- - Wednesday, January 23, 2013

At this time four years ago, I accepted an invitation to attend President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities. Like many Americans, I was concerned about the academic and spiritual advisers who had surrounded the new leader of the Free World. Caught up in the historic circumstances that propelled this man to the presidency, I joined the many who were hopeful that he would seize the opportunity to bring all Americans together and inspire those caught in the spiral of despair and hopelessness to get out of that perpetuating cycle.

Some of his remarks in Monday’s relatively short inaugural address were, indeed, on the mark. President Obama confirmed that “we the people” have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and to our founding documents.

Yet this address was in stark contrast to his hopeful and bipartisan address from 2009. Four years ago, his words seemed to acknowledge American exceptionalism — the idea that America is different from other nations because our government is limited and our people are sovereign and free. His actions over the past four years have limited the people’s economic freedom, religious freedom and even the right to life, while the government’s power has grown. If you listened carefully yesterday, he promised to do more of the same.

He wants to continue to fundamentally transform our country to a place where more decisions that are important to America’s families are made in government buildings rather than around kitchen tables.

In spite of his claims that we are now at peace and that al Qaeda is on the run, today the world is a more dangerous place than when he first took office. Last week, three innocent American hostages were killed in Algeria.

Domestically, more Americans are on welfare, food stamps and Medicaid than when Mr. Obama took office. In his view, this is a success. It’s a sad day in America when our president measures success by how many more people are receiving federal assistance rather than how many more have the dignity and economic freedom that comes with a job to support themselves and their families. The president seems undaunted by the colossal failure of his efforts to delve into the private sector and attempt to tip the scales by picking losers over winners.

While he defended greatness in his 2009 inaugural remarks, on Monday he chastised those whose success has brought them hard-earned wealth. Class warfare, which started shortly after his first year in office and was perpetuated as a main theme in his re-election campaign speeches, has now been confirmed as a keystone of his second term in office. Efforts to redistribute wealth in America through higher taxes are here to stay.

Confronted with runaway debt, broken entitlement programs and an overtaxed American citizenry, Mr. Obama chose as a theme of this inaugural to promote the status quo and to chastise those who seek to responsibly fix the crisis, reforming these programs so current and future recipients can enjoy the benefits of their labor. As the president showed during the “fiscal cliff” crisis — and in the face of the upcoming debt ceiling increases debate — he intends not to compromise one inch. His Democratic colleagues in the U.S. Senate are of the same mindset.

The president misread his success in the election as a mandate to carry out a laundry list of big-government, liberal agenda items. If you are a committed ultra-liberal, this was your finest hour. If you are a moderate Democrat or center-right Republican, your aspirations to become the catalyst for compromise just evaporated. If you are a committed conservative — wake up. They are about to run you over unless you are willing to take a principled stand and fight back.

The same day the American people voted to re-elect Mr. Obama, they also voted to re-elect a Republican House. That election must be respected as well. In the governments closest to their homes and hearts, the American people also elected a majority of Republican governors and conservative majorities in state legislatures across the country. They are finding new and innovative ways to address our challenges and represent people who believe in Second Amendment rights, protection against voter fraud, traditional values and want to save Medicare from bankruptcy now rather than wait for it to happen in 10 years.

To my friends in Congress and fellow conservatives, you have two clear choices: surrender in exchange for meaningless small tokens, or fight back for the very principles of American exceptionalism.

Now is the time to stand tall and defend our liberty. Stand firm in your beliefs, articulate them well and believe that if we are right, we will prevail.

Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union and a former two-time chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.