Where is my America? The nation of rugged individualists has ceded its position to those who embrace the command economy. Moreover, a failed record doesn’t mean very much when media panjandrums use barrels of print to boost the fortune of their desired candidates.
Twenty three million Americans are searching for jobs. College graduates are perplexed about a future pay check. The administration probably lied about the murder of public officials in Benghazi. The poverty level in the country is unprecedently high. American prestige abroad is at an historic low. Obamacare – designated to lower medical expenses – has increased them. Most Americans, according to pollsters suggest the country is going in the wrong direction.
Yet President Obama, who by any measure, orchestrated the apparent failure the last four years, was reelected. Despite the exaggerated claims of pundits like Dick Morris and Karl Rove, the Republican ticket went down to defeat.
How did this happen? The Obama campaign did aggregate its constituencies very effectively, but it didn’t do so with ideas and prescriptions. The campaign asked for more time and agreed that the direction taken will bear fruit. It was yet again hope as the harbinger of change.
As I see it the change is a slide. The economy will reflect a lack of confidence based on a government that spends a disproportionate share of the nations assets driving capital downward. Foreign policy will drift as the ability of the military to project power shrinks and as the president continues to argue for retrenchment. Demographically the nation is changing with those over 65 retiring in record number in the next few years replaced by a relatively poor working population. The signs are not hopeful.
The roughly one-third of the nation’s population feeding out of the public trough will undoubtedly increase. In fact, this group will demand more from the so-called wealthy using the phrase “have them pay their fair share.” Of course, what a fair share may be isn’t clear when the top one percent of income producers already account for about 40 percent of the tax revenues.
There are only two themes in American politics: Four more years or it’s time for a change. Apparently a plurality of Americans believes four more years is desirable at this time. But the question of what four additional years will do that the last four years hadn’t, remains the great enigma of this campaign.
If the debt overhang casts its shadow over the future and if the “fiscal cliff” emerges as a battleground, President Obama will preside over a polarized nation and a divided Congress. Based on the past, decisions will be kicked down the road leading to the public’s refrain for Washington to get something done.
Most significantly America’s enemies will see this election as a reflection of war fatigue – a nation unprepared to defend its interests and its allies. Political vacuums do not last in world affairs. This is axiomatic. The Middle East is up for grabs as the U.S. sits on the sidelines. The Pacific, once dominated by the U.S. Navy, is soon to be challenged by a blue water Chinese Navy increasingly confident and assertive. And Iran, despite presidential concern about this rogue nation having nuclear weapons, will in the absence of real policy have these weapons of mass destruction in the next year.
Down the slippery slope the nation slides. There is little to justify optimism about the immediate future, notwithstanding my confidence in national resiliency. Is America a different nation? Are we so self-indulgent, national concerns are subordinate to personal ones? Is government emerging as Big Brother compromising liberty for economic security? There are so many questions and so few answers that offer an upbeat vision of the nation.
I have had a love affair with America all my life, but I wonder if that loveliness is starting to fade, if the America I admire is disappearing. Elections are a remarkable reflection of the people’s will. Clearly the popular vote was split. Yet that split indicates America is changing, maybe the appropriate word is fading. And I for one don’t like it.
Herbert London is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, president emeritus of Hudson Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America).
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