Kathleen Parker can’t find enough good things to say about this manipulative and rather dishonest piece of advertising. Perhaps the most annoying part of the ad is at the end when the narrators says that voters should “choose a smaller, more caring government, one that remembers us.” It doesn’t actually make sense to argue for a government that is both smaller and more “caring.” Under other circumstances, serious advocates of smaller government would not stoop to manipulating the sentiments of voters by talking about a government that is “more caring.” It used to be that critics of expansive and intrusive government sensed danger when people started talking about a government that “cares,” because this was cover for unnecessary and harmful power-grabs.
The old-fashioned argument is that it is not government’s responsibility to “care” for us, but that we should support ourselves or care for one another. That’s not exactly a winning message in a weak economic recovery with 9% unemployment, so the producers of the ad have to be misleading. From the perspective of small-government conservatives, one of the virtues of small government is that the government is in no position to “remember” the citizens, much less be “more caring” towards them than a more expansive, larger government. The producers of the ad hope to tap into the belief that Americans can have it all: a government that is smaller than the one we have, and a government that is “more caring” than the government we already have. The producers want to appeal to the American conceit that Americans love negative liberty while leaning heavily on the reality that many Americans want the government to provide for or “care” for them.
As someone behind the scenes in the ad’s production told me: “It says what we know in our hearts, that something is terribly wrong.
“In 1984, Americans were more optimistic about their future. Now, Americans feel uncertain and are deeply concerned about the direction of the country. . . . This president truly looks at America differently than Reagan did. Reagan saw America as a shining beacon to the old world. Obama explicitly rejects American exceptionalism. . . .”
For the thousandth time, Obama doesn’t reject American exceptionalism explicitly or implicitly. This is what we call a lie. We can only hope that Obama does not indulge in the same cheap, saccharine optimism that informed Reagan’s wonderfully content-free re-election campaign. It was partly because of that belief in limitless growth and the optimistic delusion that Americans could have it all that we now find ourselves in our current predicament. What would be truly sad is if we keep making the mistakes that we have made for the last several decades and confuse those mistakes for the path to national recovery.