The 24 hour news cycle is chock full of the spin on Presidential failures, attacks on the Romney campaign and the latest polling numbers. The national election draws near. But we are making a big mistake if we look at this election as a choice between two people. There is much more going on here, if we will step off the merry-go-round of modern media for just a few minutes.
The people and politics of America seem to me more divided than they have been at any time since the Civil War. Since many Americans seem convinced that the issues of race and equality continue to plague us, we have, for the first time, an African-American president. In 2008, many thought such an outcome would do much to heal that which seemed to divide us. A milestone that would allow us to place contentious issues firmly into our past. That it did not work in any way as intended should have served as a giant red flag for many that their assumptions about what was happening were flawed. But they were not ready to see it. May still not be ready.
What is really happening to America is not well understood, and is only superficially related to issues of race or class. What we are seeing today is a fundamental clash between two groups holding dramatically incompatible world views.
The first of these world views I will choose to call “Classical Americanism”. The big idea that has always defined the holders of this view is the desire for individual freedom and personal accountability. In this group are the folks who believe that the ideas that drove the creation of the United States over two centuries ago are every bit as vital and true as they were when they were first articulated. They are self-made people, proud of their labor and its benefits for themselves and their families. They believe that their right to be free is inalienable – granted to them by God and/or their essential human nature. Once upon a time in this country, this group would have comprised the vast majority of all Americans. While this world view prevailed among its citizens, America prospered as no other nation before or since.
Over the last century, a new group has gradually emerged. They are marked most by their rejection of the traditional values of Classical Americanism. As the nation’s wealth increased like no other, so did we gradually increase our government’s scope, believing in our ability to use it as a perfecting mechanism to ensure that wealth came with fewer social, political and environmental liabilities. We did not at first have the capacity to perceive the consequent moral peril this has created for us today. With this increase in centralized power came an increase in the ability of the government to extract revenue from the economy. Those rejecting the traditional values of freedom and self-reliance were increasingly drawn to the growing capacity of government to alter the rules and redistribute wealth in our society. Gradually, this new group coalesced around its shared interest in using the government to achieve their ends. I will call the world view held by this group “American Statism”.
By their very nature, the American Statists believe that their rights flow from government. They believe that government must ensure their safe passage through life, and in return for this security, they freely trade the rewards of liberty. They disavow the principles of classical Americanism, since they believe that everyone is entitled to security and benefits that only the state, not the individual, can furnish. It is for these reasons that the statist seeks to deny American history, for the story of America is the story of Classical Americanism producing the most successful nation in the history of humanity by any meaningful measure. The idea that a society could permit one exceptional person to succeed beyond their dreams while their less-capable neighbor struggles with the basics in life is anathema to the statist. In many ways, the emergence of the American Statist is a product of Classical Americanism, for it is the creation of great wealth that sets the stage for the illusion that it is possible to prosper without personal effort. Indeed, the American statist believes that their ideology must replace that of their forebears if America is to reach their version of its lofty ideal of equality.
The American experiment with liberty has been an unqualified success. The idea that an individual could be completely free, such that they could fail completely, and therefore also succeed greatly, remains the single greatest political construct in the history of mankind. But this freedom is not free. It is won again each day with personal responsibility. Work must be done to ensure that needs are met; that freedoms are preserved.
What is at stake in this country on this election day is nothing less than the choice of direction between these two sets of ideas about the way lives should be lived. Do we still believe in the power of individual liberty and personal responsibility? Or shall we empower the state to see to our needs, to relentlessly march us toward an ideal of equality of results, to a tyranny of conformity and subjugation as the state grows beyond the power of its subjects to restrain it? Like never before, the American Statists are equipped to succeed in dismantling the Republic. They are led by a man committed to their ideals, who in four years has done much to tip the balance of the federal scales toward statism. They are aided and abetted by a corporate media alliance that is devoted to the statist agenda. Four more years of this administration may place a return to first principles permanently out of reach to America. Importantly, a political victory over the American Statists is only an opportunity to begin the work of restoring America. Much that was done over generations in service to lofty populist ideas must now be undone in service to preservation of the republic and individual freedom. This will be a hard fight, and enemies will come from every direction once livelihoods nurtured by our enormous government begin to be affected.
I would submit to you that while few of us have personal experience with a choice like this, it has been presented to humanity many times in the past. In search of a way to benefit from the efforts of others, societies have chosen to submit themselves to a powerful state, on the basis of the promise of ease and/or security. If there is one thing I would like all Americans to understand, it is that in the history of humanity, the subordination of one’s personal sovereignty to a statist authority, however benign in appearance, has never, not once, ended well. In our case, it would prove to be the end of the greatest political experiment in the history of civilization, and even worse, it would happen on our watch. Will Americans really vote to put the one true light of liberty out?