The Character of America
In the space of a lifetime great America has gone from asking what we could do for our country to small minded appeals to shrink our government and drown it in a bathtub. For a long time it was appealing to believe that we were simply going through one of Arthur Schlesinger’s cycles of American history, a conservative era to be followed by a progressive era. But there is a different, troublesome, much less traditional character to this current period of intransigence, bitterness, and hostility on the right.
Its roots may lie in the assasinations of the 1960s and the Pentagon Papers and Watergate of the 1970s. A government capable of providing a social safety net was also capable of lying to its citizens. A society capable of embracing a new Camelot was also capable of harboring assassins. Other factors have also been at work. Civil rights for African-Americans, a dramatically increasing Hispanic population, emergence of women into the work force, and gays and lesbians emerging from the shadows all characterize a dramatically changing society. To the conservative mind that resists change, all these changes are overwhelming.
And then there is a ceiling to the American dream for many. Incomes in the middle flattened in the 1970s and 80s under the impact of global competition and OPEC oil pricing. Debt escalated to an extent that millions of Americans lost their homes due to mortgage manipulation. Wealth flowed upward with tax cuts for the rich, and unemployment settled around ten percent. All this put together replaces Happy Days with very angry days. And a government weakened by distrust is about to default on its debts.
There has always been a force on the right in America. In troubled times it attracts those not normally inclined to its fears and anger. Anti-government anger will continue to exercise a disproportionate influence on American politics until at least one thing happens…Americans must regain confidence in their individual and our collective economic hopes. Nothing would restore a sense of balance, promise, and optimism like a growing economy with job security and opportunities for the young and the unemployed. While corporate America hoards its immense cash accounts, the government reduces infrastructure investment, and new wealth is limited to Twitter and Facebook projects, however, there is little hope for real economic growth in the near term.
The central question is whether economic recovery, and therefore hope for the future among the vast majority of Americans, will occur soon enough to prevent the establishment of a permanent force of the right, a force that will continue to mock any idealistic challenge to give something back to our country and urge us to hate our government. It is fundamentally a question of who we are and what we believe. It is a question of what kind of people we are and what kind of society and nation we wish our children to inherit. It is a question of our national character.
If we succomb to the forces of the right and hate the government we elect we will no longer be the America of our founders. We will be some other kind of country. http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=723