Obama and the Disillusionment of America


The anniversaries we have just celebrated seem like they come from another country, not just another time.

Call it the disillusionment of America. And Obama may have disillusioned more Americans than any president in memory.

Think about it: Those who believed in America’s right to life and assumed someone with his extreme views on abortion would never be elected were disillusioned. Those who believed with JFK and Abraham Lincoln that we were “under God” thought that you couldn’t opposed all four major religions on marriage and still be elected. They, too, were disillusioned.

And now his supporters are being disillusioned.

Let’s track the disillusionment:

“Occupy” Fans. It was early in the first term that Matt Tabbi raised the first alarm in The Rolling Stone in an article called “Obama’s Big Sellout.” Said Tabbi:

“Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place.”

Catholic Supporters. Given his record of abortion support, Catholics who wanted to support Obama never had much of a case. But some spent personal reputation capital on him — from Pepperdine to Notre Dame to Georgetown — calling him the “liberty and justice for all” candidate as he repeatedly promised to give Catholics freedom of conscience. They soon found themselves shoved back down to earth by the HHS Mandate that gave the Heisman stiff arm to Catholics.

Civil Liberties Activists. Remember when people could paint Bush and Cheney as privacy-hating spooks trying to listen in on our phone calls and bully American citizens? They can’t anymore.  The Bush Administration was the soul of discretion and care compared to the Obama administration. Obama told Leno he didn’t spy on Americans, but records show different. Reports point to such victims as  Verizon customers, email users, internet users, and car users … not just friendly heads of state and, possibly, popes. The betrayal stings.

Big Government Believers.  Bill Clinton famously declared that the era of big government was over. For a while, it seemed like Obama was going to prove him wrong. Perhaps he still will. But with the government unable to deliver a healthcare website, let alone a whole new healthcare system, Clinton’s pronouncement may have been right after all. The high profile self-destruction of Obamacare is a high-profile lesson in the folly of expecting government efficiency. There is no better symbol of the disillusionment than the name “Obamacare.” The president was once proud to name his healthcare legislation after himself. No more.

The “Probama” Media. The fawning coverage of Obama from day one is perhaps epitomized by the fawning  “60 Minutes” interview of Steve Kroft which one critic described as better resembling  a fan magazine interviewing Justin Bieber than a news magazine interviewing the president. The disillusionment came when the AP scandal showed how Obama treated his scribes: With grave disrespect that scared even the New Yorker. The AP was so demoralized that they even let fly a political column that predicted the demise of Obama’s second term over Obamacare … last June. (Blocking news access just adds to the betrayal.)

The list of disillusioned constituents just keeps going on …  Military and, heck, Americans in general over Benghazi;  peace activists over the redefinition of war-zone civilians, the Guantanamo inaction, the kill teams, and the bellicosity of Obama in general; anti-gun and pro-gun Americans, both, over “Fast and Furious,” etc.

But disillusionment is a good thing, not a bad thing. To be disillusioned means to take off one’s rose-colored glasses and seeing the world as it is. To be disillusioned means to stop believing a lie.

What is critical is what follows disillusionment. Disillusionment can lead to despair. When our comfortable version of reality is shattered, we might think we have nothing left. But disillusionment should lead to liberation. “The truth will set you free,” said Jesus — seeing things as they are should free us in the way the lifting of a fog helps a ship.

It is important to help that freedom happen. Tell the disillusioned left that there are alternatives — no, alas, a savior government does not exist, but the American founders speak a lot of sense about how a humbled, checked and balanced government can serve the people.

As for the disillusioned right, their condition is not a bad thing either. No, America is not the sure thing for “fiscal common sense” or “family values” that some told themselves it is. But there are still a lot of voters out there ripe for the catching if we learn how to fish. Democracy works through education of the public about the way thing are. It’s good to know that we have to try harder.

Frankly, the real danger are the “undisillusioned.” These includes those who hang on to the dream that big government is the answer, no matter what reality says. Also included are the libertarians whose market-only fantasies are too hotly stoked by the debacle of Obamacare.

And most dangerous of all are the “still-illusioned” Republicans who believe the last election taught us that focusing on abortion and marriage is death for the Republican party. We can only hope that this important research will help disillusion them, too.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department and edits The Gregorian, a Catholic identity speech digest. He was previously editor of the National Catholic Register for 10 years and with his wife, April, of Faith & Family magazine for five. A frequent contributor to Catholic publications, he began his career as a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area and as press secretary for U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer. He lives in Atchison with his wife and those of his nine children still at home. The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Benedictine College or the Gregorian Institute.

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