Amer­i­cans re­turn to the Found­ing im­pulse

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Tony Blank­ley

Tak­ing stock this sec­ond Christ­mas af­ter the elec­tion of Barack Obama to the pres­i­dency, as a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can (with grow­ing tea­party ten­den­cies) I’m filled with a thrilling, un­ex­pected hope­ful­ness that the pres­i­dent may be well on his way to los­ing his bat­tle for the hearts and minds of the Amer­i­can peo­ple — tem­pered by a shocked dis­be­lief that so much long-term dam­age could have been per­pe­trated on the Amer­i­can econ­omy, na­tional se­cu­rity and way of life in just 11 months of ill­judged gov­er­nance.

In­evitably, Charles Dick­ens’ im­mor­tal open­ing sen­tence to “A Tale of Two Cities” comes to mind:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wis­dom, it was the age of fool­ish­ness, it was the epoch of be­lief, it was the epoch of in­credulity, it was the sea­son of Light, it was the sea­son of Dark­ness, it was the spring of hope, it was the win­ter of de­spair; we had ev­ery­thing be­fore us, we had noth­ing be­fore us, we were all go­ing di­rectly to Heaven, we were all go­ing the other way.”

Re­mark­ably, this view could ap­ply equally to the left and to the right. Mr. Obama first thrilled, then dis­ap­pointed and now en­rages the left with his poli­cies of (as they now see it): (1) giv­ing the banks, health in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, drug com­pa­nies, for-profit hos­pi­tals and Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ists ev­ery­thing they want; (2) do­ing noth­ing for mid­dle-class home­own­ers; and (3) es­ca­lat­ing the war in Afghanistan.

Of course, con­ser­va­tives are ap­palled at (among other things) the tril­lions of dol­lars in new deficits, the na­tion­al­iza­tions, the tril­lion-dol­lar par­ti­san slush fund (i.e., stim­u­lus pack­ages), the at­tempted fed­eral gov­ern­ment takeover of the pri­vate econ­omy via car­bon tax­ing and reg­u­lat­ing, the weak­en­ing of our anti-ter­ror­ism ef­forts, the never-end­ing world­wide apol­ogy tour, the un­der­cut­ting of al­lies while ap­peas­ing en­e­mies, and the on­go­ing ef­fort to de­stroy our health care sys­tem and re­place it with a so­cial­ized, ra­tioning Euro-sys­tem.

Re­mark­ably, the pres­i­dent can­not even cred­i­bly make the claim that if he has the left and right ag­i­tated it is be­cause he is go­ing down the sen­si­ble mid­dle. The Dec. 9 Quin­nip­iac Poll mir­rors what other polls are show­ing: Mr. Obama is los­ing the in­de­pen­dents, too. In that poll, over­all, the pres­i­dent’s ap­proval/dis­ap­proval was 46 per­cent to 44 per­cent. How­ever, with in­de­pen­dents he was at 37 per­cent ap­proval and 51 per­cent dis­ap­proval.

Of course, for both the left and the right, all our hopes and dreads hinge on how an in­creas­ingly volatile Amer­i­can pub­lic ex­presses it­self on Elec­tion Day. Cur­rently, in head-to­head polling of generic party vot­ing in­ten­tions, the Repub­li­cans, who had been steadily down by dou­ble dig­its (and as much as 18 per­cent) to the Democrats, in the past few months have surged to a 2 per­cent to 3 per­cent ad­van­tage (Real­Clear­Pol­i­tics’ lat­est av­er­age: 43.3 per­cent to 41 per­cent).

But all is not so­lid­ity on the right. In one of the more re­mark­able en­trances into Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, the tea-party move­ment, which did not ex­ist un­til spring, al­ready has gained a sec­ond-place af­fil­i­a­tion sta­tus in Scott Ras­mussen’s poll last month: Demo­cratic Party, 36 per­cent; tea party, 23 per­cent; Repub­li­can Party, 18 per­cent.

That num­ber is, if any­thing, prob­a­bly un­der­stated be­cause the polling re­spon­dents are taken from voter regis­tra­tion lists. And based on what I have ob­served while at­tend­ing tea­party events (and from other sources), it is my sense that many tea-party peo­ple may not even have reg­is­tered to vote in the past. (They are reg­is­ter­ing now, by golly.)

Keep in mind: They have no na­tional leaders — no bil­lion­aire Ross Perot-type nor na­tion­ally ad­mired Barry Gold­wa­ter-type. Of course, in­di­vid­u­als are step­ping up across the coun­try to help or­ga­nize, but they are the purest ex­am­ple of what Thomas Jef­fer­son might have called an aroused yeo­manry (back then, the small free­hold­ers who cul­ti­vated their own land). They are a re­ac­tion (in the very best sense of the word) to the on­go­ing at­tempted power grab by Wash­ing­ton of a free peo­ple’s wealth and rights.

In the af­ter­math of the eco­nomic col­lapse and the elec­tion of a glam­orous new, young pres­i­dent who seemed to many peo­ple as a fresh force, un­en­tan­gled with en­trenched spe­cial in­ter­ests (em­phat­i­cally not my view, dur­ing the elec­tion or af­ter­ward) — the coun­try could have gone one of two ways: Fear­ing the rig­ors of eco­nomic hard times, peo­ple could have sought shel­ter un­der the wing of a stronger gov­ern­ment (as Amer­i­cans did dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion), or, fear­ing the power of gov­ern­ment, they could seek shel­ter in free­dom — come what may eco­nom­i­cally.

It may turn out to be one of the most im­por­tant facts of the 21st cen­tury that the Amer­i­can peo­ple — as ex­em­pli­fied by, but not lim­ited to, the tea-party fight­ers — came down on the side of free­dom over fear. I don’t know if there is an­other peo­ple on the planet who would have had a sim­i­lar im­pulse and judg­ment. It is, to use a word, ex­cep­tional (as in “Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism”).

It is why we live in hope this Christ­mas sea­son that we may yet claw back our gov­ern­ment in time to pro­tect our grand­chil­dren’s free­dom and pros­per­ity.

“Yet, Free­dom! yet thy ban­ner, torn, but fly­ing, streams like the thun­der­storm against the wind.”

— Lord By­ron.

Tony Blank­ley is the au­thor of “Amer­i­can Grit: What It Will Take to Sur­vive and Win in the 21st Cen­tury” (Reg­n­ery, 2009) and vice pres­i­dent of the Edel­man pub­lic-re­la­tions firm in Wash­ing­ton.

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