatives consider the matter existential for the nation – the failure to overturn Obamacare will spell the doom of America as a constitutional Republic based on individual liberty and limited government.

So, with the awesome power and responsibility that thereby accrues to him, is it correct – as Krauthammer implies, and numerous others have asserted more pointedly – that the fate of the United States of America rests in the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy?

Before the answer to that question is revealed, consider whether such a situation has ever existed in the past. Has the fate of our country truly ever rested in the hands of a single individual? And if so, who and how many times?

The answer is: America’s fate has indeed been entrusted unto the hands of a single person – more than once. It would be foolhardy to argue that George Washington was not such a person. The outcome of the Revolutionary War – and consequently, whether the USA would be stillborn or not – was completely dependent on the skill, courage, wisdom and leadership of General Washington. Without him at the helm of the Continental Army, there would have been no United States of America. The same is true of Abraham Lincoln. Had he not been president and dealt successfully (albeit perhaps a little too slowly) with the southern revolt, the nation would have been cleaved in two.

The preceding cases are self-evident. For other presidents, the issue is much less clear. For example, one could argue that had it not been for FDR’s leadership, the Axis powers might have triumphed and our nation could have succumbed to totalitarian evil. (But see below.) Some consider that JFK’s combination of steely nerves and cool composure kept the nuclear genie in the bottle in 1962. Perhaps.

One can make equally, if not more compelling cases for Generals Grant, Lee and Eisenhower. If Lincoln had not elevated Grant and had the latter not been so skilled a warrior, the Civil War might have ended in a stalemate and the USA would have fractured. The same might have occurred had Lee been a more skilled and/or ruthless commander than he proved to be. And perhaps it wasn’t FDR who saved Western Civilization nearly 70 years ago, but rather Ike’s extraordinary leadership and command capabilities.

Some would argue for FDR, not because of his role in WWII, but rather because his economic programs during the Depression saved the United States. However, with the passage of time, we have learned that, on the contrary, FDR’s New Deal prolonged the Depression rather than ended it. But one can argue that certain financial giants did indeed hold the fate of the nation in their hands: Haym Solomon during the Revolutionary War; J.P. Morgan during the Panic of 1907; or Andrew Mellon during the early 1920s following the Depression of 1920-21.

Presidents, generals and mega-financiers – but no judges. John Marshall did much to determine the role that the Constitution and the Court would play in the young nation’s life. And we have had other influential jurists (e.g., Story, Holmes, Warren), but no one ever asserted that they held the fate of the nation in their hands. Is Anthony Kennedy the first judge to do so?

No liberal would subscribe to that notion. Should Kennedy decide to ditch Obamacare, liberals will be sorely disappointed. But they will see it as a temporary setback on the long road to converting America into a collectivist, Euro-style welfare state. Liberals/progressives believe in such a transformation, have worked tirelessly for it for a century, have enjoyed remarkable success and expect to complete the metamorphosis. They anticipate that Obama (if he is reelected) or some successor, together with a compliant Court, will finish the transformation. Such people account for perhaps 20-25% of the country.

An equal number, perhaps somewhat more – that is, those of the conservative persuasion – are mortified at the prospect. They see a federal government that is out of control; racking up unsustainable debt; engaging in unchecked regulatory oppression; dismantling the country’s defenses and denying the exceptional character of its nature. They see Obamacare as the tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to reverse America’s century-long slide into Euro-socialism. They foresee an inevitable loss of American exceptionalism, individual liberty and free market capitalism. For these people, there is no doubt that America’s fate is at the mercy of King Kennedy’s whim.

But what of the rest – the independents, moderates, centrists? In fact, given the starkly different and irreconcilable visions for America espoused by the left and right, the centrists are arguably either confused, apathetic or inattentive. It appears not to occur to them that their children’s fate will be determined by what the King decides. But the King will decide soon. Should he decide in favor of the progressives, it will not take long to see whether the dire consequences predicted by conservatives come to fruition. But should he go the other way, then one can hope that it will signal the end of the progressive slide and the beginning of a return to a more traditional America. With those diametrically opposed possible outcomes, it is clear that, indeed, Anthony Kennedy holds the fate of the nation in his hands.

This article also appeared in The American Thinker at:
and also in The Land of the Free at:


Law Schools Run Amok

A review of Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and Overlawyered America by Walter Olson

I have argued in this blog that the progressive movement in America achieved success by following the game plan of the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who advocated: capture the culture, the politics will follow. The Left implemented Gramsci’s scheme by slowly – over several generations – gaining control of virtually all the opinion-molding organs of American society. These included: the media, academia, the K-12 educational establishment, foundations, libraries, unions, government bureaucracies, seminaries, a host of NGOs, the upper echelons of large corporations and – the one germane to this review – the elite law schools. With these institutions firmly, if not overwhelmingly, under the sway of statist thought and action, it is not surprising that America’s culture and politics have drifted inexorably left in the last half century.[1] In Schools for Misrule, Walter Olson examines the leftward march of the nation’s prestigious law schools and the attendant deleterious effects on American society.

I will discuss the content of the book momentarily. But first I wish to highlight a claim made, albeit implicitly, by Olson in the book. Namely, of all the institutions that succumbed to leftist thought during the twentieth century, it was the surrender of the elite law schools that did the most damage to society. It is my goal to assess the worthiness of that assertion, and I encourage the reader to ponder the matter as I describe the salient features of Olson’s penetrating study.

Olson’s work is comprehensive and detailed. He traces, in mostly a chronological fashion, how progressive philosophy and leftist ideology at first seeped into and eventually flooded the halls of American law schools. He begins by pointing out that law schools became well established on American campuses precisely during the so-called Progressive Era, 1890-1914. The law schools’ newfound prominence dovetailed nicely with the advent of professional licensure in America. By that I mean the process by which the heretofore free-for-all entry of individuals into numerous professions and vocations began to be subject to government (or government-sanctioned) certification. This became common a century ago in various American businesses and industries – from meat slaughtering to pharmacy, from barbering to chauffeuring, from teaching to medicine. Well, there was no reason to exempt lawyering from the process. And so the country’s law schools became the gatekeepers for the nation’s legal profession. Thus the faculty at the nation’s law schools – especially, those of the elite variety – obtained control over the training and philosophical outlook of the nation’s lawyers. Since we are a country under the rule of law, those who control the lawyers thereby control the law and thus the country to a great extent.

Having established the seminal power of the legal academy, Olson then traces the history of American law schools via two series of developments: first, various quantum leaps at the schools themselves in the nature of their curricula and structure; and second, how the former resulted in many radical legal ploys that shook the nation. Within the first of these, perhaps the most striking was in the 1950s when Yale Law School announced that it would no longer require its students to take a course in Property. Now it is widely acknowledged that when Jefferson enunciated our natural rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it was well understood that happiness was to include, if not be a euphemism for “property.” The right to property is sacred in American law. Yale’s dropping it from its curriculum sent a powerful signal of the leftward drift of legal academia.

Some of the other major changes in law school curricula/structure that Olson discusses include: the almost obsessive focus on torts pioneered by William Prosser, the long-time Berkeley law dean; the compulsive emphasis on the training of law school students to be litigators rather than people steeped in a knowledge of the law who could put that knowledge to use in many different ways; the setting up of special “centers” in the schools, about the activities of which it would be difficult to distinguish from those of organized lobbying entities; and among these, law clinics – generously supported by liberal foundations – pursuing what is commonly called public interest law, thereby converting an academic enterprise into a hyper-political, “community organizing” type of operation. Naturally, Olson views all of this through the lens of a severe critic of the nation’s legal academy.

The above developments in law school curricula and structure heralded the belief – by those who ran the show – that ultimate legal authority should be vested in the hands of the judiciary, not the legislature – and that when necessary, law should be executed from the bench rather than from the White House or Governors’ mansions. This led to the birth of all manner of specious legal doctrines, causes, and actions. Olson discusses: the explosion in class action law suits; the emphasis on product liability; advocacy research by law school faculty; promotion of welfare; reparations for blacks…er, that is, African-Americans; Indian…er, that is, native American sovereignty; the rights of the poor; environmental rights; animal rights; endangered species; homeless advocacy; rule by injunction; and subservience of US law to international law. In every one of these quests, the overwhelming slant was to the left. Moreover, while pursuing these radical causes, our law schools trained legions of lawyers who went on to be trial lawyers, public defenders prosecutors, judges, Congressional aides – and of course Congressman if not presidents. These constituted a broad cadre of shock troops for the left who are thoroughly steeped in progressive ideology, who have no exposure to any other thought processes, who have no idea how programmed they are, who inflict their opinions on a cowed American public and who perpetuate their ideas and replicate themselves continually.

Olson’s style is actually quite engaging. Although he treats deadly serious issues with the earnestness that they deserve, he manages to maintain an understated, even restrained tone, which if anything makes his arguments more dramatic. Here is a typical example of his ability to gently, if sarcastically, find a silver lining behind a nasty cloud.

Are students being indoctrinated? (Sorry ‘ensured’ of having a ‘commitment to social justice’ fully ‘instilled’ in them…or encouraged to ‘struggle’ with implications of ‘lawyering within an unjust system.’) Well, the subject of indoctrination in the modern law school turns out to have generated a bit of an academic literature itself. Unfortunately, the theme of the literature is that schools are falling down on the duty to indoctrinate and need to be doing a much better job of it. The overall law school experience, complains one report, tends ‘to undermine student activism.’ For one thing, the work demands on students are so extreme that little time is left for marches and rallies. But the problems go further. You’re ‘taught to see that there are two equal sides of any issue,’ as a student complains in one widely cited volume. ‘Two equal sides’ is assuredly a misstatement; no law professor ever would or has presented both sides of all issues as truly equal. But it captures a kernel of truth about standard law training, which is that it conveys the skill of looking for ways in which the other guy – even a polluter, harasser or bigot – might have something of a case. In being forced to rationalize positions directly opposed to their own, one book laments, ‘most altruistic-oriented students are confronted with a perspective that seriously upsets their view of justice.’

Finally, why do I assert that Olson implicitly indicts the law schools as the worst malefactors in the liberal conquest of America? Primarily because of these passages in the final chapter of the book, entitled Conclusions:

“Irving Kristol famously discerned in modern American society the emergence of a new class, its standing founded more on educational achievement and cultural fluency than on older forms of wealth or social position, its specialty the manipulation of ideas and symbols rather than physical labor or the ownership of the means of production. Estranged from and suspicious of the world of property and business, the new class (Kristol argued) is instead friendly toward the continued expansion of governmental activity, in part because it is itself relatively successful in influencing the actions of government. In particular, it is skilled in argument, and it often achieves (whether in its voting patterns or in its likes and dislikes generally) a kind of class solidarity at least as cohesive and impressive as that of, say, business managers or factory workers.

According to Kristol and others who took up his analysis, the characteristic redoubts of the new class include the universities, journalism, and the media, the public sector itself, and the professions, especially law. But has ever an institution been developed that is as powerful an engine of the new class ethos as the one that sits astride all four of these sectors – the modern elite law school?”

So is he right? Was the Left’s conquest of the elite law schools the most consequential step in the liberal takeover of American culture and politics? I am not convinced. Tomes have been written about: the erosion of traditional American values by our pornographic media; the promotion of social justice – i.e., cultural Marxism – by major foundations; the constriction of our freedoms by an expansive, out-of-control federal bureaucracy; and the crony capitalism, which undermines faith in our capitalistic system, practiced by large corporate entities in cahoots with the government. Were any of these less destructive than the law schools? Actually, for my money, the greatest damage has been inflicted by the K-12 educational establishment. The brainwashing of our children, the theft of their ability to appreciate how exceptionally wonderful American history really is, and the conversion of our youth into economically illiterate, historically dense, sexually active, eco-freaks is a massive crime that steals their souls and prevents the country from snapping out of the leftist trance into which we have been hypnotized. This is not to minimize the havoc wrought by the elite law schools, nor does it diminish the clarity of Olson’s analysis. It just means that as much damage as the law schools have done, other segments of the leftist machine have done as much if not more.

[1] Ah, but what about Reagan and the Gingrich Congressional revolution? Alas, these were brief interludes in which sanity was partially restored. But under Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama, the trend has been unmistakably and unhesitatingly left. The crucial issue is whether the trend is also reversible.
[2] This review also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:

On the Two-Term Presidency

One of the greatest gifts that America has given to the world is the idea that the leader of a nation should be chosen freely by its people. Well, perhaps the notion did not originate in America, but the Yanks certainly showed the world how to do it. More spectacularly and more originally, the United States pioneered the following novel concept: when the favor of the people transfers from one faction (as Madison called them) or party to another, then the defeated incumbent gracefully steps aside as his victorious opponent peacefully and lawfully takes his place as the new leader. Indeed the peaceful transfer of power from the Federalists (Adams) to the Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson) in 1801 must be regarded as one of the most momentous advances in the history of human freedom.

Thus having taught the world how to peacefully install a legitimate leader, as well as how to gracefully escort him to the exit, it was incumbent upon the American people to decide how long they wished the time span between entrance and exit to last. George Washington solved the problem. He refused to serve more than two terms – thus setting a powerful precedent that lasted nearly a century and a half. This feature of America government became ingrained in our political DNA: presidents serve no more than two terms. And when finally this virtual commandment was violated by FDR, the nation ensured that there would be no repeat offense by writing it into the Constitution.

It is my thesis, however, that Washington set not only an upper bound, but a lower bound as well. Namely, he established the precedent that, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so, a sitting president shall be re-elected to a concluding second term. In fact, with the exception of two relatively brief periods (of 20-25 years each), it has been the habit of the American people to re-elect their presidents – unless one of two readily identifiable conditions (to be explained below) obtains.

In particular, not only Washington, but five of the first seven presidents were elected to two terms – the only exceptions being the Adams boys, father and son. Then followed a period (1837-1861) in which the American people gave the hook to every president. This fickle electoral behavior coincided with the extremely volatile antebellum period during which America was wrestling with the highly divisive slavery issue, as well as the rapid westward expansion of the nation.

The country reverted to form during 1861-1877 when it elected and re-elected Lincoln and Grant. But then came another 20-year period (1877-1897) when no president was re-elected. This includes Cleveland who served two non-consecutive terms. The explanation for non-stop presidential turnover in this period is not as clear cut as it is for the antebellum period. Certainly the late 1800s was a time of great upheaval in the country – but without any calamitous issue like slavery. It was the period of America’s industrialization: large migrations from farms to cities, growth of manufacturing, accumulation of wealth, massive immigration and the emergence of the USA as a world power. America was impatiently fulfilling its destiny as the world’s greatest bastion of individual liberty and free market prosperity. Perhaps its impatience extended to its assessments of its leaders.

Whatever the cause, following this period, the country reverted to form again in terms of its treatment of sitting presidents – and it remained there. From 1897 until 2009, only four US presidents were defeated for re-election: Taft, Hoover, Carter and Bush the father. (I do not count LBJ as he stepped aside voluntarily.) In the specified 112-year period, most sitting presidents, of both parties, were re-elected. The American people even re-elected FDR three times. So, how to explain the four exceptions? They fall into two categories. First Taft and Bush the elder. Both fell victim to an unusually strong third party candidate – Taft to Teddy Roosevelt and Bush to Ross Perot. Sans the extra competitor, it is almost certain that both Taft and Bush would have been re-elected. (I note, parenthetically, that the existence of such a candidate does not guarantee an upset – witness the 1924 election where the strong third party candidacy of LaFollette did not derail Coolidge’s re-election.)

More interesting are Hoover and Carter, who were trounced by their challengers without the help of a strong third party accomplice. Simply put, the people judged these two men to be incompetent, misguided and dangerous to the Republic. The public held them directly responsible for the sorry economic state of the country at the time of their race for re-election and sought remedy by decisively expelling them from office. Since the Spanish-American War, these two men hold the unique distinction of being the only sitting presidents to be summarily fired. This is quite an achievement on their part because many of our re-elected presidents were not held in universally high esteem. Yes, some were extremely popular and were re-elected in a cake walk (e.g., Reagan, Eisenhower, FDR); but others had to battle mightily to retain their positions, sometimes by slim margins (e.g., Bush the younger, Truman, Wilson). The American people might have been ambivalent about the latter presidents’ performances, but as was their natural inclination, the people stuck with their president. Not so for Hoover and Carter who are now universally ranked among our worst presidents.

Which brings me at last to Obama? What is to be done with him? Despite various entreaties, it appears that Hillary will not challenge him, nor will The Donald or Bloomberg – so no serious non-Republican contender is about to emerge. Therefore, the Republican challenger – whoever he or she might be – can oust the president only if the people judge Obama an utter failure. In fact, contrary to his promises, Obama has not brought forth hope, or any change for the better. He has not fostered a post racial society, but rather he is the author of economic despair, class warfare, a vision of America in decline, and the remaking of the US according to the European welfare state model. All this has led to dissatisfaction and a sense of betrayal about his presidency. The issue is: what is the magnitude of the dissatisfaction? Either the people will swallow their disappointment and follow their natural instinct to grant him a second turn at the wheel; or if the dissatisfaction is truly deep and broad, he will be dismissed with gusto. Given the well-known features of the red-blue electoral map, there are therefore only two possibilities. Either Obama will squeak by in an extremely close contest (à la Bush junior in 2004), or he will be blown out of the water like Carter in 1980. Personally, I believe that Obama is an incompetent, overly self confident, narcissistic, hardcore leftist ideologue who is dragging America toward a cliff similar to the one off of which most of the countries of Western Europe are plunging. I hope, but am not confident, that most of America recognizes this. If so, he is toast. If not, he might squeak by and retain the presidency. We will know in less than a year.
This article also apeared in The American Thinker at: