Friday on the way to Bryan I was listening to Guadalupe Radio and one of the guests brought up an interesting take on the election. The point raised was that the election is spurring a discussion on is there an American Culture, and if so what is the culture. To a very large degree this election is quickly morphing into that very question.
While many different elements went into the Trump victory in the primary, to a some degree it was fueled by voters who are reacting against black lives matter, rioting (yes these two overlap), benefits for illegal aliens, hostility to the energy sector, and general entitlement. The GOP isn’t a natural fit for many of these new voters, they should be seen as a discrete subsection of the population. The reaction of the enumerated groups and their allies have changed the tone of the election and is quickly pushing this election to become a referendum on the societal and cultural direction of the nation.
In this framework the first question becomes is there an American Culture? The easy answer is sure, Baseball, Apple Pie, and the Fourth of July! A less flippant answer is yes there’s an American Culture, but that it consists of a few core values with significant regional differences. How these core values are implemented and the change in how the values are viewed is what is leading to the distinct clash in societal norms today.
Sociology sets forth a list of nine American Values. These are:
Achievement and Success
Activity and Work
Practicality and Efficiency
Democracy and Enterprise
Organizations that help foreign exchange students prepare for life in the U.S. add:
What’s glaringly missing from the list is “melting pot”, and that’s a very telling omission. The lack of “melting pot” precisely encapsulates the stark contrast in views for this election. The lack of melting pot is why we have seen an unravelling of the American Culture and a changing in what are viewed as American Values.
Without melting pot, we no longer have equality of opportunity. We have a focus on equality of outcome, regardless of if the outcome places the best people in the position. Without melting pot we see independence take on greater importance than democracy and enterprise. This in turn fuels the lack of melting and makes society become even more segmented.
The two candidates offer stark choices. One believes that progress is measured in terms of achievement and success , enterprise, and science. The other believes progress is measured in material comfort. One believes that achievement and success comes from activity and work. The other believes that achievement and success is measured in equal outcome and the degree of material comfort.
These changes in values draws into question the role of government and how the rest of the values are carried out. The Federalist Number 51 states, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” The reaction to Trump’s nomination establishes that men are not angels. The view that violence is entirely permissible and justified to disrupt Trump’s rallies shows that we’ve reached the tipping point and everyone must decide what type of governance the future will hold. We can have a government of democracy and enterprise lead by a candidate who knows he is no angel, or we can have a government of material comfort lead by a candidate who acts as if she were an angel.
The Federalist Number 51 also states, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” This is the danger in the upcoming election. The Supreme Court is split 4-4 and the next President controls the direction of the Court. A leftist Court takes us back to the abuses of the Warren Court. There’s no longer any auxiliary precautions to check the exercise of power that we’ve seen in the past eight years. The election isn’t just about who leads for the next four years. This election is about the basic view of what does America stand for. Either we maintain our American Culture, or we become part of the world culture that has taken root in Europe and drives decision making at the United Nations.