This weekend in Providence, Rhode Island, progressives held their annual Netroots Nation conference, at which liberals came together to discuss policy goals and technology. Among the true progressives, apparently, the Obama-disillusionment is running fairly high, and there was a thoroughly conspicuous lack of Team Obama presence at the conference — there were no administration officials speaking, and few of the panels dealt with the upcoming presidential election outside the realm of voting rights and super PACs.

President Obama did take the trouble, however, to deliver a pre-recorded video message to the attendees, full of the usual platitudes about what he’s achieved so far and how far we have yet to go:

“I know it hasn’t always been easy. I know the petty political fights in Washington can be frustrating, and believe me, I know that. But I hope you’ll look back and think about the fact that everything you did, step-by-step and day by day, has helped bring about the changes we’ve fought for. …

Obama also mentions his ending of the war in Iraq and the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

“At this make or break moment for the middle class, we face our most important fight yet, and now is the time to dig deep. Change is hard, but we’ve seen that it’s possible, as long as you’re willing to keep up that fight, I’ll be right there with you,” Obama concludes.

The cut-away to the family struggling to pay for their son’s healthcare bills, who will ostensibly find relief through the PPACA, is what really gets my goat. Whenever I see such a blatant appeal to my emotions, trying to garner sympathy as a reason for why a piece of legislation is a good idea, I’m always suspicious that I’m being played like a drum. This was just a commercial for the president to market himself, nothing more.

Yes, Mr. President, change is hard — and intellectually cheap demagoguery is easy. I’m not at all dismissing that there is true, material hardship that a heck of a lot of Americans have to deal with on a daily basis, but is another entitlement program really the most efficient, high-powered method for helping the greatest number of people in the long term? It would be great if we could just solve everybody’s problems by handing out free money, but that can’t work. If we really want to help people and protect the middle class, we need to dare to think critically about the possibilities of free enterprise and economic growth as the means to prosperity, not top-down government-mandated virtue trying to redistribute ‘fairness’ at every turn.