For the last 40 years America has seemingly been uninterested in having a debate over what it means to be an American. But, thanks to the Trump era, that discussion is again at a fever pitch all across the land — both from the left and the right.
America had a raucous conversation about what it means to be an American in the 60s. Unfortunately, much of that conversation resulted in violence, riots, and killing. But the outcome of that conversation essentially ended with the left winning the argument.
Leftist liberals became the social norm instead of the nutty, fringe, un-American outsiders that they were in the 1950s and early 60s. They fully took over our system of education (a project that had already been 70 years in the making), our media, our entertainment, and our judiciary. In many cases they also took over our politics. In fact, leftism became the basis of all our national policies after the culture battles of the late 60s and 70s.
Sure conservatives objected. Remember that William F. Buckley was still standing athwart these social changes and yelling, “stop.” But Buckley and his army were small and mostly powerless. When Reagan came to office, the conservative faction gained the upper hand for a while, but even as he succeeded in buoying conservatives, Reagan only set the groundwork for a resurgence of Americanism.
After all, as soon as Reagan left office — Newt Gingrich’s temporary revolution aside — liberalism was still the national currency in nearly every way. Indeed, many on the right stopped talking about bringing conservatism to government and only began looking for ways to limit the growth of liberalism. Meaning that liberalism continued growing, only at a slower rate when more Republicans were in control.
There is an old joke that explains this perfectly: If you want socialism now, vote Democrat. If you want it in five years, vote Republican.
By the year 2000, though, conservatives finally started getting restless and soon the Tea Party movement jumped into being. This was the first shot in the arm to renewing the discussion of what it means to be an American. The election of President Donald Trump was the second.
Recently Christopher Buskirk, publisher of American Greatness, delivered a very good overview of the current situation as set against the 2018 midterm elections. In his June 8 article, Buskirk touched on the national dialog currently going on about what it means to be American.
According to Buskirk, the 2018 elections are shaping up to be a discussion about what the Republican Party is supposed to be:
Republicans have long criticized Democrats for dividing the country into competing grievance groups. Some now realize that the Republican analogue has been to divide the country into radically autonomous individuals based on a cartoonish misreading of libertarianism that replaces the free markets and free minds of Friedrich Hayek with the greed and hubris of Gordon Gekko. But that is changing quickly. There is a renewed emphasis on addressing America and Americans as a community characterized by fraternal bonds and mutual responsibility — what Lincoln called the “mystic chords of memory.”
Mr. Trump tapped into this. Most Republicans accept his transgressive personality and his intentional tweaking of social and political norms because they see it as in service of those larger ideas. That will seem counterintuitive to Trump haters, but fiddling with tax rates, however necessary and beneficial, can’t sustain a political movement, let alone a nation. Issues of citizenship and solidarity — that is to say, asking what it means to be an American — have returned to the fore. This is partly because of Mr. Trump and partly in spite of him. What is important is that the tumult caused by his unusual candidacy and his unusual approach to governing created an environment in which an intellectual re-founding of Republican politics became possible.
The three-legged stool of the new Republican majority is a pro-citizen immigration policy, a pro-worker economic policy and a foreign policy that rejects moral imperialism and its concomitant foreign wars. John Adams described just such a foreign policy when he wrote that America is “the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all” but “the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
“Giving up on a failed policy of moral imperialism allows Republicans to focus on forming good citizens and restoring a sense of Americanism that relies upon strong ties of fellowship and belief in a shared destiny,” Buskirk insisted.
This is the discussion of citizenship infused with civic virtue, the same concept that our founding fathers insisted must undergird our polity if our nation is to remain healthy.
It is this virtue that we lost starting in the late 1960s. After the yippies, after the so-called “great society,” and after the riots, America set itself on a path that rejected Americanism. And what did it get us?
Commentator Walter E. Williams answered that well in his recent editorial at Daily Wire.
As Williams celebrated his 82nd birthday, he was reminded that the character of the nation has taken a shockingly different path, and not a good one at that. He asked people in their 50s and older if they remember ever having armed guards in school. He asked if they were constantly in fear of mass shootings. He asked if kids were commonly seen beating up teachers in class.
The answer to all that is, of course, is no. None of those things were common in schools in the early 1970s and previous. Williams then ridiculed the drive for stricter gun control in light of this true history:
What’s the difference between yesteryear and today? The logic of the argument for those calling for stricter gun control laws, in the wake of recent school shootings, is that something has happened to guns. Guns have behaved more poorly and become evil. Guns themselves are the problem. The job for those of us who are 65 or older is to relay the fact that guns were more available and less controlled in years past, when there was far less mayhem. Something else is the problem.
Guns haven’t changed. People have changed. Behavior that is accepted from today’s young people was not accepted yesteryear. For those of us who are 65 or older, assaults on teachers were not routine as they are in some cities. For example, in Baltimore, an average of four teachers and staff members were assaulted each school day in 2010, and more than 300 school staff members filed workers’ compensation claims in a year because of injuries received through assaults or altercations on the job. In Philadelphia, 690 teachers were assaulted in 2010, and in a five-year period, 4,000 were. In that city’s schools, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “on an average day 25 students, teachers, or other staff members were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or victims of other violent crimes. That doesn’t even include thousands more who are extorted, threatened, or bullied in a school year.”
Williams went on to note that gun cubs and shooting practice was extremely common in schools before the 1960s and yet, with all those guns sitting in school, no one went on mass killing sprees. So, what has changed?
The famed commentator concluded saying:
These facts of our history should confront us with a question: With greater accessibility to guns in the past, why wasn’t there the kind of violence we see today, when there is much more restricted access to guns? There’s another aspect of our response to mayhem. When a murderer uses a bomb, truck or car to kill people, we don’t blame the bomb, truck or car. We don’t call for control over the instrument of death. We seem to fully recognize that such objects are inanimate and incapable of acting on their own. We blame the perpetrator. However, when the murder is done using a gun, we do call for control over the inanimate instrument of death — the gun. I smell a hidden anti-gun agenda.
That is exactly right. And today we have more Americans than ever asking these questions. Conservatism is resurgent.
On the other hand, liberalism is dying. But in its last grasp for power, liberalism is becoming louder, more violent, more authoritarian, and more filled with hate every single day. America is having that discussion, too, because liberals insist that the version of America that they have been lording over since the late 1960s — the version that has turned the U.S. into a lesser place — their ideas are the “true” America.
This is the battleground upon which we are engaged, conservatives. Don’t sit back and shirk the fight. Wade in. We must put an end to liberalism and get our country back on track.