Gladius forwarded an important Thomas Sowell column, “Local or National Elections?”, which explains the stakes of this year’s battle over control of the Senate. Dr. Sowell, in his inimitable style, reminds us that while Tip O’Neill popularized the “all politics is local” phrase, on some elections in Washington the very course of America’s future rests. In clear, simple terms he explains:
“In 1860, some abolitionists split the anti-slavery vote by running their own candidate — who had no chance of winning — instead of supporting Abraham Lincoln, who was not pure enough for some abolitionists. Lincoln got just 40 percent of the vote, though that turned out to be enough to win in a crowded field.
But what a gamble with the fate of millions of human beings held as slaves! And for what? Symbolic political purity?
This year as well, there are third-party candidates complicating elections that can decide the fate of this nation for years to come. No candidate that irresponsible deserves any vote. With all the cross-currents of political controversies raging today, what is the overriding national issue that makes this year’s Congressional elections so crucial?
That issue is whether, despite all the lawless edicts of President Obama, threatening one-man rule, we can still salvage enough of the Constitution to remain a free, democratic nation.”
Recently, Gwyneth Paltrow, obviously not well-versed on the arguments in “The Federalist Papers”, made headlines extolling President Obama’s brand of lawlessness, stating:
“It would be wonderful if we are able to give this man all the power he needs to accomplish the things he needs to,” Ms. Paltrow said.
The same mindless drivel permeates America, with citizens completely uneducated about The Constitution, American history and more importantly our foundational principles. In country music small remnants of American ideals still linger and Paltrow’s comments brought to mind the lyrics from an old Aaron Tippin song, “You’ve Got To Stand For Something”: “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything!” What Paltrow is preening about is giving one man unchecked power. In her isolated, elitist celebrity bubble, she rubs elbows with movers and shakers of the American political left, but one can only wonder if she has ever read “The Constitution of the United States”.
My friend, Minta, expressed the erosion of American ideals based on our founding principles, in our latest email exchange:
“I think we need to think about two different countries, one called the United States and the other called America. Most people in our country no longer live in America, just the States. It’s a useful way to view it. They can absolutely be un-American, because America is an idea set onto a real country. If that country loses the idea—the ideas and ideals—America will cease to be. This is the fight we are waging: to keep the United States being America too.”
In lieu of fabricated narratives, lame hash-tag campaigns and repeating hollow slogans, it’s time for Americans to do some independent research away from political ideologues on either side of the political aisle. Dr. Sowell feels this election is imperative to check the tide of lawlessness (yes, even some liberal law professors have spoken out against President Obama’s brand of “I’ve got a pen and a phone” governance by executive decree) and I hope a Republican majority can check executive hubris, but our problems, while magnified by high-profile attention to Washington, stem from a lazy, uneducated citizenry, bereft of even a morsel of dedication to civic duty. More than half the country receives some form of hand-outs from Washington, content to believe in what is owed to them rather than what they owe America. We have become a nation of mindless followers and one election, albeit a crucially important one, won’t change America, until, “we the people” can sit down at the dinner table as one nation, united by our American ideals.
President Lincoln, attempting to unite a divided America at the close of the US Civil War, left us with these immortal words:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
His words remain important, but even more important is how a man from humble origins became one of the most pivotal presidents in American history. “The Eloquent President”, by Ronald C. White, Jr., takes you on a journey of understanding Lincoln through his words and as one of our most gifted writers and orators to ever hold the office of President, plenty of material exists. Lincoln didn’t have access to public libraries or the internet; what he had was the intestinal fortitude to pick himself up and work hard to improve himself. He refused to believe in “insurmountable obstacles” (yes, that ever-recurring LB theme – “faith to move mountains” and a willingness to work hard). A little story from Lincoln’s youth explains how this backwoods lawyer found the words to pen the Gettysburg Address. White writes:
“When Lincoln moved to New Salem he made the decision to master the English language by an intense study of grammar. While living in New Salem, Lincoln heard that a farmer, John Vance, owned a copy of Samuel Kirkham’s English Grammar. Lincoln walked six miles to get it. He was twenty-three years old.” (pages 102-103)
No one handed President Lincoln a free ride to an Ivy league school and likewise Dr. Sowell’s personal biography demonstrates that with hard work anyone can succeed. Lincoln walked six miles to track down a book he thought held the key to improving his grammar; Dr. Sowell, a poor black man from Harlem, worked hard to acquire an education in the 1950s, long before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
A few years ago I wrote a piece, “The Quest For American Leadership In The 21st Century: A Few Home Truths” and I still think my three-step plan is worth considering:
“The quest for our 21st century American leaders starts with you. Step One: Think for yourself; move away from being swayed by political partisans hurling talking points at you. Take the time to study issues, candidates and find your own moral compass. President George Washington, my favorite founding father, wrote a list titled, Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation”, 110 rules covering everything from admonitions not to clean your teeth with the tablecloth to don’t run in the streets. He ended with #110: “Labour to keep alive in your breast that Little Spark of Celestial Fire Called Conscience.” That should be your guide.
Step Two: Be the leader of your own destiny. Don’t be a follower of populist movements. left or right, unless you have completed Step One. Before becoming a political lemming, allowing professional media figures to press your political hot buttons, calmly discuss issues with family and friends. In our 24 hour news cycle, internet-connected world, misinformation, disinformation and outright lies can circle the globe in minutes. Don’t let these control your political reasoning, refer back to Step Two.
Step Three: Follow the rules. President Lincoln’s call for reverence for the laws provides the keystone to rebuilding a stronger America. When political aspirants lack personal integrity, obfuscate on public issues, or find excuses for not following the rules; move on and continue your quest for worthy leaders. To honor those who sacrificed all, to secure our blessings of liberty, at the very least we all have a duty to become informed citizens, who demand men and women of character to lead us in this century.”