The Character of the American People: You Can’t Have it Both Ways

The point of this essay is to reconcile – if possible – two inherently contradictory characteristics that conservatives attribute to the American people.

Not surprisingly, these are difficult days for American conservatives. The most radical leftist president in the history of the United states was re-elected last fall. Through a combination of steadfast duplicity and political chicanery, he has steered public opinion toward fundamental distrust of conservative principles and policy. The Republican Party has abetted his efforts by means of pubic disunity, amazingly poorly executed tactics and a deep demoralization about its future prospects. The odds of a Democrat Party capture of the House in 2014 have improved – which event would likely result in: legalization of 10-20 million illegal aliens; a cap and trade regime; card check and the re-unionization of the private sector; accelerated US disarmament; and of course an avalanche of deficits, debt, taxation, borrowing and regulations. If the US hasn’t already passed the tipping point between constitutional republic and collectivist social welfare state, then it certainly will under the second coming of Obama-Pelosi-Reid.

When conservatives write and speak about this deplorable state of affairs, they tend to make contradictory assertions about the current and future response of the American people to their increasingly dangerous situation. On the one hand, conservatives will trace the history of the grand American experiment in government of, by and for the people. They will point out several key characteristics of the people that rendered us unique among the Earth’s inhabitants spread among the nations. These usually include:

  • a nation of immigrants, most of whom sought freedom and opportunity, who were willing to work hard to achieve these, and thereby giving rise to a stock of people more devoted to liberty and free enterprise than any other people;
  • a nation steeped in religious morals that gave rise to a moral code, which favored the rule of law, a deep sense of individual responsibility, commitment to charity and a toleration for the other;
  • a hardy people, proud of its heritage, confident of its future, and willing to defend to the death its beliefs and way of life;
  • a striving by its citizens to attain the highest levels of education, including an exposure to the various political and cultural systems deployed (present and past) in the world – thus enabling them to fully participate in the governance of the nation;
  • and finally, the unabashed acknowledgment of the superiority of the American way and a commitment to spread the notions underlying the American experiment to its neighbors worldwide (American Exceptionalism).

Conservatives often argue that the people still adhere to these values – it is in their blood. Although the people may be temporarily blinded by the century-long progressive assault that has undermined the structures of classical American culture/politics/economics, their innate nature will soon re-emerge and propel the nation to recapture its natural, historical traits and re-install its classic style of government.

At the same time, conservatives can be heard and read to lament in the most dire terms the deterioration of the character of the American people. In their blogs and tweets, in the pages of the National Review and other right-leaning periodicals and newspapers, and of course on Fox News, one constantly encounters ideas such as:

  • The American electorate is now dominated by “low information voters,” that is, those who know virtually nothing about the radical restructuring that has been perpetrated on American society, and who unthinkingly vote for leftists that promise to keep their welfare goodies flowing.
  • The brainwashing of the American public by the liberal-dominated public schools, media and federal bureaucracy has been extremely effective. There is little hope of overcoming the “transformation” that the brainwashing has produced – most people don’t even realize what has been done to them.
  • We are a nation of takers; no longer one of makers.
  • Fealty to the Constitution as the binding document that governs our lives has been supplanted by a belief that it is an old document, an out-of-date recipe for life in the eighteenth century, and not really applicable to American life in the twenty-first century.
  • Americans now accept that it is the responsibility of the federal government to address any and all problems that afflict any segment of American society.

We see here two assessments of the character of the American people: (1) On the one hand the people’s commitment to the classic American ideals of limited government, free enterprise, individual liberty, ‘don’t tread on me’, and American Exceptionalism are alive and well – if perhaps somewhat dormant. But it will erupt anew and reclaim the country from the pseudo-socialist statists who are destroying it. (2) On the other hand, the century-long progressive putsch has rendered most of the populace into robotic, unthinking sheep – putty in the hands of the statists – who are for the most part unaware of what they have lost. Among those who might be aware, most are too fearful or too co-opted to raise a voice or hand in their own defense.

Well, which is it? You can’t have it both ways! Is America a sleeping giant poised to regain its classic nature? Or is it so far down the road to Euro-socialism that a U-turn is no longer possible? Are the people of America truly fed up with Obamacare, the EPA, a federal debt approaching $20 trillion, Obama’s ill-concealed unilateral disarmament, and his administration’s blatant flouting of the Constitution? Or are they perfectly content with 50 million food stamp customers, unsustainable debt, out-of-control entitlement obligations, multiculturalism and multilateralism, and forced equality? Do most Americans fit the first description? Or the second? It has to be one or the other. The two postures are irreconcilable. Conservatives cannot bolster their faith in a renewal and rue the declining of America by simultaneously citing both characteristics.

If it is the former, that is, America is rife with silent patriots yearning to break the chains, then it is time to jettison the pessimism and excuses and charge down the paths that will hasten the emergence of that patriotic sprit. But if it is the latter and the republic is lost, then it is time to think drastic thoughts like splitting the country so that the still sizeable minority of us who have not lost the faith can get to work on USA.2.

There is one additional possibility – namely, we’re split almost evenly down the middle. Ah, but as in baseball where a tie goes to the runner; in this case, a tie goes to the statists. If the constitutional republic is to be restored, it can only happen if a substantial majority of Americans want it to happen.

This essay also appeared in The American Thinker