Whatever the outcome of the American presidential election, one thing is certain: the fighting of it will be the most significant political event of the decade. Last week’s Republican national convention sharpened what had been until then only a vague, inchoate theme: this campaign is going to consist of the debate that all Western democratic countries should be engaging in, but which only the United States has the nerve to undertake. The question that will demand an answer lies at the heart of the economic crisis from which the West seems unable to recover. It is so profoundly threatening to the governing consensus of Britain and Europe as to be virtually unutterable here, so we shall have to rely on the robustness of the US political class to make the running.
What is being challenged is nothing less than the most basic premise of the politics of the centre ground: that you can have free market economics and a democratic socialist welfare system at the same time. The magic formula in which the wealth produced by the market economy is redistributed by the state – from those who produce it to those whom the government believes deserve it – has gone bust. The crash of 2008 exposed a devastating truth that went much deeper than the discovery of a generation of delinquent bankers, or a transitory property bubble. It has become apparent to anyone with a grip on economic reality that free markets simply cannot produce enough wealth to support the sort of universal entitlement programmes which the populations of democratic countries have been led to expect.
…Contrary to what many know-nothing British observers seem to think, the message coming out of Tampa was not Tea Party extremism. It was just a reassertion of the basic values of American political culture: self-determination, individual aspiration and genuine community, as opposed to belief in the state as the fount of all social virtue. Romney caught this rather nicely in his acceptance speech, with the comment that the US was built on the idea of “a system that is dedicated to creating tomorrow’s prosperity rather than trying to redistribute today’s.” Or as Marco Rubio put it in his speech, Obama is “trying ideas that people came to America to get away from”.
Janet Daley is an American expatriate living in England, provides a bit of perspective about the goings-on in her home country that comes from distance.
Her September 1 column deserves to be read in its entirety, and it is weighty enough to consider bookmarking and returning to it again.
If Daley is correct—and obviously, I happen to think she is—then the 2012 election is easily the most important American election in the past century. Our choice is to return to the “basic values of American political culture” as she puts it, or to rush headlong into the proven failure that is European-style socialism. Romney-Ryan represents the reassertion of the American dream. Obama-Biden represent the continuation of failed ideas proven wrong time and again in Europe.
Daley seems hopeful that this election can be the first step towards fixing America, and if Romney-Ryan are successful, they will be an example to drag Europe back from the brink of collapse.
Mike Vanderboegh, cranky old militiaman that he is, isn’t so sure that out problems can be solved electorally, and suspects that the dependence class will react violently when separated from the public teat. If I am reading him correctly, those souls that have been dependent on the thieving political class (and the political thieves themselves) in both parties have built their lives around parasitically draining the public coffers to the point of engorgement, and he believes they will not let go of this “everything for nothing” arrangement without resorting to violence.
I don’t know if Daley is more nearly correct and that we can step away from the brink of collapse with the power of the ballot box, or if we will be forced as Vanderboegh suspects into civil unrest if the takers react violently to having to earn their keep.
My advice would be to prepare for either eventuality, and to pray to God for deliverance without violence.