As in the conservative camp, there are smart liberals and dumb ones. When I encounter one of the former, my usual reaction is horror at the enormity of what such an intelligent person might do with his/her unfortunate ideals. Yet sometimes they give me hope. Christy Hardin-Smith shows signs of being such a person. Today she wrote:
This nation of ours is in trouble. Divisions run rampant, and economic strain pushes far too many of us to the brink of disaster. What we need in this moment is real leadership — someone who will stand up and be honest, inspire unity of purpose across all the fractured battle lines and levels of power.
But the reality is that we get the leaders we demand in this country.
And, for the last few years, we haven’t been standing up and demanding much beyond "keep me safe" and "I’d like some for me," which, unfortunately, has been far too much of the norm for far too many in America.
We need to stop and think.
By reaching out to help raise someone else out of the darkness, we enlighten ourselves as well. By reaching out to help educate a fellow American about the disparities and needs of the less fortunate, and planting that seed of empathy and understanding, we all benefit from more connections. By realizing that no matter our more petty differences or our arguments over political differences that have been amplified through years and years of fostered fractures to benefit a few — that most of us stand in the same shoes of wanting better for our families, working hard to make progress and being desperate for hope for the future that things will be better if we all work toward a greater good together.
Our children deserve better than they are getting.
Strong stuff and pretty accurate, though I question the "fostered fractures" phrasing as it denies voters’ intelligence and ability to discern their interests for themselves. I generally vote Republican because I believe it’s in my best interests to do so, not because of some political conspiracy, real or imagined.
Cut to the chase: I’m on board with everything Christy says in her warm-up prose. The problem comes in with the assumption she makes about how to attack the problems she identifies:
This is not an age for caution. There is far too much work desperately needed on far too many fronts that have been deliberately neglected, shoved down, and utterly dismantled by the Republican anti-government success brigades. What we need is leadership that pushes all of this work forward.
In this view, the government is the primary actor responsible for moving things forward, for making progress, and anyone who disagrees with that postulation is anti-success, anti-American. While this undoubtedly plays well on the left fringe, it’s anything but a panacea.
Still, hers is an interesting article because it serves to point out how much Americans have in common, whether on the left or right. At the same time it’s also discouraging because, for all of Christi’s insight, she can’t seem to get past the false idol of government as surrogate parent to the unfortunate. This is true even as she proves that she knows better:
But we cannot wait for that leadership to come from anyone else. If we do, we’ll be waiting an awfully long time, because most folks would rather sit back and keep their head down and hope that someone else will do the work for them. Let’s not be those people. We must be the leaders we wish to see, to work for the change we know we need…to push for the reform that must come. The American dream is not simply that you accumulate things through increased wealth, and we need a big reminder of that. The America I love gives all of us a chance to work toward the best for us all — because it is we, the people, for whom the government ought to be working.
So true. Americans do need to stand up and take personal responsibility for the success of our nation back into our own hands.
How to do that is the question. Christi’s response, which seems like one typical of a liberal, is to use the government in new ways to provide more benefits to American citizens. Increasing budgets, programs, and entitlements. But that approach ignores the history of government’s failure to deliver on its promises efficiently and raises the most pertinent question of all: Where will the money to do this come from?
In reality, what’s really needed is a big dose of Ron Paul-style "anti-government" policies and the re-opening of free markets in the medical and financial spaces. Health care and social security have been two of government’s biggest failures and are at the top of most Americans’ honey-do lists of items they’d like the new president to fix. Neither is likely to happen, however, in an environment that regards enlarging government as a given.
Christi’s diagnosis is a good one. Unfortunately the cure she prescribes for what ails America is a poison pill. She got close and yet is so far away.