- AMERICAN THINKER - P.F. Kelly, Jr. - APRIL 8, 2023 -
Is our democracy at risk? On our present track, will the U.S. be able to sustain a functioning democracy?
A recent article evaluating why the much-anticipated "Red Wave" in the mid-term elections never materialized suggested that Republicans need to offer a program that will appeal to voters — especially young voters — who want the government to do more for them. The author claimed that the old Reaganite slogan that "government is the problem" won't work anymore.
It's true that a growing number of people today look to the government to do more for them because of rising prices, particularly in health care, and because of the complexity of modern life. Young people tend to look to the government because they are less familiar with the virtue of self-reliance, which has been under attack by the left for many years. Many people believe they can't manage things by themselves. Democrats and government officials encourage this idea. A new level of dependency is developing, and a sense of surrender to big government seems to be growing among some conservatives, too.
But rather than a "conservative" program of more government services, what Republicans need to offer — and it's a lot more work — is a re-education in the great American virtues of self-reliance and independence, the stuff of the old western movies, as well as the classical and Christian virtues.
Not surprisingly, these virtues sprang from a time of scarcity, when our country was being forged on the frontier, and later, in the Depression, which formed President Reagan's generation. Today we live in an Age of Excess, a time of plenty, of "soft" virtues and pleasure-seeking. Anesthetized with excess, we forget that plenty is not man's natural state; there is no guarantee that it will continue. Likewise, liberty has not been man's natural state for much of human history, and it may not be for much longer, given the plans of the WEF's Klaus Schwab and his many allies for greater state control over the lives of people everywhere.
Virtue and liberty are closely connected; only a virtuous citizenry can maintain its freedom. If citizens do not value self-reliance, hard work, and fair play, a democracy descends into a bidding war for the citizens' comfort, as history demonstrates in the fall of the Roman republic. Free bread! More circuses!
The problem with a "conservative" program of federal spending is that it doesn't call the American people to anything higher. It simply promises to satisfy their needs in a more efficient manner than the Democrats. It's an expanding welfare state on the cheap.
In 1976, writing in To Jerusalem and Back, his personal account of a visit to Israel, Saul Bellow quotes a contemporary Soviet Jewish writer named Agursky, who believed that Western democracy was "on the brink of catastrophe." Writing from inside a totalitarian regime, Agursky could see, Bellow notes, that democracy survives only when a free people is capable of self-discipline. Almost fifty years ago, Bellow was comforted because he believed that enough of the old political morality remained in the West to preserve a democratic system.
But is that still true? Do we have enough of the old morality left in this country to survive? Personal responsibility for one's actions, like self-reliance, is one of the prerequisites for liberty, and this virtue is being undermined by a vociferous appeal to group associations and identifiers. We are being rewired to think of ourselves no longer as individuals, but as members of a group, groups that are acted upon by other groups.
This means that members of a group are not responsible for their individual actions in the way we used to think about it. Instead, their membership in a group, which has been acted upon negatively, has pushed them into bad choices. It's not their fault; it's the fault of a stronger group, which has determined the choices they have made. It is not the individual who is acting, but rather the group acting out its pathologies, for which the individual is not responsible. This idea is being promoted with ruinous consequences in many American cities today.
As a dissident in the old Soviet Union, Agursky wrote in 1975, as Bellow notes, that "totalitarianism in all its forms, when striving to undermine the Western world, seeks first and foremost to destroy those institutional forms that are dictated by religious values. The main aim of totalitarianism is the undermining of religious education, traditional ways of life and the family, and complete liquidation of moral censorship." We have experienced an epidemic of this in the United States lately, as religious morality, traditional ways of life, and moral censorship of any kind have come under coordinated attack by forces opposed to the traditional virtues and Christian beliefs that have supported our democracy since its beginning.
The abandonment of personal responsibility is a vice of an affluent society, which has the means to support those who won't support themselves. (In reality, we are no longer an affluent society, which is becoming more apparent, but nobody has told the people yet.) Bellow also cites British author Henry Fairlie, who, in writing about Vietnam War–era America, noted that permissiveness is founded upon a "fashionable Existentialism." Once the struggle for existence is no longer a problem, Fairlie noted, one's existence itself becomes the problem. That is precisely what we have been experiencing in the last decade or so. We have been trying to reinvent our existence. Like the jettisoning of personal responsibility, existentialism is a philosophy for the affluent, who don't have to worry much about their next meal.
In America today, we have been mesmerized. We focus our attention on ourselves, our identities, and we don't know the world around us or its history. We have no experience with oppression, evil, or want. Periods of liberty in human history have been very brief. Is ours about to end? Is democracy giving way to government by executive orders, one-world WEF diktats, or CCP-like totalitarian control?
The challenge of maintaining participatory democracy in the U.S. lies in re-establishing the citizen's relationship with the federal government. Citizens can't be simply clients of the government, recipients of a menu of services. We must take up again the work of being the government. The government is we. We the people. The challenge for Republicans is not to figure out what conservatives can give voters; the challenge is showing them that the idea that our government has anything to give is an illusion. We are in a national debt death spiral, spending money we don't have, but nobody wants to talk about it.
Republicans need to educate the American people about the problems created by an exploding national debt. Honest talk may lead to short-term losses at the polls, but voters will reward the party that spoke the truth once the proverbial dung hits the fan. That's how you win the allegiance of a generation of voters, not through targeted spending programs.
Conservatives must remind the people that the federal government is not beneficent. The federal government has its own interests, its own agenda, and it will run you over if you get in its way. That fact became clear during the COVID pandemic. The government did not do what was best for the people. It buried effective early treatment protocols and chose instead to serve the pharmaceutical industry, a wealthy source of campaign contributions. Perhaps there were other, darker reasons. Regardless, the government lied, and continues to lie, to the detriment of the American people.
These facts need to be aired. That's why it is so important that House Republicans pursue an inquiry into the government's actions during COVID, particularly as recent polls show that a majority now mistrusts the government's actions.
Government malfeasance must be brought to light and used to break the irresistible power federal government spending has over the people. The government is not there to serve us. Instead, it's more and more like the old Twilight Zone episode. The people are being served, but not in the way they think. Republicans must challenge the idea that the government has your best interest at heart.
The expansion of federal power is a threat to individual liberty and the family, liberty's crucible. Republicans must show how the federal government stops us from living our lives the way we want to. A powerful federal government has shown it can and will force changes in how we live to serve its own interests, whether for COVID or climate change or something else, and we will be forced to submit. Since we no longer have a government for the people, we must make it again a government by the people.
When the rights of the collective supersede the rights of the individual at the command of the federal government, that's not American; it's Marxist. If we are going to reclaim our democracy, we must stand upon individual liberty and the virtues that support it.