- - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Now approaching the last months of his presidency, President Obama and others are beginning to talk seriously about his legacy. In 2008, he set out to transform America. He has indeed been a transformational president. He has transformed the American presidency into an autocracy, the federal government into an oligarchy, and the American public into an anarchy composed of self-seeking tribes, each of whom views its success in terms of defeating its enemies.

This last feat is the most worrisome, and could become the most permanent. The United States of America is an experiment in the history of the human race. It is held together, not by a common race, or a common religion, or a common ethnic culture, as are most other nation states. In that sense, the USA is not a natural union. What holds us all together is a common language, which informs us of a common history, and, most of all, a common idea. That idea is best expressed by the Declaration of Independence;

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Sociologists divide society into multiple groups, called sub-cultures or “tribes”. A tribe is a social group consisting of people who have the same beliefs, customs, language, and governance. The term, “tribe”, also denotes a pre-state grouping, smaller and more personal than a state. Americans have always shared with other nations a certain tribalization based usually on ethnicity (race, language, national origin), sectarianism (churches), geography (e.g. North versus South), or occupation (e.g. unions). Most Americans belong to more than one tribe.

What held all these tribes together in America was a realization that certain tribal dictates might have to bow to the common good — willingly or unwillingly — in order to share the individual freedoms all cherish. This understanding is summed up in the statements like “America is a nation of laws, not men;” and “Everyone is equal under the law”. This umbrella and those who adhere to it could be called the “American Super-tribe”.

This underlying consensus has always been fragile, and never truly universal, as in the case of slavery, and various outbreaks of violence and protest, such as Hoovervilles, race riots, union wars, and other incidents in American history which required the use of military force to restore peace.

Today, that consensus has been lost by many of America’s tribes. Increasingly, each tribe defines itself by fighting another tribe, such as Black Lives Matter against the police. We are thus not “Americans” but black versus white, poor versus rich, young versus old, Hispanic versus Anglos, minority versus majority, immigrants versus natives, etc. The new morality dictates that each individual accept whatever moral stance the group advocates to the exclusion of all other positions, thus rendering meaningful dialog nearly impossible. Morality is then a product of tribal loyalty rather than any rational process or logic which transcends the group and allows compromises with other tribes. Today, the very existence of the historical “American Super Tribe” is threatened.

For this, we have President Obama to thank. The strategy which he used to get elected president twice was precisely the use of demographic data to pinpoint the tribes which could be expected to respond favorably to the “us versus them” appeal of a black man. This “divide and conquer” strategy, of course, would never have worked if there had been no basis in reality for the approach. What the Obama campaign did was to exploit very effectively these latent tribal complaints by bringing them into the public discourse and by blaming their lack of resolution on the traditional American tribes, namely Republicans, conservatives, while people, and large corporations.

The Obama people successfully used this strategy first in order to get elected, and then in order to govern. Each of the tribes was rewarded by the Obama government, some by the expansion of welfare (e.g. Obamacare), some by lucrative government contracts (e.g. Solyndra, Inc.), some by new laws and regulations (e.g. gay marriage), and others by official recognition (e.g. Black Lives Matter).

It should not have been expected that self-proclaimed victims of over two centuries of racial injustice would show the same reverence for the Constitution and institutions that Americans had come to expect from their president. After all, this is the same system under which their ancestors were persecuted. And so it was. With the aid of a Democratic Senate and an extremely aggressive Attorney General, President Obama became a truly transformational president, as noted above. He has been the “Great Divider”.

This situation has been significantly affected by two factors. First is the mass media. Any message can be promulgated instantly and universally today. Secondly, pop culture has focused increasingly on past injustices and hypocrisies which have always coexisted with the calls for law and order, but have generally remained unremarked until recently. These messages have undermined the prestige of our institutions to a disastrous extent.

A case in point: As it has become increasingly known that many of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America were not only idealists but simultaneously slaveholders, their legacy in the Declaration of Independence (by slaveholder Thomas Jefferson), the Bill of Rights (by slaveholder James Madison), and the Constitution itself (championed by slaveholder George Washington) has been diminished to the point of oblivion for many contemporary Americans, particularly black and Native American populations. The standard call of conservatives for interpreting the Constitution as “the Founders intended” becomes threatening in the minds of these groups. When the Constitution is sidelined, the entire legal structure of the United States is called into question.

These assaults on the values which have been central to the idea of America, while not initiated by the Obama tribes, have been skillfully exploited by them for the purpose of gaining and retaining power. It is not necessary to attribute malicious motives to the Obama Left in spite of their cynical manipulation of their constituencies. They are undoubtedly sincere in their uses of power to achieve a socialist USA.

It is not their motivation that is dangerous; rather it is their success. Hillary Clinton is attempting to use the same divide and conquer strategy — and for the same goals — as Mr. Obama (though so far not as successfully). If allowed to stand for another four years by her election, especially if she is able to pack the Supreme Court, the great experiment that has been the United States of America for the past 240 years will be replaced by the Socialist Republic of America. That will be the definitive legacy of Barack Obama.

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