Barack Obama’s presidency has considerably affected the American spirit. His administration’s singular, and some would argue horrific, brand of political gamesmanship has been equally toxic to both the Left and the Right.
Recall that after the jihadist attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Obama spent significant time essentially accusing conservatives, Christians, and the National Rifle Association for creating a climate that justifies terrorism. The incessant mis-framing of terror attacks, legislation, court decisions, and even the weather to rail against the Right has shredded not only our faith in government, but in each other.
Eight years of finger-wagging and that’s-not-who-we-are-isms have stirred the passions of both the secular progressive left and social conservatives, further deepening the gulf that separates us. The Republican and Democrat parties have split into warring, reactionary tribes, each proclaiming that they alone are the truth-tellers.
So the fight for the future of Western civilization has come down to this: the American people engaged in a feel-good exercise between two elderly, vindictive goblins who’ve been friends for decades, and whose daughters are close friends. No doubt thousands upon thousands of pages can and will be written about the terrifying hypocrisy and inadequacy of these candidates, but what about our hypocrisy and inadequacy? It was more than 200 years ago when Benjamin Franklin said “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” He was right. We should be challenged by virtue, not threatened by it so intensely that we celebrate its absence.
We Have to Face Some Hard Truths
In June 1963 while addressing the Free University of Berlin, President Kennedy said “Truth requires us to face the facts as they are, not to involve ourselves in self-deception; to refuse to think merely in slogans. If we are to work for the future of the city, let us deal with the realities as they actually are, not as they might have been, and not as we wish they were…”
The realities as they actually are require us to acknowledge that yes, Hillary Clinton has used The Clinton Foundation to sell government access to foreign nations. They also require us to acknowledge that yes, Donald Trump has used The Trump Foundation as a mechanism for paying off the legal fees he accrued in several of the more than 3,500 lawsuits that have been filed against him.
The whole truth today requires us to acknowledge that yes, an avalanche of cash befell the Clinton Foundation amid the Russian uranium deal but it also requires us to acknowledge that as a result of being blackballed by every major U.S. bank, Trump has been for the past several decades reliant on capital from Russia and Kazakhstan from people very close to Vladimir Putin. It is not a simple difference in policy or ideology that allows for a situation wherein one former GOP candidate refers to Putin as a gangster while the nominee of that same party touts Putin’s “high approval rating.” Recall that it is not uncommon for a dictator to have unusually high approval numbers.
Future generations will rightly criticize the American people for managing to nominate two candidates that a supermajority of the country just plain doesn’t like and torpedoing each other advocating for them.
From History and Ideas to Mob Rule
“Everything else changes, but mobs are always the same. A mob is an irrational, childlike, often violent organism that derives its energy from the group. Intoxicated by messianic goals, the promise of instant gratification, and adrenaline-pumping exhortations, mobs create mayhem, chaos, and destruction, leaving a smoldering heap of wreckage for their leaders to climb to power…. The twisting of truth, stirring of passions, demonizing of opponents, and relying on propagandistic images in lieu of ideas – these are the earmarks of a mob leader.”
Whatever feelings you may or may not have for Ann Coulter, that’s a pretty accurate depiction from her of both parties and their nominees.
Hold a coin in your hand and you’ll see our nation’s motto, E Pluribus Unum or “out of many, one.” This remains a singular philosophy in the world. It is the foundation of federalism; the mechanism that allows hippie pot smokers in Colorado, Mt. Zion Baptists in Tennessee, and Amish Mennonites in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania the same rights under the same flag.
The Left likes to deploy slogans like “diversity is our greatest strength” but in reality our greatest strength is the cooperation between diverse peoples. This election cycle has witnessed this most indispensable principle shattering.
Our belief in one another and the individual roles we all play in our national identity is what lifts the American ideal off of the page and into our everyday lives. Our history should compel us to fulfill our national obligation, but that becomes nearly impossible when you’re living inside a giant Etch-A-Sketch. Without a legacy to carry on, we drift freely wherever our impulses take us in a world that is simply an amalgamation of objects both empty and frightening.
With a diminished sense of self and a relation to history, we let politicians offer us the fantastic possibility of redemption, of salvation every four years by presenting a tabula rasa on which to project our new self. Here, envy becomes righteousness, faith becomes bigotry, and charity entitlement.
Too Many Say the End Justifies the Means
Both parties have subsidized this heinous degradation of our political character. We the people not only allow this by so freely relinquishing the antiquated notions of goodwill towards man and malice toward none, but we promote it. We’ve turned the walls of decency into a space to keep our own forms of resentful entitlement.
The Left has Black Lives Matter. The right has Blue Lives Matter. The collision of the two in an effort to win over the remaining undecided voters has been like watching an unstoppable force meet an immovable object and then call it a racist. A black police officer in Wisconsin shoots a black criminal. Riots ensue. People scream, “We want blood! We cannot cohabitate with white people!” and the Republican nominee for president hires a man who runs a white nationalist website as the CEO of his campaign. “I’ll be great for the blacks,” he says to a room of white people.
Mobs on both sides tell us this election is the election, perhaps the last election if the wrong candidate wins. Yet voter outreach has been reduced to “What the hell do you have to lose?” and “I’m not voting for her because she’s a woman. I’m voting for her because I’m a woman.” In the end we are left with a Democrat who violated the Espionage Act and a GOP nominee who supports funding Planned Parenthood, touchback amnesty, mandated paid leave, the expansion of Medicaid, increased welfare, and punishing U.S. companies through tariffs and taxes. If we are to believe he would appoint originalist, constitutional judges to the Supreme Court then those very same judges would oppose his entire agenda.
Democrat or Republican, no matter the outcome on November 8, we ought to ask ourselves if this is what our success should look like. It was 1775 when Patrick Henry said “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.” Are we capable of this in 2016?