Is It That They No Longer Know?

Or is it that they no longer believe in America as the Founders envisioned her?
The answer [to why the majority of Republican primary voters are no longer conservatives] lies in America's biggest -- and scariest -- problem: Most Americans no longer know what America stands for. For them, America has become just another country, a place located between Canada and Mexico.

But America was founded to be an idea, not another country. As former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put it: "Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy."
If it is just that they no longer know, then principles-based movements like the ones we've been seeing might fix the problem. The problem is a problem of education. Teach people what the principles were, and why they worked, and why losing them is related to grave tragedies. Then, they will be able to apply the principles themselves and we'll see a political shift toward proper political values.

But what if -- as I have come to suspect -- the problem isn't that they don't know but that they don't care? I suspect they've all heard of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What they want is a Federal government that will solve their problems. That implies a Federal government with all kinds of powers to 'do stuff' that is completely untethered from the Constitution.

The idea of restoring the 10th Amendment, which I think is the only way for an America that has become so morally diverse to survive, that's not important if what you want is a Federal government that will solve whatever problems you have.

Trump voters aren't conservatives because they are progressives. Oh, they're not aesthetically aligned with the progressives who want transgender bathrooms and racial diversity. They're aesthetically quite opposed to all that. But that is a difference about what constitutes a beautiful America. On the question of whether or not the government should have whatever powers it needs to make America beautiful, they're completely on the left.


douglas said...

I've come to believe, the more I've heard actual Trump supporters speak, that you're exactly right about where they stand. A significant portion of them are the old blue collar union democrats, not at all conservatives.

Which to me leads to a worse conclusion that they don't care- it's that they do and a stronger federal government is what they want. The left has won a major battle for the future of our country in that when they pushed so far left that the middle left felt left out, they pushed them into the once conservative party, and co-opted it through the backdoor. The GOP really is the new center left party, not the conservative party. After this primary, where I need my GOP registration to make the vote I desire, I'm quitting the party, unless something dramatic happens. The 'Big Tent' idea played right into the lefts hands, didn't it. Maybe people will realize eventually that standing by your principles is the right thing to do.

E Hines said...

Folks--lots of them--don't care because they don't know. They've all heard of--we've all heard of--the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but no one has studied it. That's why we need to retake out education system--part of the generation struggle I've been on about.

...they do [care] and a stronger federal government is what they want.

We've been fighting that fight since the Constitutional Convention; it's not new today. We just need to do what the Left has done all along: incrementally move things back our way. The fight's not lost until we give up.

Eric Hines

Grim said...


I never joined the Republican party, though I was a big fan of Reagan and a some-time ally of George W. Bush. So I got to the place of watching my party wash out from under my feet more than a decade ago. The 2004 election was the Last Ride of the Jacksonian Democrat, when Zell Miller endorsed the Republican president without endorsing the Republican Party. With his retirement there weren't any more of us in government, and likely never will be again.

Thus I have a great deal of sympathy for the sorrow you must be feeling at watching your party turn into a bunch of progressives. For a long time it sounded like it had principles, and maybe from Reagan to Gingrich it had some public policy principles it did believe in. But Gingrich didn't live private principles like Reagan did, and that was the beginning of the end.

Since about the middle of the Obama administration, I've been suggesting that it's time to start thinking about what comes after America. With this election turning into popular vote leaders Clinton v. Trump, with the third option being a communist, I think that even more strongly. Something's coming that isn't America any more, no matter which of these ways we go. Our votes aren't going to be enough to count, but our vote isn't the only choice we get to make.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I contend that we never knew. There was never an era when Americans knew what the Constitution was or Christians knew what Jesus taught. We are in a trough now on both, bu the wave was never high. If that sounds cynical and discouraging, it should be the opposite. Our ancestors never had it much better, it was always a hard row to hoe, but they bore it with courage anyway. And so can we. We may hope for final victory over the forces of evil but we know that is unlikely. Nonetheless, we press on with joy. This is the hour we have been called to and we will be given strength every morning, however bleak things look every night.

It is an honor to know the people here.

Joel Leggett said...

Grim, Well said and amen!

Grim said...

Thank you, Joel. I might give my "amen" to AVI's comment. That looks like the best advice I have yet seen.

Joel Leggett said...

Well, I might agree with AVI's closing advice but the statement that "there was never an era when Americans knew what the Constitution was or Christians knew what Jesus taught is demonstrably untrue. Even in my father's time, school children were taught civics classes that not only taught the Constitution but required children to memorize specific portions of the document. This was done throughout the country. Throughout our history our greatest political conflicts and achievements have revolved around differing popular interpretations of that document. That is what makes the current political environment so disturbing. We are witnessing a moment unknown previously in our history, a political season where appeals to the Constitution are absent from the campaigns of the leading candidates of both parties. The Constitution is simply absent from the debate. Regarding the claim that Christians never knew what Christ taught, his lessons are easily located in the Bible, often with his words highlighted in red. I think it's safe to say Christians have run across them.

Grim said...

To be sure. But I hear an echo, perhaps, of Chesterton's remark: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

To know the Christian way is more than to know what the words are. It's also to know how to do it. Gingrich is a good example of someone who knew just the right words to say, but not how to live by them. Reagan seems to have known more.

To say that there was never an era when "Christians knew what Jesus taught" thus strikes me as plausible, in the sense that none of us have ever known how to do it perfectly. It's merely, in other words, to say that sin has proven inescapable for all of us -- and that is as true as anything I know.

It could be that, in a lesser way, the Constitution is similar. Americans once knew the words better. They have often failed at knowing how to live them.

Joel Leggett said...

Knowledge and execution are two different things. All humans, at one time or another, have failed to execute or act according to their principles. However, it was knowledge of those principles, constitutional or religious, that have allowed us to recognize the error of our ways and, at least attempt, to amend them. One cannot seek forgiveness or self improvement without a prior existing knowledge of the standard and how one failed to live up to it.

Grim said...

You're in peril of dragging me off into philosophy, Joel. :)

Let's say I know how to make a pair of shoes. I know that you cut out a piece of leather, fit it to another piece of rubber with glue, put some stitching in to hold it all together, and whatever other steps there are. So, in a way, I know exactly how to put together a shoe.

Another person is a shoemaker, and has made a thousand pairs of shoes. His shoes are uniformly said to be excellent by everyone who wears them.

Now I understand you when you say that knowledge and execution are different. But I want to suggest that it is also reasonable to say that he knows how to make a shoe in a way that I do not -- even though I may know, in another sense, exactly how he does it.

That's what I took AVI to be saying.

Ymar Sakar said...

Something's coming that isn't America any more, no matter which of these ways we go. Our votes aren't going to be enough to count, but our vote isn't the only choice we get to make.

Same thing I saw in 2007.

Grim said...

So you keep saying. As I recall, though, there were supposed to be bodies stacked like cordwood. Or is that still to come?

Eric Blair said...

Geez, ya'll are whiny tonight.

While there is something to the idea that the Republican party isn't the party of small government any more--the only person I've seen saying anything remotely like that is Gary Johnson, the idea that nobody ever knew what the country was about is kinda ignorant. Likewise the idea that nobody ever knew what Christ was about. Although to the latter, all you non-Roman Catholics out there are a bunch of damned heretics who are going to burn in hell.

See how that works?

The country is, in the end, what enough people say it is to make it stick. Which is why there aren't any Confederate states anymore. And none of us may like either of those things, but I'm pretty sure it's pretty much been like that from the start.

In any case, I don't see a "post America" no matter who wins.

Grim said...

Depends on what you mean by 'post America.' What I mean is that it won't have anything to do with the Constitution the Founders established. I don't think that's even controversial.

In any case, 'enough people' can mean a lot of things too. It could mean a majority vote among everyone eligible. It could also more closely resemble the winning coalition in the American Revolution, which was rather less than a clean majority. They won anyway.

douglas said...

Well, boys, mea culpa for my whinyness, it's just that I must admit, the choices before us leave me a bit depressed.

Also, thanks for the more positive notes, AVI, Grim, and Eric H. Okay, even Eric B. It's a good reminder that regardless of our circumstances, we must get on with what we must do, and to bring to it a bit of joy to lighten the burden. I remarked to my wife a bit after the initial comment something to the effect of 'Why am I so down? This is nothing compared to living during the Civil War, or the Revolutionary War. For that matter, WWII.

So, to concur with AVI, it is indeed an honor to know the people here.

Now then, Grim, you are exactly right- that you need critical mass- but that it needn't necessarily be a majority. I think there are seeds of a great movement back to the Constitution around us, if they can only be nurtured till they can reestablish good roots. Until Trump drove it off the rails, that was something we were actually talking about in the primaries. Limited government is something that I don't think has even crossed Trump's mind, and certainly not Hillary's, so we may be looking at yet another few years of growing bureaucracy and decline in liberty, but perhaps a good house fire is just what we need to remind us what we really have of value in the first place. I had hoped eight years of Obama would be enough, but it seems we have more penance to do before we can escape this purgatory. History tells us the American people have to be pushed hard before they'll push back, but when they do, it's a force to be reckoned with.