According to Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Now, obviously I don’t expect an Obama presidency to institute work camps and reeducation centers — rhetoric such as this is par for the course these days, and is merely symptomatic of a larger problem infecting U.S. politics. Americans are no longer expected to merely vote for an individual that they believe will best enforce the laws of the land. As the blogger IOZ points out, Americans go to the polls to elect a Caesar-like figure who, for a period of four to eight years, is expected to become a de facto dictator. And in an age when a president can unilaterally decide to attack a foreign country without congressional approval, the president-as-dictator view is not merely fear mongering hyperventilation — it’s fact (and for those who think I’m referring just to the Bush years, you might want to look up Bill Clinton’s bombing of a Sudanese aspirin factory and air war on Serbia, just for starters).
But returning to Michelle Obama’s comment, as Daniel Larison at The American Conservative writes:
You have to marvel at the use of so many phrases implying coercion, rather than persuasion: require, demand, never allow. I’m sorry, but in a still nominally free country the chief magistrate of a republic does not make demands of citizens, but enforces the laws enacted by their representatives. That is what the President does, or is supposed to do. He does not, cannot, rightfully require things of any citizen that the citizen does not already owe to his country, namely loyalty and patriotic service. That is what he is allowed to ask from us, because it is something we are already obliged to render. It is not he who permits and allows, but, at least in theory, we who permit him to serve us. He will not be a jefe or archigos to whom we are swearing personal allegiance (despite the confusion of some Bush supporters on this point), but a public servant who executes the laws and obeys the Constitution.
Regardless of whether you feel Barack Obama is the most supremely qualified candidate for president out there, if he is elected he’ll be assuming dictatorial powers. If he so chose, he could send U.S. troops to Darfur or to any number of global hotspots on a whim. He could have you (and your grandmother) renditioned (my spellcheck clearly has a pre-9/11 mindset, as it considers that word a typo) to be tortured in some hellhole in Eastern Europe, if he so chose. The question isn’t whether Barack Obama would exercise these powers more wisely than his opponents, it’s whether he should have these powers to begin with. And considering the corrupting influence of power, I’m not sure I’d trust Jesus with the presidency, much less Barack Obama — not that some of his supporters would know the difference.