Thomas Jefferson lamented, "No man will ever carry out of the presidency the reputation which carried him into it." President Obama can certainly relate. The day he was elected president, many people seemed to believe everything wrong with American politics would finally change. The seemingly perfect embodiment of American progressivism, he had defeated another crusty old white Republican, and was supposed to save us all from the travails of partisanship and the long nightmare of the Bush years.
Yet, predictably, President Obama has not turned out to be the savior his base hoped for — and very likely believed himself to be. His administration is responsible for a series of scandals that easily rival the Bush years. Things are so bad that even Piers Morgan has admitted gun-rights advocates may have a point about "government tyranny."
What could have gone so wrong? What happened to ruin a presidency that so many banked their hopes on?
Get used to it. This is what governments do.
Despite the best intentions of candidate Obama at pursuing his own vision, his administration, like that of his predecessor, is in a constant state of war with personal freedom in a world that is changing faster than it can adapt. Assuming the presidency in such a world means engaging in a constant struggle to control the uncontrollable, making ever-increasing exertions to legitimize state power.
The Department of Justice scandals (including the Aaron Swartz prosecution) were overzealous attempts to combat the failing War on Drugs and file-sharing; the AP scandal was an attempt to control a media leak; the IRS scandal was an attempt to control political outcomes; and the Benghazi cover-up was a failed attempt to control the narrative of a situation the government found embarrassing.
A government is much like an economy: It exists to expand. Everytime someone finds a way around a law or regulation, the state must expand to plug another leak in its absolute authority. As more and more control slips through the cracks, government must get more aggressive to assert itself, or risk losing legitimacy. Where this tendency eventually leads should be obvious.
Despite the recent media scrutiny, the progress of state expansion is undeterred. In the midst of President Obama's scandals, the administration just broke ground on a $3.4 billion Homeland Security Complex. One can only imagine the enormous volume of civil-liberty violations that will take place there every day before you've even had your morning coffee.
The DOJ continues to push the boundaries in its war against the media, citing its powers under the long-outdated Espionage Act of 1917 to punish journalists who "solicit" classified information — never mind that it is legal under U.S. law to publish said information. The Obama administration has also dramatically increased the number of prosecutions under the act.
Don't expect tyranny to end with the next administration. The only thing the state seems to learn from its own scandals and blown whistles is how to more clandestinely consolidate power and silence opposition. The ACLU notes that many federal employees have no substantive First Amendment or whistleblower protection and are often the subject of retaliation when they disclose wrongdoing, particularly in national-security matters.
You don't have to be a libertarian to acknowledge this fundamental truth — governments thrive on expanding their own capabilities at the expense of personal freedom. President Obama can't stop it, and indeed benefits from enhancing it, just like his predecessors. For every abuse of power we catch, there are thousands they get away with. I don't say this to dance on the grave of Obama's reputation, but as a warning against putting faith in those who crave power. It will not end well for any of us.