Election 2012: A Referendum on Mediocrity

Someone once offered me a great analogy of being in a dysfunctional relationship. People asked her why she stayed in it so long. She replied, “It’s kind of like being in a room with a bad odor. After awhile, you no longer notice it. Then when you leave the room, you understand immediately.”

This makes me think of American society at present. We have a self-evidently bad President, and a Congress who’s clearly unwilling to tell the truth to voters and face facts. Yet the majority are poised to reelect the same office holders.

It’s as if there’s a “new normal” in America. America has lost its credit rating. The gap between rich and poor — a symptom of a managed or socialist economy, not a capitalist one — is reportedly growing larger, despite an essentially socialist President whose polices have been ruling us. Taxes are about to go through the roof in January and the President we’re about to reelect will do nothing to stop this. Regulations on business are growing all the time, and economic growth is no longer great. While it used to be at least 4 percent of growth a year to be considered a boom or recovery, we’re now in recovery with barely 1 percent. Unemployment is probably closer to 15 percent than 8 percent, and millions of Americans either give up on employment permanently, stay on the government dole, or both.

All of this is the culmination not only of Obama’s wrecking ball of an economic program, but literally decades and decades of Republican-Democrat expansion of government control over society, particularly health care, education and the financial markets. Even five years ago, these economic and social conditions would have been considered disasters. But most of us are getting used to it.

It’s the “new normal” in America. And the widespread indifference to it is what’s most disturbing.

America has become like Western Europe in that respect, and like the woman in that dysfunctional relationship who stopped seeing what was right in front of her every day.

Human beings are very adaptable creatures. That’s one of our strengths. Unfortunately, it sometimes turns against us. When we come to expect less of ourselves, and less is expected of us by others, we get complacent. We get content with what we have. If the whole argument for reelecting Obama could speak freely and without the inhibition of “spin,” it would say: “Come on. It could be worse. And at least I appeal to that part of you who hates the successful guy.” It’s small, it’s mean and it’s uninspiring. Yet it seems to be what most people want, or are willing to settle for.

The issue is deeper than Obama. I will grant that little or nothing of inspiration is being offered in contrast. However, that’s no excuse for at least not rejecting what’s being offered.

The deeper issue is what Ayn Rand has referred to as the “age of mediocrity.” Others have written of the “soft tyranny” of low expectations. Mediocrity is the opposite of being all that you can be. Mediocrity refers to doing as little as you can to get by, doing so resentfully, and seeing those who excel as your enemy. That’s what Obama represents, but there would be no Obama without the prevalence of such a psychological attitude for Obama to “cash in” on.

There’s a saying to the effect of, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” True enough. But the flip side of the same saying should be, “Don’t let your comfort zone be an excuse for not pursuing the good — or the great.”

Psychologically and, quite frankly morally, there’s something wrong with a society dominated by people who don’t want to live around excellence. Envy, the sort perpetrated by the Obamas of the world, is an irrational and despairing human emotion. It’s Obama’s calling card, both in policy and speech.

Obama is more than a welfare statist and socialist in practice. We get those in office all the time, in both parties. What makes Obama different is that he’s explicit about it. He’s not just peddling an expansion of the bad policies that went before him, policies of Big Government control that got us into all this economic trouble in the first place. He’s peddling an attitude that “You didn’t build that.” When he says things like this, he’s not misspeaking. I believe he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s speaking to that part of too many people, the part willing to settle.

In order to settle, you must first get rid of the threat of excellence. Instead of encouraging people to rejoice in excellence and success and prosperity — as a true leader would do — Obama seeks to tear them down. By claiming that the doers and achievers of the world “didn’t build that” he’s hoping that the great majority of people will think — or at least feel — “He’s right. I’m sick of these know-it-alls claiming everything for themselves.”

By attacking the best and brightest of society, and the only system (freedom, including unfettered capitalism) which makes it all possible, Obama is attacking the best within the human spirit. He’s undermining the only things that make happiness on earth possible: Achievement — your own, and others’.

Will a majority of Americans soon endorse this explicit endorsement of mediocrity for its own sake, in the form of an election that is deeper than mere politics? We will soon know.


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