President Barack Obama used his set-piece speech in Europe on Wednesday to couple Vladimir Putin’s crudely nationalist takeover of Crimea with the increasingly popular opposition to his big-government, progressive agenda.
“Casual indifference [to President Vladimir Putin's attack on Crimea]… would allow the old way of doing things to regain a foothold in this young century,” he declared.
Progressive “ideals have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power… Often this alternative vision roots itself in the notion that by virtue of race or faith or ethnicity, some are inherently superior to others and that individual identity must be defined by us versus them,” he claimed.
Throughout his speech, Obama contrasted progressives’ supposedly universalist ideals with conservatives’ ideal of smaller governments that are tailored to the preferences of their unique populations.
The progressive ideals include the “United Nations and a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law and the means to enforce those laws,” he said.
The universalist ideals should also trump local self-government, he said. “We know that there will always be intolerance, but instead of fearing the immigrant, we can welcome him,” he told his European audience, which is increasingly preoccupied with the difficult task of integrating tens of millions of unassimilated and unemployed immigrants — many of whom are Muslim.
“Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights,” Obama said, without bothering to explain why policy goals adopted by gay advocates should be accepted as universal legal rights by the other 96 percent of society.
“We can insist on policies that benefit the many, not just the few,” Obama added, while speaking to his elite audience of government leaders.
“It is you, the young people of Europe….who will help decide which way the currents of our history will flow,” he said, as he flattered his hoped-for TV audience of young people.
“Russia’s violation of international law… must be met with condemnation… because the principles that have meant so much to Europe and the world must be lifted up,” he claimed in his Wednesday speech.
But the anti-progressive challenge has “stirred the rise of a politics that too often targets immigrants or gays or those who seem somehow different,” he claimed.
The progressive project is especially threatened by politics tied to “race or faith or ethnicity,” said Obama.
That was a dig at mainstream and varied European nationalist movements, such as the center-right United Kingdom Independence Party and France’s fast-growing, left-wing National Front party. These groups differ in many areas, but tend to argue that national democracies in Europe are being drained by the European Union’s expanding, centralized, immigration-boosting multinational technocracy.
Obama repeatedly endorsed the European Union, and held a midday press conference with it two top leaders. He also gave his speech in Belgium’s capital city, Brussels, which serves as one of two capitals for Europe Union’s partly-elected and complicated government.
Brussels’ population is forty percent Muslim.
Obama, however, ignored the real-world cultural and ideological differences between different groups of people.
The universal “ideals that unite us matter equally to the young people of Boston or Brussels or Jakarta or Nairobi or Krakow or Kiev,” said Obama, without citing any polling data or other evidence that would show ideological and cultural commonality in China and Ohio, Ireland and Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Norway.
Obama’s fondness for European-style big government was also spotlighted in in his brief claim that the founders of the United States’ small-government constitution got their ideas from Europeans.
“It was here in Europe, through centuries of struggle, through war and enlightenment, repression and revolution, that a particular set of ideals began to emerge… those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists across an ocean,” he said.
Obama also claimed that the European progressive “ideals that came to define our alliance also inspired movements across the globe,” including the U.S. racial-equality movement of the 1950s, and the anti-colonial movements in Africa and India.