According to the script, Barack Obama’s campaign should be leaking some serious oil. The economy is listing badly, with an anemic growth rate and a record 88 million Americans no longer in the labor force. The Middle East is spinning out of control, with anti-American riots and Islamists gaining power. Obama has exacerbated the racial divide at home with irresponsible rhetoric and policies, and diminished the United States abroad with apology tours and bows before potentates. His administration is ridden with scandal, from Fast and Furious to Solyndra to the rape of GM bondholders to Benghazi. He has stifled domestic job creation by opposing the Keystone Pipeline and prohibiting Gulf drilling while shipping jobs overseas by financing oil exploration in Brazil. He has increasingly acted undemocratically in ruling by executive decree and has trampled our long-held understanding of religious freedom with his contraception mandate. And this is a mere sampling of the transgressions of the most incompetent and corrupt presidency in American history.
So Republicans are befuddled when they see Obama leading among voters. One common explanation is that the polls are rigged. And while they’re no doubt flawed and the race likely closer than they indicate, it’s unreasonable to think Obama isn’t at least slightly ahead of Mitt Romney; moreover, if Romney’s internal polls told a different story, he’d certainly trumpet them.
The other common explanation is that Romney is a poor candidate, too ideologically weak, too stiff, too blue-blooded, and too hard to connect with. But to whom are we comparing him? In 1968 and ‘72 we had Richard Nixon, hardly a charming and robust conservative. In ‘76 it was Gerald Ford, in ‘88 and ‘92 G.H.W. Bush, in ‘96 Bob Dole, in ‘00 and ‘04 G.W. Bush, and in ‘08 John McCain. Were any of these men fonts of traditionalist ideological purity? Were they eye-candy candidates, attractive, articulate, and charming? The reality is that Romney compares favorably to every Republican nominee of the last 40 years — except one. And this is where conservatives will passionately aver, “We must find a Ronald Reagan!” But if the GOP now needs the Great Communicator, a once-in-a-lifetime, transformational figure, to win presidential elections, doesn’t that prove a point?
And the point is this: The explanation isn’t polls, skewed though they may be. It isn’t Romney, flawed, as all humans are, though he may be. The real explanation is one that most pundits either don’t grasp or, in the case of conservatives, are frightened to even contemplate: America has long been on a moral trajectory that has now brought us to an electoral tipping point. And there is no way back from the abyss.
Let’s start like this. If you’re a conservative, you may understand that one way to frame the so-called left/right divide is as a battle between the virtue-oriented and the vice-oriented. The point is that, in the aggregate, there is a profound moral difference between liberals and conservatives. This is reflected in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. The former holds its rallies peacefully, packs up, leaves the grounds clean, and goes home; the latter squats for weeks or months on end, steals, vandalizes, occasionally rapes and murders, preaches anti-economic-freedom messages, expects handouts, and leaves the grounds a wasteland.
The difference is also reflected in how liberals and conservatives react to scandal. When GOP Congressman Mark Foley was found to have sent inappropriate messages to male pages, he had to resign, and his conservative district wouldn’t even vote in a Republican the next election; in contrast, late Democratic Congressman Gerry Studds actually had a sexual affair with a teenage male page, and his liberal Massachusetts district re-elected him six more times until his retirement.
And this moral difference was recently reflected when Obama, responding to the Republican National Convention, said that the GOP’s agenda was so “last century” that it’s like watching “black-and-white TV.” This no doubt played well with liberals because it invoked a theme common among them: impugning the 1950s. The left despises the ‘50s, describing them as backwards, repressed, and boring. But there is a more accurate way to describe ‘50s imagery: it is the imagery of virtue. That is the real problem the Left has with it, even though they don’t understand this themselves.
Once we grasp the above, we realize there is a close correlation between the morality of a people and that of their government. Great thinkers have always understood this. For example, English poet William Cowper rhetorically asked, “When was public virtue to be found when private was not?” and Edmund Burke warned, “It is written in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
So I now ask, does our decadent popular culture, with its violent, sexual imagery and messages, strike you as the fruits of a civilization of temperate minds? Are youngsters who tattoo and pierce themselves (I’ve even seen plates in ears) en masse, something last seen in barbaric, primitive cultures, likely men of temperate minds? When we see people marching mostly naked in the streets, simulating sex acts and celebrating perversion, and cheered by millions of others, does it reflect temperate minds? When we hear about flash mobs met by impotent authorities, fifth-graders having orgies in classrooms and committing rapes, 13-year-old boys hacking a grandmother to death, how as many young people favor socialism (which Churchill called “the gospel of envy”) as oppose it, how even 62 percent of “Christians” don’t believe in absolute morality, and how 42 percent of children are born out of wedlock, do you consider them indicators of a land moving toward or away from temperate-minded status?
Perhaps my above exposition is lacking. How do you encapsulate in 500 words the dynamics of a great civilization’s decline? Simply put, however, the tipping point is this: We’ve reached the stage at which men of intemperate minds outnumber the temperate-minded. It is that victory of vice over virtue that always ends the same way: the death of the republic.
But this is scary to consider. It’s more comforting to talk about Romney’s or the GOP’s faults, which are easy enough to find, and believe our problems lie in our wanting political stars, not ourselves. “Why, all we need is the right candidate — a true conservative! We need bold leadership in the GOP.” Or it could be, “We need a vibrant third party.” It’s a nice dream. But “Where are all the leaders?” is the wrong question; it should be, “Where are all the followers?”
Some will now say it’s hard for people to know whom and what to follow when their only conduit of information, the media, is more corrupt than ever.
Yes, like the rest of the culture.
And it’s clear that the media have both led, and followed, that cultural decline. Never forget that we’re all in this boat together; the media are part of “the people” and are supported by them. All we need do to make them vanish is stop watching, reading, and listening. And men of temperate minds generally already have.
As for the majority of the followers, how did they get to this point? They were both cultivated domestically and imported. It required a long Gramscian march through the institutions; years of turning the schools, media, and the entertainment realm into leftist-foot-soldier-creating propaganda mills. It required decades of immigration by people who hail from socialist nations and who are socialist-minded. It was a process of “demoralization” — which refers to the gradual undermining of a people’s morals — which ex-KGB Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov said in the 1980s was “more than complete.” Where, my temperate-minded friends, do you think it stands today?
It stands at a precipice — as do we. This, again, is what few dare contemplate. We won’t solve the problem of our civilization-rending, and ending, cultural malaise with elections when the largest constituency is now Men of Intemperate Minds. Like the Arab Spring, all we will do is forge our fetters with the mechanism of democracy.