We don’t need a new Messiah

The Obamas visit Calvin Coolidge High. Pity none of it brushed off on him.

It was Calvin Coolidge’s birthday also:

Coolidge’s legacy, regrettably unknown or forgotten by most, is a paradigm of conservatism that can serve as a valuable guidepost amid today’s political tumult. In an age dominated by rhetorical flash and personal charm, principle and genuine character drift into lesser considerations. But they defined Coolidge, both as a statesman and, more importantly, as a person.

When one thinks of modern conservatism, essential tenets of governance come to mind: low taxes, low regulation, federalism. Coolidge certainly shared this worldview. He once famously quipped: “Four-fifths of our troubles would disappear, if we would only sit down and keep still.”

Under Coolidge, the federal budget was cut, the national debt decreased by almost half, and standards of living, from literacy to wealth, increased across the board. From a 20% high in 1921, unemployment under Coolidge came down to an average of 3.3% a year. American prosperity stemmed directly from Coolidge’s belief in free enterprise: “Wealth is the product of industry, ambition, character and untiring effort.”

The example of Coolidge’s record extends beyond fiscal matters, particularly regarding his commitment to the rule of law and belief in states’ rights.

Contrast this with the big spending Obama. Contrast it with the Cult of the Presidency:

The chief executive of the United States is no longer a mere constitutional officer charged with faithful execution of the laws. He is a soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns, and spiritual malaise. He—or she—is the one who answers the phone at 3 a.m. to keep our children safe from harm. The modern president is America’s shrink, a social worker, our very own national talk show host. He’s also the Supreme Warlord of the Earth.

This messianic campaign rhetoric merely reflects what the office has evolved into after decades of public clamoring. The vision of the president as national guardian and spiritual redeemer is so ubiquitous it goes virtually unnoticed. Americans, left, right, and other, think of the “commander in chief” as a superhero, responsible for swooping to the rescue when danger strikes. And with great responsibility comes great power.

It’s difficult for 21st-century Americans to imagine things any other way. The United States appears stuck with an imperial presidency, an office that concentrates enormous power in the hands of whichever professional politician manages to claw his way to the top. Americans appear deeply ambivalent about the results, alternately cursing the king and pining for Camelot. But executive power will continue to grow, and threats to civil liberties increase, until citizens reconsider the incentives we have given to a post that started out so humble.

The U.S. does not need a messianic president – it needs a man who will do his job and put Americans first. England does not need a messiah – it needs a Prime Minister with a clear policy and no u-turns who will fulfil that policy and administer the nation we’ve entrusted him to administer in a sober way, with integrity.

The only Messiah I need I hope one day to meet on the other side of the Styx.

[H/T Chuckles]

1 comment for “We don’t need a new Messiah

  1. July 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    “We don’t need a new Messiah” – especially role volunteers.

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