(Denver Post, Oct. 28) Have you voted yet? Our state’s nine electoral votes could hand the presidency to Romney or Obama -- and the Colorado outcome in 2012 could turn on a few hundred ballots, much like the Florida outcome in 2000.
Within months of achieving statehood in 1876, Colorado tipped the presidential election for Rutherford B. Hayes, as historian Tom Noel noted recently in these pages. Yet the dominant issue of that era, equal rights for former black slaves, wasn’t settled by the election. It troubled the American conscience for almost another century.
So in battling over the high stakes to be decided between the candidates next week, we need to recognize how much this election will NOT settle. It’s folly to assume that the Nov. 6 verdict ties a ribbon around everything. “Keeping the republic,” our task as free citizens in Benjamin Franklin’s words, is a marathon not a sprint.
Whether your ticket wins or loses, we’ll all wake up in the same America as before. It’s an America where neither Republicans nor Democrats have yet shown the backbone to keep our deficits and debt from worsening to the level of Greece -- with broke California, no longer the Golden State, leading the way. Think that will suddenly change in 2013?
An AP profile on Xi Jingping, soon to be president of China, says he will assume power confident in “Beijing’s belief that its chief rival Washington is in decline.” Osama bin Laden’s taunt that America is a “weak horse” echoes from beyond the grave, emboldening al Qaeda in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the mullahs in Tehran.
Much as I favor the GOP, one party’s victory won’t instantly dispel those doubts. For they arise from what a smart investor or a winning coach calls the fundamentals. Those who are short-selling the USA take note of the actuarial tables for the rise and fall of great nations – which predict a lifespan of about 250 years – and the indicators of slackness in our national character.
They look at what has been called the Tytler cycle, whereby a people climbs up from bondage through faith and courage to liberty and abundance, but then slides down through complacency and apathy into dependency and finally into bondage again. Detractors see America in the late afternoon of our greatness, with darkness coming on. Can we prove them wrong? Absolutely, but it will take more than campaign slogans.
The worst deficit our country faces, looking beyond election 2012, isn’t in jobs, budgets, pensions, or infrastructure. It’s not in energy, health, education, or national security. It is the deficit of personal responsibility. In our enjoyment of liberty and abundance, we’re in danger of forgetting that the price of both is responsibility and self-discipline. Our experiment in freedom on the cheap is running out of time.
A president who constantly ducks responsibility and blames others is but a symptom of this. We elected him with our eyes wide open. Voters took a chance – in hindsight, an irresponsible gamble – on the hip young community organizer over the crusty old war hero. The Obama phenomenon merely shows how far the celebrity culture has gone in swamping principled self-government.
Media elites didn’t care when Obama flew to Vegas for a fundraiser the day Ambassador Stevens was assassinated in an act of war. They shrugged when the former drug dealer Jay-Z threw a party for him. But few noticed either when Kid Rock, whose songs were too dirty for radio, opened for Romney in Denver the other day. Chill out, man.
I hope Mitt wins. He’ll do our country proud. But the rebirth of responsibility America needs, if we’re to survive, isn’t up to him or any politician. It’s up to the person in the mirror: you and me.
John Andrews is director of the Centennial Institute, former president of the Colorado Senate, and the author of Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen’s Guide to the Next American Century (Denali Press, 2011).
(Denver Post, Oct. 30) In a year and a week, we’ll know who Americans want for president. Anybody who claims much certainty about it until then is howling at the moon. I have no prescience about the race, other than to implore my fellow Republicans against over-confidence in the face of Obama’s potent incumbency and billion-dollar war chest.
Unsure as I am about 2012, however, I’ve just been through an experience that encourages me for America’s prospects in this decade, the road to 2020. Strange as it sounds amid our economic woes and the dire predictions of decline, there are signs of a strong rebound like that of the 1980s soon to come.
What makes me say so? The impressions gathered on a book tour. Almost daily since August, when I brought out “Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen’s Guide to the Next American Century” from MT6 Media, they’ve had me talking about it across the country in radio interviews, TV appearances, and speeches. It’s like campaigning again, only the exchange of ideas is far richer.
And my take-away is that Middle America’s “remnant” – as the unbowed faithful were called in ancient Israel – has not yet begun to fight. The fiscal follies, the Great Recession, and the Occupy Wall Street tantrum haven’t deadened the core of character that makes us exceptional. The American spirit, though battered, remains resilient. A hundred days on the author circuit have convinced me.
Personal responsibility as the indispensable condition of freedom and the price of sustained success, a theme in my Denver Post column since 2007, is also the theme of my book. The responsibility deficit as causative to our budgetary and educational and national security deficits – and as fatal to our country, if things don’t change – is my uncheerful warning to every audience. What’s remarkable is that they get it.
The talk shows that have me on, the groups I’m speaking to, are mostly political and conservative, Republican, and in many cases Christian. If they bridled at being told the GOP is part of the responsibility deficit, an entitlement enabler, and that our urgent challenge now is more moral and cultural than partisan or political, I’d worry. But because they own up, instead of pushing back, I am heartened. Therein are the makings of a turnaround.
America has seen this movie before, remember. After the stormy 1960s gave way to the stagnant ‘70s, elite opinion clucked over the nation’s impending decline, the need for lowered expectations, the likelihood we’d seen our best days. Elections weren’t what refuted that. Rebirth of a responsibility ethic from the bottom up refuted it. Reagan’s rise was a consequence, not a cause.
This is why I’m bullish on USA 2020, regardless of the 2012 electoral outcome. Win or lose next year, Barack Obama is indisputably Jimmy Carter redux – and having to endure another term of the man, with an opposition Congress restraining his leftward lurch, won’t ruin us. Do I want that? No. Nor do I expect it. But my confidence rests outside politics, with the already-dawning return of Element R, the responsible remnant.
Politicians fade so fast. By the time we vote in 2020, whoever next wins the presidency will be done in Washington. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will be done in my state, as will most of today's big names in your state. Fixing on the 2020 horizon, and prioritizing a responsibility agenda that puts cultural renewal ahead of governmental goals, will best harness the Tea Party energy for lasting change.
On tour, I have talked of ten steps for this decade. The first five aren’t even political: families strengthened, learning honored, charities expanded, churches energized, multiculturalism outgrown. Upon that foundation we then aim for citizenship revived, defenses rebuilt, government relimited, sovereignty reasserted, freedom of conscience upheld. Personalities come and go. Principles endure. What are yours?