“Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.” Isa 55:4
President Obama is sitting at an interesting cross roads in his presidency. In my opinion it will determine whether he will be regarded as Lincoln or Roosevelt, or something more in the middle of the pack.
The crossroads moment is whether or not he is willing to confront the key ideological issue at play in the electorate today.
That issue is the role of government in the lives of its citizens.
The conservative view is that government is the problem. By implication, the solution to every problem then must be less government and more free market.
Roosevelt faced this same choice when he was elected. The stock market had crashed and the Great Depression was in full howl. The wisdom at the time was to reduce government and trust that the markets and the economy would recover on their own. Roosevelt chose to confront the issue head on when he said in his first inaugural speech that, “We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster”
This summarizes the liberal economic position then and today.
There is a role for government and it is to provide the greatest good to the greatest number of people. It is also an outright rejection of the notion that free markets inherently serve the best interests of the people.
Even after the financial meltdown which demonstrated in the most obvious possible ways the inability of the free market to govern itself, conservatives continue to insist that government is the problem.
Until President Obama takes on this issue directly, he will continue to fight a trench war against this ideology. Fighting that trench war will only demonstrate to those who distrust government, that it is incapable of responding in a timely fashion to any challenge.
What we need is renewed faith in the ability of government to solve the big problems and hold the excesses of the market in check. This trust comes from our leader standing up and saying that the problem is not government. The problem is those who seek to obstruct the common good for their own self-interest.
If he does take this issue on directly, he has the opportunity to become the leader that we all hoped he would be.