Yes, the sun will rise tomorrow. But it will rise on a fundamentally different America. Last Tuesday, Americans voted by a margin of 50 percent to 48.6 percent to be a nation poorer, smaller, more divided and less secure than that in which our parents lived. The clock may finally be winding down for the Republic.
It was a good run. For more than a hundred years, Americans lived in a country with a small, unobtrusive government. Self-reliance was a way of life and innovation, diligence and drive merged with optimism and a sense that boundaries were few and possibilities many. America was an emerging world power; the lot of its citizens improved dramatically.
Then a different idea arose: that government should have a greater role in people's lives; that it should provide benefits and involve itself in the fortunes of individuals. One saw this idea full-blown last Tuesday and unfortunately, it will likely dominate American politics for awhile. We have apparently completed our evolution from citizens into petitioners, standing John Kennedy's ringing challenge on its head: ask not what you can do for your country; ask what your country can do for you.
This election was about who is more likely to shower supporters with benefits, programs and giveaways funded with money taken from others, and in this, there's no contest: over the past four years, Democrats have shoveled a mountain of taxed and borrowed money onto their partisans, cronies and hangers-on. In return, they received the votes of those who wanted nothing more than that the gravy train continue to roll. For those who doubt, I recommend an insightful article by Heather Mac Donald in Nov. 7's National Review Online. Although it concentrates on California, the conclusions cast a much wider net.
This new dynamic poses danger not only for Republicans, who increasingly run against opponents willing to drain the public treasury in order to buy votes, but for the Republic. Remember, redistribution of wealth to perpetuate an illusion of "fairness" works only as long as there is wealth to redistribute. But faced with high enough tax rates, businesses will close, relocate or hide revenue - as is the case in many of Europe's socialist democracies. So when the well runs dry and "fairness" ends in the equality of shared penury, crushing debt, valueless currency and a ruined economy, what will we do, having become a larger version of Greece? Blame George Bush?
It is to prevent this eventuality that conservatives have been arguing for years that government spending must be curbed - but to no avail. The reason for failure is now abundantly clear: this is not a political or economic question, but a cultural and social one.
In the early 1930s even Franklin Roosevelt, the patron saint of the welfare state, had profound qualms about establishing a permanent "dole." As he put it, welfare is "a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit." My grandfathers agreed; poor though they were, they would never consider accepting "government charity." There was a whiff of failure, of shame about it.
Today, the dole is only one of a great variety of "entitlements." The change of name says it all. Entitlements are good. Entitlements are normal. The government needs to be bigger so it can give more entitlements to more people, who will vote for Democrats so that the evil rich may be taxed further, to pay for more entitlements to be given to more people, who will vote for Democrats. Or, as one of the President's supporters told Detroit's WJR radio in an unguarded moment after the election of 2008, "Now we're all waitin' for Obama money..." What a sad, pathetic comment on what we have become.
Finally, an aside for Republicans who insist the party must embrace amnesty for illegal immigrants to win over the Hispanic vote: remember that John McCain, who co-sponsored a comprehensive immigration reform bill with Ted Kennedy in 2007, lost the 2008 presidential election to a senator who helped kill that bill through amendments and received 67 percent of the Hispanic vote for his effort. Last Tuesday he was re-elected with 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, despite four years neglecting his 2008 campaign promise of "comprehensive immigration reform."
To cure the amnesty delusion, congressional Republicans could offer immediate permanent legal residence to any illegal alien in the country since 2002, coupled with trebled spending for border security, universal application of the "Real ID" system and hefty fines for violators. Such a proposal hasn't a ghost of a chance of acceptance since it involves actual compromise - but it would have the salubrious effect of smoking out the hypocrites on all sides of this issue. So don't hold your breath.
Ah well. At least Amendment 64 passed, so we can be ... philosophical ... as we circle the drain.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.