Do We Know Who We Are Anymore?
When politicians come in front of the television cameras, they’re always referring to the American people. The American people want this, or the American people want that. The American people have clearly said or, we’re listening to the voice of the American people.
For too long, this deference to the American people by politicians has been a sham — little more than political pandering and lip service to our founding ideals and notions about a limited representative government working at the behest of “the people.”
Early on in “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville, in explaining the makeup of the people who emigrated from Europe to our shores, wrote that it wasn’t the rich aristocracy that made up the majority of our early English colonies, but a wide representation of middle class. This had a determined effect on the evolution of our sense of liberty and limited government overseen by the people.
“All the English colonies, therefore, at the time of their inception, shared a great kindred spirit,” de Tocqueville wrote. “From the start, they all seemed destined to promote the development of liberty, not the aristocratic liberty of their mother country, but middle-class, democratic liberty, a complete example of which had not been encountered in the history of the world.”
Later, after our founders had made their Declaration of Independence from England, fought a revolution to ensure that independence, and mapped out our Constitution and Bill of Rights, de Tocqueville talked about a unique and new people in the world where “society acts independently for its own advantage” and “all power rests in its hands; almost no-one would imagine or, still less, voice the idea of seeking power elsewhere.”
Until the emergence of the tea party, the November elections, and Congressman Paul Ryan’s gutsy and politically risky follow-through proposals to cut trillions instead of billions from the budget, reform taxes and preserve the Medicare entitlement by preparing it for future viability, one could have argued that de Tocqueville’s description of the American people’s sovereignty and power had long since been relinquished.
We gave it up to a growingly bloated welfare state of an unsustainable government — a government that stands in front of the mike and goes on and on about what they’re doing for the American people while doing nothing, or spending literally billions while they stand there. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is the first time in a long while a politician has put his money where his mouth is. Federally speaking, the last politician to look at the failure of our government, like Ryan is now, was Ronald Reagan.
Why drag poor, over-quoted de Tocqueville into this mess? Because here was a French visitor to America who understood us better then than we do now. He saw in the American character and its government what we have forgotten.
It doesn’t come as any surprise, really, because the best democracies always seem to give in to socialist-styled nanny state governments promising the moon. Entitlements offer ways for people not to show individual initiative or work as hard. Meanwhile, their governments craftily increase power and control, saying they know what the people want.
If the government is shut down by the time you read this, it won’t be because of Republicans, though they’ll probably get the blame. It will be because too many of us no longer understand who we are or how our government is supposed to operate.
We believe the Harry Reids, Nancy Pelosis and Chuck Schumers when they say the tea party has hijacked the GOP and is pushing an “extremist” agenda. We take stock in the unhinged, like the guy on The Pilot’s website who commented about last year’s tea party gathering in Southern Pines, “I ran into this crowd last year at the post office and I was so irritated when I left, I felt like running my car through the crowd while they shouted their angry agenda at everyone that came by.”
Congressman Ryan isn’t pandering to the American people when he stands in front of the television cameras. His budget plans are bold and critical to our nation’s survival. The question is, have we so lost ee Tocqueville’s understanding of who we are that we can’t hear either of them?
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines and is a regular contributor to The Pilot and PineStraw magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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