A moral and cultural collapse is fueling the long political crisis Americans are living through. Well-meaning, tolerant, and patriotic people are still in the majority, but the behavior of the January 6th insurrectionists and everyone friendly to them establishes that civil society and federalism are gravely imperiled. The American way of government is based on compromise and negotiation; it is based on civility and comity; and it aspires to realize a humane and virtuous vision of itself. It is founded on a hope of betterment, on a set of ideal principles regarding individual rights and privileges. Throughout time, American leaders have paid lip service to these ideals and sometimes chanced their lives, careers, and reputations to make them real. The nation’s political identity is intrinsically moral and idealistic. This remains true, no matter how far short, in actual performance, it falls.

The underpinnings of republican government are rotting away. Over the past few years, we’ve discovered how many Americans hate the federal government. They resent their fellow citizens. They’ve had it with learning and discussion. They are sick of “bullshit,” meaning the ideas and values of anyone (especially anyone in power) who doesn’t speak or look or act their way. Their favored recourse is intimidation: speak loudly and crudely, ignore decorum. Belittle, smear, and threaten opponents. Gang up on the rule of law, which works best garbed in the regalia of intolerance, preferably while bearing a stick or a gun. Sneer at moderation, at tradition and respectability. Even polite-looking figures such as Ted Cruz and Lauren Boebert are actually completely corrupt thugs inside.

These people are looking for their next chance to attack police officers, desecrate the flag, and destroy government norms.

The question is whether good Americans can stem the tide. Can we stop the pendulum from swinging toward violence and extremism, and get it to move back to the other side? Can we neutralize the influence inflammatory figures enjoy? Can we restore contentment and consensus, notably by ministering to legitimate grievances and needs? Can the political establishment refrain from abusing its power, and get back to the retreating goal of figuring out how best to promote widespread prosperity, how to restore dignity and safety to ordinary households and communities? A world of trouble lies ahead if the answer is no.

One response

  1. I think this is going to be a wonderful spring, a time of literal “enlightenment.” Orange head is finally in the rear-view mirror. His legal woes (and his family’s) are just beginning. The country has a decent man in the White House. His Veep is very capable as well. Their moral compasses point straight north.

    As I write this, Biden’s 1.9 trillion dollar covid-relief package is still being wrangled about in both Congressional chambers, but it will eventually pass with most of its original provisions intact. The bill is BADLY needed. Fed chair Jerome Powell says it is essential if the economy is going to continue to expand. Because of covid, tens of millions of people are in dire circumstances, struggling mightily to pay water and electric bills, buy food, and meet their mortgage payments and the rent. If one digs deeper into those facts, the numbers are truly horrifying.

    Competent government and moral decency have been under attack for four years under orange head. The vast majority of our fellow citizens want an end to congressional infighting. They want to move forward, putting behind us those four dark years that caused so much rancor and division, with too many assailing and seeking to subvert our elective system, led on by the heinous people you mentioned above.

    I’m very optimistic all is going to get much, much better. Almost two million people a day are now getting the vaccine. The economy is going to come roaring back, as folks begin to move around again once more. So, more and more Americans will breathe a HUGE sigh of relief. Happiness and energy are going to replace viral and political battle fatigue.