Has America been fundamentally transformed?

In late autumn 2008, five days before he beat John McCain by nine million votes, Barack Obama stood before thousands of enthralled supporters and promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” An eruption of raucous applause and irrepressible, ecstatic cries forced Obama to pause mid-speech. The candidate smiled, took a step back from his podium, and waited patiently for the news media to regain their composure. Simultaneously, in living rooms across the country, conservatives felt their blood run cold.

Fundamental transformation? What did that mean? Could one president actually do that? And what did Mr. Obama find so objectionable about our nation’s fundamentals? Sadly, we never got a direct answer because our press never asked the question.

But the answer may be about to reveal itself.

Anyone observing American presidential elections over the past four decades could draw at least one irrefutable truth. Optimism wins in America. From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, the winning candidate has always been the one who projected a brighter vision of tomorrow. And while that may sound banal — on Earth, candidates promise brighter futures wherever elections are held — the American version is different.

Fidel Castro promised his people brighter tomorrows for more than 50 years. But Cubans didn’t believe him. Why would they? Nothing ever changed.

Americans have seen poor people become rich. They’ve witnessed their neighbors prosper. They’ve worked hard themselves and watched their own lives get better. The average American rises through several socio-economic classes during his or her lifetime. We believe in prosperity because we’ve seen it, tasted it, lived it. Our culture is unique. As a people, we believe that we are masters of our own destiny.

So when our aspiring leaders speak of brighter tomorrows, they are not promising impossible gifts from the government like third-world dictators. Our leaders are promising to keep our system free, to get obstacles out of our way so that we can create our own prosperity. Many candidates do this out of ritual. But the good ones, as they make their promises, understand that they are maintaining a three-century-year-old covenant. When the American experiment began, a self-ruling nation was built upon a foundation of self-ruling individuals.

And this brings us full circle to President Obama’s eerie promise and Tuesday’s election.

For the last several weeks, Mitt Romney has been promising a brighter future, talking about the blessings of the free market. Romney has been predicting an American resurgence. Like winning candidates before him, Romney is acknowledging, praising and encouraging self-rule. He is maintaining the covenant.

What has Barack Obama been doing?

He’s been mean, petty, sarcastic and small. He’s been a fear monger. For months now, our commander-in-chief has been telling American citizens that they’re getting screwed — by fat cats, by Romney, by Republicans, by anyone but him. They rightfully deserve free health care, free education and jobs with good salaries, but their “enemies” are going to take them away. There’s no “yes, we can” anymore. And forget about “hope and change.” It’s all about “revenge” now. Obama is running on fear and venom. No matter how poorly his administration may have performed, there’s nowhere to go but “forward.”

It seems like a losing strategy. Optimism is the generations-old, tried and true, winning bipartisan recipe. But …

The cold realization hit me late last night. Maybe I’m the last one to connect the dots.

America’s welfare rolls have increased 32% over the last four years. That’s it. That’s Obama’s fundamental transformation. There was no grand sinister plan. It wasn’t ingenious. It wasn’t subtle. It wasn’t even hidden. To fundamentally transform a self-ruling nation, Barack Obama had to attack the self-rule of individual Americans. Little by little, the president has attempted to turn a nation of doers into a nation of takers.

And he may have succeeded. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at [email protected]