America is at a , and not just politically. If our system at the top abuses power today, lies to the nation at will, falsifies numbers like employment, has no fiscal discipline, spends as it pleases, cannot control our national borders, and shirks its obligations abroad and to our domestic security, we ultimately bear final responsibility.
While the Public Square believes the character of the American government is the central issue of our time, we know that beneath the government, one built on trust and faith, are we the people. And the people are starting to understand they must take hold of things.
As Peggy Noonan days ago compellingly wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “We’re in the midst of a rebellion. The bottom and middle are pushing against the top. There’s something deep, suggestive, even epochal about what’s happening….” Noonan refers to the Democrats as a “house of hacks,” and the Republicans as “owned by the donor class.” She continues: “The Clintons thought they owned the party— they don’t. Hedge-funders thought they owned the GOP. Too bad they forgot to buy the base!”
Edmund Burke, the British political philosopher, said: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and honesty of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves.”
Burke noted in the same commentary how “society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less there is of it within, the more of it there must be without.” As the aspirations connecting us have seriously weakened in recent decades, the government has abided less and less by the authority coming from the public will and defaulted power to itself – as “more [power]…there must be without.”
And so, a government comes to divorce itself from the will of the people. And the public is deciding it has had enough. The electorate senses both parties are in the past. Old parties, using old systems, elect scripted leaders, trained to a thought process that doesn’t work. While our leaders have become captive of their own ideas, Americans may be starting to chart a new course. It’s evident at least in the breadth of population coming to the polls for the first time, many of them the younger generations. They are helping create new political lanes for the nation.
Today, we defend two outworn systems of political ideas. First, the Democrats, for much of the last 100 years, have pursued American global consensus and nation-building, and hitched their star to an infinite progression of a domestic social net through a benefit culture. Nation-building has no end, and the benefit society chases goals in the name of measurable equality. Because both ride on autopilot, their validity is enforced by created obligations of federal power.
Like measuring the distance to a wall and cutting it in half each time with a ruler, the wall is never reached. Too much globalism has made us a busybody abroad, and the benefit blessings spreading at home have become a bleeding path. No wonder the public no longer knows which of these goals are yet honorable and which are strained to a point of exhaustion. Neither translates to sound stewardship of the population.
Second, the Republicans see the dynamic American past as less due to social inclusion than business expansion – like a virus, spreading the branches of opportunity through rising incomes over time, and a prosperity that reinforces private property, limited government, maximum freedom for the individual, and therefore bundling the greatness of the American Dream for everyone. But just has we have to correct the madness from the dated inheritance of a tired New Deal model of presidential leadership, we cannot expect to freeze the brilliant industrial private economy of the 1950’s and 1960’s and count on its return.
The public is inventing some new political lanes for the democratic highway.
The word “lane,” new to the political vocabulary, was first used for automobiles in the dictionary in the 1920’s. Now, we have eight of them – much like a new super highway. The Democratic interstate is running three lanes: moderate, liberal, progressive-socialist. The Republican interstate now boasts up to five travel lanes – religious, tea party, libertarian, conservative, and establishment sentiments.
The Public Square believes the presidential election will take its own course. November will tell us the story. The lanes are likely to divide further, disappear, blur, or merge to the center. The drama of the horse race ahead will reveal which drivers see their lanes widen, and which ones narrow, and which ones collapse. At one level, it’s exhilarating. At another, it’s very possibly the start of a new citizen ownership over a longer time. The Public Square believes the wind of American democracy rides on just how well we align our responsibility in the future to our citizenship.