America’s political friction meter is edging up again. You can expect it to flare in 2024. How do you address that? Duck and cover, get right into it, or work hard and stay above it? The last may serve most of us best, and assure the future is bright.
We all know the political left – however widely that cluster is defined – is preoccupied with change for change’s sake, or for ideology, political gain, or power concentration. They tend to trust the government to make better decisions than we do for ourselves, see no problem forcing them.
They are opposed to the expansive and historically rooted view of individual liberty, thinking instead that making men equal at some lowest possible level is preferable to a diversity of outcomes based on ideas, work, skills, education, dreams, or personal pursuits of happiness.
They prefer to talk – and at times to force – politics to follow ruts carved by group identification, imagining something in the Constitution saw America as a bunch of groups, or that the Bill of Rights speaks to group rights rather than individual rights, which it does not.
Even the 5th and 14th Amendments, which assure “equal protection” under the law, at no time suggest equality should eclipse individual liberty if that liberty is fairly pursued on God’s gifts.
Nowhere does the Constitution suggest we should give up our individuality, trade it for redefining ourselves as members of some entitled or factional subgroup, and give up being individuals blessed by our American identity in favor of being a faction, race, gender, or owed group.
Notably, all respected American leaders in or out of government since our founding – unless closely identified with communism, fascism, or believing ends justify means, fundamentally anti-American and anti-democratic ideas – have worked to elevate the individual.
This is who we are, clear-eyed believers in God’s master plan – such as we know it – for each of us, for each individual, a belief that each life is sacred, regardless of youngest age or eldest frailty, economic or cultural circumstance, religious or ideological belief, if respecting of others.
Notably, the political left, those who do not subscribe to this constitutional, democratic, and Judeo-Christian tenet of self-determination, do think differently. They see power as a means for remaking all society, and thus forcing us into conformity with their views.
More specifically, they see power as a non-religious holy grail, and are sure that government – if fully empowered to remake our world, reorient our identities and desires, redefine our life aspirations, and limit our decisions – or simply make them for us – can get things “right,” get us nearer Utopia.
The political left is not abashed about any of this. They think we will not like it but will be better off for their centralized decisions, ending free markets for food, energy, transportation, housing, medical care, and instead giving those decisions – as in the former Soviet Union and China – to the government, and never more to the individual.
They ignore human nature, the power of the human heart, courage, selflessness, hope, dreams, love of family, faith, God, and orthodoxies like Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” which suggests the best comes from millions of decisions, greatest individual liberty consistent with others’ liberties.
All this brings us back to modern politics. Yes, the stakes are high, the argument over these things is easy, and the potential for political violence is high when the left begins to push ideology or repression. But there is a better way: Just work hard for freedom, keep your faith strong, and stay above it.
In closing, one is reminded of three quotes. One is from Thomas Jefferson: “I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument …When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion, as I to mine… His error does me no injury, and shall I … bring all men by force of argument to one opinion?”
The second Colin Powell, for whom I worked: “Never let your ego get so close to your position, that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.” A timely warning, and strong defense.
Finally, there is Abraham Lincoln speaking with a friend. “I do not like that man …,” he reported to his friend, adding “I must get to know him better.” Life is short, good neighbors of great value. If we work hard for freedom, and help others to see its virtue, the future is bright, always has been.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.