This turning on a dime to fit momentary political needs strikes me as both dishonest and destructive. Absolutely contrary to our collective interests, it places Obama’s desire to destroy his rivals above the interests of the rest of us — especially our children and grandchildren.
But then something else occurred to me. I was reminded of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact that preceded World War II. This accord, which freed Hitler’s hands to attack the West, also included a section that allowed Germany and Russia to divide Poland between them.
Before this deal was reached, the Communists had been adamant anti-Nazis. They had castigated Hitler and his henchmen as the scum of the earth. But then, quite suddenly, Hitler was rehabilitated. Now he was a statesman of the first order.
This change clearly served Stalin’s interests. He was justifiably frightened of Germany’s aggressive intentions and wished to buy time by appeasing his potential foe. According to his calculations, this would provide the breathing space needed to beef up his own forces.
Meanwhile, across the pond in the United States, Stalin’s communist allies were listening to their master’s voice. Almost immediately, their attitude toward Hitler was transformed. Leaping to stay in step with the party line, they too became more respectful of the Nazi dictator.
Which brings us to the contemporary America. When Obama did his U-turn, so did loyal Democrats. Both in and out of Congress, they declared that there was no spending problem. Yes, the national debt was large, but not so large that the nation could not easily absorb it.
This, of course, was disingenuous. Democrats could do the math. They had to realize, along with the congressional budget office, that the debt trajectory was unsustainable. Yet this realization paled in comparison with their short-term political objectives.
Whatever the long-term risks, they calculated that they could kick the can a bit further down road without precipitating an immediate crisis. They, along with their leader, reckoned that this would enable them to blame Republicans for being stingy — at least until the mid-term election delivered both houses of Congress into their hands. And so the party loyalists turned on a dime. Without fully thinking through the implications of their reversal, they fell into lockstep. This, it seems to me, is just as dangerous as Obama’s inconsistency; just as dangerous as the faithfulness of communist fellow travelers to Stalin eight decades ago.
Loyalty is a good thing, but blind loyalty can be fatal. Too many Americans reflexively close ranks with the party of their usual choice. Instead of paying attention to the issues at stake, they, like their mentors, are more concerned with defeating political enemies.
Nevertheless, I refuse to believe that moderate liberals cannot bring themselves to see the looming dangers. They too, after all, are capable of understanding the implications of the Greek and Cypriote meltdowns. These may be tiny countries, yet the lessons of partisan irresponsibility are huge.
Radical liberals, however, are another matter. They routinely dismiss the consequences of fiscal mismanagement. As moral warriors, they are like the Viking berserkers who blindly rushed into battle swinging their axes, oblivious of the adjacent dangers.
The question is, what of the rest of us? Will we follow their lead? Will we continue to kowtow to national authority figures irrespective of what they say? Or will more of us begin thinking for ourselves?
Back in the 1930s, Americans who bothered to notice what Hitler was doing were mortified. Will enough of us today be sufficiently alarmed by contemporary developments to stand against them? We will see.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.