Is It Twilight in America?

This is yet another recycled post – but still a relevant one that I was reminded of by hockeydadfla’s post at his blog, The Dryer Report, about Reagan’s great 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing“.  We also picked up on that theme back in October here. I really miss Reagan.

This was originally posted on October 21, 2011.

Reagan’s famous 1984 campaign advert stated that “it is morning again in America.”

Almost 30 years on, I am still inspired by the optimism in that ad.

If Reagan’s administration represents daybreak, then the subsequent 4 years of George H.W. Bush and 8 of Bill Clinton represent mid-day and afternoon. Evening came as the “dot com” bubble burst but without question, night came on September 11, 2001 during the 8th month of the George W. Bush presidency. The darkness has only deepened during the Obama administration due to a moribund economy, record deficits and crippling national debt.

Twilight comes twice a day, once before the sun sets and again just before sunrise. The question is this – do we have a way to move the clock forward toward daybreak as Reagan did after the disastrous Carter administration or should we prepare for the twilight of America?

In his recent column, America in Decline?”, Victor Davis Hanson writes of our situation:

…Americans are running up a $1.6 trillion budget deficit this year. The use of food stamps and unemployment benefits remains at record levels. In the last two years, unemployment rarely has dipped below 9 percent. The housing market is moribund. Gasoline is at a nationwide average of $4 a gallon. Our aggregate debt exceeds $14 trillion, up $5 trillion alone since 2009. Medicare and Social Security will soon be insolvent at the current rates of disbursement. States like California, Illinois, Michigan, and New York are almost insolvent.

These depressing indicators—coupled with the rise of a confident 1 billion person India and China—have convinced the Obama administration that America is neither ‘exceptional’ nor able to assert its accustomed preeminent leadership. Decline, not American ascendance, is the administration’s buzzword, a pathology shared with the imploding welfare state of the European Union that can no longer afford the redistribution of wealth to its Mediterranean members.

No doubt that our situation is a condition likely worse than that of  the Great Depression of the 1930’s. We are like economic zombies, aimlessly stumbling around, already the walking dead but not realizing it – just waiting for that final shot to the head to end it. The uncertainty, unemployment, the crushing personal debt, the massive and ineffective government spending – just the simple lack of leadership that we see from our political class – is stunning. It has become a regular feature of governments formed of either major political party to claim success in the face of failure and to engage in “newspeak” at levels not even contemplated by George Orwell. Black is white, up is down, there are “green shoots” in the economy, Republicans want to starve the elderly, return to the 1950’s when women were barefoot and pregnant, blacks were segregated, Libya isn’t a war, etc. All of which are obfuscations, if not outright lies.

There is a sense of frustration building as the American people begin to realize how we reached this point.  There seems to be an indication that the American public is fed up with the political class that was trusted to guide the country and has miserably failed. In his first four year term, George W. Bush displayed the type of strong, decisive leadership that could have pulled us out of the twilight and into the daylight but he succumbed to indecision and moderation due to a very effective offensive by the Democrats and the beltway media organizations. We were assaulted with Abu Ghraib, War for Oil, Scooter Libby, Bush Lied – People Died and Gold Star mom, Cindy Sheehan for every minute of a 24 hour news cycle. America heard so many negative reports generated by political opposition to Bush and facilitated by a compliant media that they not only wore Bush down, they took America’s belief in itself along with it. We even had full blown Congressional hearings on gas prices when they breached $3 a gallon with Maxine Waters and Maurice Hinchey calling for the oil companies to be nationalized. We have been through a 2008 campaign and 3 years of an administration that features class envy and class warfare as a policy position.

As 2012 approaches, we would be well served to remember which party was at the center of these debilitating attacks and make sure that they are not rewarded for it.

It is becoming ever clearer that Obama was elected solely because he was something different – not necessarily better. His campaign slogan of “Hope and Change” was far more prescient  than we even understood at the time because it is now clear that the change that Obama voters sought was based on nothing but hope. In business, there are situations where projects are awarded – not because your company is the best – but because your competition has botched a project so badly that they aren’t trusted to execute. You are awarded simply because you aren’t the other guy. Such is the case with Obama and the Democrats in 2006 and 2008.

Democrats gained majorities in Congress because the Republicans, after taking control in 1994, became ineffective in prosecuting the very philosophies that brought them to power, they got comfortable and decided that the way to stay in power was to become Democrat Lite and spend their way to control. It didn’t work. The elections of 2006 were more about disillusioned conservatives not showing up than it was the desire for liberal Democrat policies.

Obama was rewarded with the Presidency because he wasn’t Bush, not because he represented any great step forward. He had no significant leadership history or even any specific expertise in anything except being deft at navigating political waters. They won’t admit it outside their Coffee Party klatches but even his hard core supporters know this now, the anger and jeers at the recent leftist Netroots convention proves it.  Poor guy. He is attacked from the right for being a socialist and now from the left for not being socialist enough. Can we at least agree now that the guy is a socialist?

Can we change the direction of the country and start to recover?

We can. It comes down to choice.

Going back to the Victor Davis Hanson piece mentioned earlier, he states the same. We are in decline because we choose to be in decline.

We may well decline, and pass on a weaker, more divided, more insolvent and at-risk America to our children. But that is entirely our volition, not our destiny. It is a decision that many prosperous, but tired and squabbling societies—4th-century BC Athens, 5th-century AD Rome, 1950s Britain, 1970s America—chose willingly when they redistributed rather than created wealth, embraced envy rather than emulation of success as their collective creed, and whined about not being liked rather than unapologetically assuming leadership in the world. Unpopularity is always the price of leadership and jealousy its constant twin. Decline is the choice that once successful societies made when they talked of rationing, lectured on what they could not—rather than could—do, and made bickering between the generations, the sexes, the races, the classes, and the tribes a national sport, rather than collectively and confidently looking forward to creating new sources of wealth.

Our current mood of despair could be reversed almost instantaneously—if it is recognized as a pathology, a sort of degeneration of the spirit.

The midterm elections of 2010 were about this – isn’t it curious how little coverage of this event is in the media today? How little this event is discussed in relationship to today’s political situation? It is almost like the Red Wave in the House and the state legislatures never happened – but this is only part of it. That election was about direction of the country, about the leadership of Congress. The American electorate was then, as it is now, looking for strong leadership.

The disappointment that I have with the current crop of Republican candidates is just that. I haven’t seen the evidence of clear, aggressive leadership. A cut the bull; let’s talk clearly about the critical situations we face as a nation type of leadership. In the recent CNN sponsored “debate”, Romney and Pawlenty tried but they come across as run of the mill politicians. Ron Paul came across as so extreme as to be borderline unstable. Michelle Bachmann has a chance to move up but currently heads the “second tier” class including Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.

Sarah Palin is not running in the sense that Libya isn’t a war but she appears far too politically damaged to be electable at a national level. The unfair, misleading, sexist and vicious attacks executed in the 2008 campaign and the years since have taken their toll. Her strategy of resigning the Alaska governorship and subsequent decisions about her public profile also should rightly place her motivations under a microscope…and the fact of the matter is that, whatever the motivation, she did quit her job in Alaska and a majority of Americans like quitters less than milquetoast leaders.

There is one person out there that seems to be unafraid to be aggressive. So far, he hasn’t officially tossed his hat in the ring but the indications are that he will. That is Texas governor Rick Perry. I’m not on the Perry bandwagon…yet, but I have to admit that statements like these are getting my attention:

“We need to stop apologizing for celebrating life,” the Republican Texas governor bellowed at the Republican Leadership Conference in a finger-pointing, finger-wagging and, at times, bombastic, speech.

“Stop apologizing” for wanting to stem the tide of the “entitlement mindset,” he boasted.

“Our opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let’s stop trying to curry favor with them,” he said, before imploring the crowd to “stand up. Let’s speak with pride about our values. Let’s stop this American downward spiral.”

Granted, these are the same kind of lines that could be delivered by Palin but lack the credibility and force due to her actions over the past 3 years. Herman Cain has tried but just doesn’t come off as an aggressive leader to me. He seems more of a solid caretaker, a steady hand, someone who would make a great vice president or cabinet member – in calmer times I could see him as the president but not today.

Perry could be the real deal, I don’t know yet. He is a bit of an unknown quantity on the national level and he will be attacked by the wine and Brie consuming, Beltway, Manhattan liberals as a “cowboy” in the mold of Bush.

I do know that the world needs a strong America and America needs a strong leader. By 2012, America will have had a full term of apologetic, beta male, just another country; America is nothing special, leading from behind. A candidate like Perry would pose a stark, clear 180 degree choice when framed against the Obama years.

Obama is eminently beatable. He is vulnerable on multiple fronts and all of those fronts coalesce into one point – leadership. Conservatives have to consider that as we choose our candidate and party platform for 2012. If we are afraid to take bold, unapologetic steps – get ready for Obama II – the Return of Carter.

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