‘There is much decay in the nation.’ So said Adam Smith more than two centuries ago. It reminds us that strong, stable countries like my country, America, can survive the blows we’ve taken over the past few years. Our nation may be constantly tested, but it has great reserves of strength.
In difficult times, like the late 1960s and early 1920s, and this Thanksgiving weekend, it’s important to remember how strong and stable our country is. We are finally coming out of the covid years — so mistreated by public health ‘experts’ — with school closures (so loved by teachers’ unions) that are harmful and unnecessary to students (as Catholic schools have proven). We also struggle with inflation, rising interest rates and sluggish growth. We will survive these.
It is worth remembering our reserves of power, as both political parties scream about the unseemly evil of the opposition and, in the case of the Democrats, propose to surpass it with fundamental changes to the Supreme Court and the Senate. Fortunately, voters and their representatives resisted those calls—by a wide margin in the case of packing the Supreme Court, by a much smaller margin when they preserved the Senate filibuster, essential to the protection of the minority party and the Senate’s role as a forum for debate. and compromise.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Donald Trump and his most die-hard supporters continue to rant about a stolen election long after they’ve exhausted all legal challenges and voters’ patience. Midterm voters resoundingly rejected their backward-looking campaign. That message was clear enough that Trump, who would not endorse any candidate unless he publicly reiterated his claim that the 2020 election was stolen, skipped the topic entirely during his presidential announcement at Mar-a-Lago last week.
Why optimism in the midst of gloom? The most important reason is that our country and its constitutional arrangement have survived the upheavals and ideological blows of the last few years and now the problems seem to be receding. Second, voters are telling both parties that they do not support the most extreme candidates, those whose platforms emphasize resentment, revenge, and dramatic change. On the Republican side, the staunchest 2020 election deniers have been defeated for both state and national office.
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Their tribune, Donald Trump, finally seems vulnerable to more forward-looking candidates. It’s not just Republican officials who see the problem Trump poses. As it cost the party congressional seats and Senate majorities in 2020 and 2022, many everyday Republican voters are struggling, as are independents.
Republicans also see a winning issue in education, promoting parental rights against the rights of teachers’ unions and education bureaucrats, and a return to core academics against indoctrination into racial ideology and the denigration of our nation’s history. achievements.
On the Democratic side, the far-left contingent has failed to expand its small congressional bridgehead. In addition, the party mainstream has finally rejected calls from the left to abolish or defund the police. During the turmoil of 2020, party leaders remained silent and said nothing about the chaos at their national convention. They finally spoke after voters made it clear they wanted basic public safety, not virtue signaling, and believed it could be delivered without racial prejudice.
The main questions for Democrats now are whether they will return to a center-left agenda or stick with Joe Biden’s push for big spending and regulation without a mandate or a congressional majority. Will Biden continue the same policy after losing the House of Representatives? Will he try to push them through executive orders and red tape? Will he leave the southern border open to record numbers of illegal immigrants and deadly drugs? He still has to decide.
The Supreme Court is another source of optimism, despite the national controversy surrounding the abortion decision. The court’s conservative majority appears determined to rein in excessive bureaucratic rule-making unrelated to properly enacted laws. The key questions are whether the president can effectively write laws himself and whether Congress has the authority to delegate so much of its legislative responsibility to unelected bureaucrats. A clear test of the president’s authority will come from Biden’s half-trillion-dollar student loan prize, a massive outlay that usually requires bills passed by Congress. Lower courts have already rejected the president’s overreach, and probably the Supreme Court as well.
Another source of optimism is that the court will finally overturn affirmative action in college admissions and reaffirm a basic American value: the promise of equal treatment for all, regardless of race, creed, or color. Affirmative action programs began under civil rights laws in the mid-1960s and were approved by the Supreme Court in the early 1980s. They represented an understandable but controversial departure from legal equality and were intended as partial compensation for the country’s dark history of enslaving and segregating African Americans.
The affirmative action experiment had four premises. First, it seemed unfair to ask African Americans to compete unaided after centuries of unequal treatment. Second, aid should be relatively moderate, especially in areas such as college admissions. In effect, aid granted to one group had to be balanced against the rights of others. Third, the aid should be gradually reduced, and after 20 or 30 years it should stop completely. It was never meant to be permanent. Finally, it should actually help intended recipients succeed in higher education, not put them in positions where they are likely to struggle and fail.
Crucially, America’s departure from the core value of equal treatment should be modest and temporary. Since affirmative action has become an ongoing program that gives black applicants significant advantages, Scotus is likely to end it.
The last source of optimism is abroad, in Ukraine. The United States and its NATO partners have offered significant support to that country in the fight against Russia’s unprovoked aggression. Russia’s efforts to conquer its sovereign neighbor have been a sickening display of deliberate, inhumane attacks on innocent civilians. The Western response has been slow and cautious — at great cost to Ukrainian lives — but that caution is intended to avoid a Russian escalation that could spread to other countries and lead to a direct confrontation on the battlefield between Russian and NATO troops. American support for Ukraine was not uniform. Populist, nationalist Republicans opposed military aid, as did far-left Democrats (for different reasons). But wiser heads prevailed in both parties.
That’s the larger theme here: wiser heads prevailed. There is no guarantee that they will continue to do so. The pressures would certainly increase if there was a severe economic downturn. But America’s future is much brighter than its critics on the left and right say.
A version of this article was originally published on A world of spectators