By Brad Tidwell
Just before July 4th, President Barack Obama told a Minneapolis crowd “cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice”. In other words, it’s America’s fault for being cynical.
Obama is upset that American confidence in government is at its lowest level during his presidency, so he… gives a speech. Rather than acknowledging the source of their cynicism, he blamed the American public for being cynical.
The content of Obama’s speech is eerily similar to a speech former President Jimmy Carter once gave, commonly called the “malaise” speech, which is commonly used to signify the downfall in Carter’s presidency, where he infamously said:
“It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation… Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy.”
The reason many credit this speech for the downfall of Carter was not because of its immediate reaction — the speech itself rallied Carter’s poll numbers. But it was Carter’s failure to act decisively afterwards that pointed to the real crisis of competence, notes Prospect.org’s Kevin Mattson.
“Carter could give a great speech, but there were two things he couldn’t manage: to govern well enough to make his language buoy him or to find a way to yoke the energy crisis with concrete civic re-engagement initiatives,” Mattson wrote.
The reason people are cynical now are the same reasons people were cynical under Carter. Rather than taking responsibility for issues during his administration, or reaching across the aisle to achieve some measure of bipartisanship, all Obama has is more empty words.
Americans are cynical because Obama swept into office on the back of a million promises he knew he could never keep.
He promised the economy would get better, then settled for “it could be worse”. He excoriated the previous administration for unacceptable unemployment, and then presided over the lowest workforce participation since 1978.
He promised to reverse the trend of bringing “more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all”, and then proceeded to unilaterally issue executive orders that have earned him unprecedented unanimous rebukes from the Supreme Court. He said avoiding congress was unconstitutional, which turned into “we can’t wait” for the constitutional role of Congress.
There is no excuse. Hope and change has turned into cynicism and stagnancy, and it’s directly the fault of this administration. Like with Jimmy Carter, the problem with America was not a “Crisis of Confidence”, it’s a crisis of competence.
If he wants to change the culture of cynicism he’s created, Obama should start first by changing his actions, not blaming America for being skeptical.
Brad Tidwell is the web editor of Americans for Limited Government.