We Can Do Better: An America That Can Imagine Itself

America is in deep trouble. 

Everyone realizes it, even people who just voted for “four more years” in the recent election. A Rasmussen poll from August found that just 14 percent of Americans think that America’s children will be better off than their parents. And another survey found that 63 percent of recent college graduates--who voted overwhelming for President Obama--believe that the American Dream is dead.   

Like many Americans, of all ages, I find perspective and inspiration in the Bible.  In its pages, we are reminded that we are not the first to suffer; in the Book of Joel, we read of “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness.”  And that’s how I feel today: Dark clouds are above us, shadowing our lives, and they are growing darker.  

We Americans have been blessed, that’s for sure, but one doesn’t have to be religious to see that we have been careless and reckless with our blessings--and so we risk losing them.   

Yes, winter is coming to America.  And this winter will be made by man, not nature; so there’s no telling when this American winter will end. It’s up to us. We have to change. So I launch this series in hope--in hope that we can find new ways to bring back the spring. I look forward to that spring not only for myself, but also for my family and my grandchildren. And I know that every American shares these thoughts; after all, the secular religion of America is betterment and improvement, for one and for all.  

Yet before we can think about the spring, we have to think about the winter, and how it is coming upon us--how we brought it upon ourselves. 

Before we can look ahead, we need to look back and learn from our mistakes. Because otherwise, we will be doomed to make the same mistakes over again. Past will be prologue. 

In this series, we will ask: What happened to Mitt Romney? We will also ask a more interesting question: What happened to the Republican Party? That’s a more enduring question, because long after Romney disappears from the scene, the fate of the Republican Party will have a huge impact on the fate of the nation.  

I should pause here to say that I write as a Democrat, not as a Republican. Yet long ago I learned that America needs virtues that transcend partisan allegiance. In particular, we need the virtuous competition of new and better ideas.  

We also need an effective system of checks and balances, so that each party can keep the other party honest--or at least more honest. It’s worth remembering, for example, that the Watergate investigation of the corrupt Nixon presidency was mostly the work of Democrats in Congress. Forty years later, it was Republicans in Congress who took the lead in investigating Fast & Furious and Benghazi.  

Yet if the Republicans can’t reform themselves, if they can’t clean up their own act--if they can’t think of any other role for themselves other than as the junior partner in the corrupt status quo of Washington--then they will face a bleak fate, indeed.   

So where does that leave me?  As Breitbart.com readers know, I have been extremely critical of the current Democratic Party, which I see as having fallen far from the ideals of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. Indeed, on a few occasions, I have even been willing to work against my party on certain selected issues.  

For example, last year I provided strategic advice to defeat the attempted recall of Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker; as a matter of principle, I felt it was wrong to seek his removal in the middle of his term. Earlier this year, I worked on a film, “The Hope and the Change,” which spoke for me and many other Democrats who were deeply disillusioned by the Obama presidency.  

So these are my credentials when I say I call ‘em as I see ‘em. I am a Democrat who thinks that the Democratic Party has lost its way. Badly. But again, if Republicans can’t heal themselves, the Democrats, warts and all, will continue to win. And yet if the Democrats stay as they are, the country will continue to decline.  

And then sooner or later--probably sooner--a new party will emerge. That’s my prediction. The only question is whether that new party will emerge as part of a hopeful process of reform that staves off calamity--or as part of a mournful and desperate bid for post-calamity reconstruction.   

But first, let’s talk about Republicans and what has happened to them in the last election.  

The science of elections is called “psephology”; the name comes from the ancient Greek word for “pebble.” That’s how the Greeks voted, by putting pebbles into one pot or the other. And in my more than 40 years of studying elections, I have often likened the process of analyzing their outcomes to watching the movement of pebbles on a beach.  

You see, public opinion is like the ocean; it comes in waves and tides, it ebbs and flows.And after the motion of the water, we can see how its movement has changed the beach; the pebbles are strewn in a new, different pattern.  And from that pattern, you can see how and where the water flowed.  As with pebbles strewn on the beach, so with pebbles dropped in one pot or the other--you can learn from seeing where the pebbles ended up.  

Lately the water has been flowing in a way that threatens to drown the GOP--and recent elections show it.  The Republican Party has lost four of the last six presidential elections, and five of the last six popular votes.  That’s a plain enough message.  

Indeed, as I survey the political pebbles from 2012, I see a new arrangement that reminds me of the 1972 arrangement. That was the year that my candidate, George McGovern, won just 37 percent of the vote against Richard Nixon. So McGovern lost. Yet he assembled a new vote-coalition--of the young, of minorities, of environmentalists and other activists, of post-industrial knowledge workers.  

The McGovern Coalition was too small, of course, to win in 1972. But if we fast-forward 40 years to 2012, we can see that the same group gave Obama almost 51 percent of the vote. In other words, a 14-point improvement. Those 14 points spell the difference between a landslide defeat for Democrats then and a comfortable victory for Democrats today.  

So how did the McGovern Coalition lose in 1972 but win in 2012? What was the difference, then and now?  The difference, of course, is demography. 

Some say that demography is destiny--that it can’t be fought. But I am a fighter. I think that better candidates, and better ideas, can persuade people to vote for a better politics. This is my personal political faith, and I am willing to fight for it.  

Of course, I also rely on the Bible and its wisdom. And so I turn back to Joel. Yes, Scripture is full of turning the other cheek and all that, and there’s a famous passage in Isaiah about beating swords into plowshares, but at the same time, the Bible is a big book; it provides plenty of inspiration for those of us who wish to fight the good fight, instead. And so as Joel declared, “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.” Those are certainly words to gladden my Irish heart.  

So yes, we will have to fight those who make us weak, as we fight also to make our country strong.  

So yes, let’s fight for the better America that most Americans have always envisioned. After all, the creation of America, 236 years ago, was itself a supreme act of imagination. That’s our legacy--and that’s our destiny, if we can seize it.  

So let’s fight for an America that asks us for our values and our ideals--not for our price.  And if we do fight for that better America--the one that persists brightly in our imagination, even amidst the dreary present-day--then I am confident that we can achieve that better America.  

That’s the purpose of this series. 

Photo credit: Nathan Starzynski 


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