The Battle for What Kind of Country America Will Be

In 1992, Dr. John Gray published his book, ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.’

From the Wikipedia page:

The book states that most of common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the genders, which the author exemplifies by means of its eponymous  metaphor: that men and women are from distinct planets—men from Mars and women from Venus

Recent pieces from Washington Post columnist Dan Balz and Commentary’s Peter Wehner reference a Pew Poll that indicates how politically polarized Americans have become.

Dan Balz:

Today, perceptions of political division are even more negative than during the worst days under Bush, and there is minimal confidence that things will change for the better anytime soon.

Peter Wehner:

We are in the midst of a prolonged period of alienation between the American people and those who govern them. That isn’t good for a republic, where some degree of trust between the citizenry and its elected leaders is necessary in order to address urgent national problems.

Words and phrases like ‘polarization’ and ‘politically divided’ are in the air.

All this is simply the latest battle between Americans about what kind of country America will be.

To borrow from Dr. Gray: politically speaking, Conservatives are from Mars and Progressives are from Venus.

That is to say, conservatives and progressives hold fundamentally different points of view on the nature of man, politics and governance.

In his 1987 book, ‘A Conflict of Visions’, economist/philosopher Thomas Sowell explains the fundamental difference between conservatives and progressives with the premise that conservatives and progressives operate from two entirely different ‘visions’, and that these underlying ‘visions’ are in conflict with one/another and this conflict of visions manifests itself in the political struggles seen today.

Thomas Sowell A Conflict of Visions 12-17-14

Sowell refers to the conservative view as being the ‘constrained’ vision, and the progressive view as the ‘unconstrained’ vision.

Commentator Bill Whittle explains the two visions:

I can confirm from my interactions on social media and face-to-face in the last decade or so that people who call themselves conservatives and progressives may as well live on different planets. The assumptions inherent in each other’s arguments and the language each use is so different as to make meaningful dialog and exchange of ideas exceedingly difficult.

How did this happen?

Jonathan Haidt (pronounced like the word, ‘height’), who goes by the title of Social Psychologist at New York University recently posted a YouTube video of a talk he participated in titled, ‘The Moral Psychology of Political Polarization: Many Causes and a Few Possible Responses’. Haidt is the author of the book, ‘The Righteous Mind, Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion’:

Jonathan Haidt The Righteous Mind British Cover 12-17-14

The above picture is the cover of Haidt’s book as published in Great Britain; the cover in the USA isn’t nearly so. . .pointed. Haidt’s USA cover nonetheless does have a depiction of an angel and a demon to make his point that political discourse has gotten nastier of late and in these days of hyper-partisan politics, people are more apt to think more in Manichean black/white, good/evil terms and demonize those on the other side.

Jonathan Haidt The Righteous Mind American Cover 12-17-14

Haidt believes that political polarization is going to get worse and by way of suggesting a remedy, he shares an Arab proverb, ‘Me against my brother; me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the stranger’ to make the point that if Americans were to become united on a common national goal, they’ll be less apt to target one/another (as a for example, Haidt speaks of Americans working together to reverse the trend of America losing prestige, influence, and prosperity to Asian countries growing in power, such as China).

Haidt, who grew up in a liberal environment, nevertheless acknowledges that conservatives are right when they say government has grown too big:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/4380194

In what may be jarring to some (cough – baby boomers – cough), Haidt recommends adopting the long view (2020 and beyond), focusing on the Millennial and subsequent generations and simply getting through then forgetting about the Baby Boomer generation:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/4380232

Haidt observes we could be doing civics education better and recounts his liberal upbringing and his lack of knowledge of conservative ideas up until his 40’s when he then sought out conservative ideas:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/4380344

Haidt’s point about civic education particularly resonated with me, because of my life-long observation that too many Americans are woefully ignorant of the form of government we have that guarantees our liberty, which makes it more likely that those in power will take advantage of the people’s ignorance for their own nefarious ends:

https://marshallpowerlocke.com/2014/12/11/the-desperate-need-for-citizen-training-in-our-republic/

I suspect Haidt’s comments about the kind of insularity he personally experienced regarding conservative ideas represents a large segment of his fellow colleagues in academia as well as people in entertainment, media, and government.

Where Haidt advocates for some kind of ‘grand bargain’ between conservatives and progressives in the future, I see more of a scenario where Americans will, as in times past, have to decide what kind of country America will be.

As Abraham Lincoln said in his ‘House Divided’ speech regarding the institution of slavery:

It [America] will become all one thing or all the other.

The choice before the American people is this: They can become more like a European-style social democracy state (a.k.a., ‘soft despotism’) run by progressive elites and their army of unelected ‘experts’ who will promise cradle to grave ‘security’, where in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, the citizens will be “reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd”.

Or. . .

They can choose to rediscover and restore the exhilarating idea of the American Revolution, the Shot Heard Round The World where people who yearned to be free from the yoke of tyranny told the world’s kings, dictators, and despots in no uncertain terms that a new form of government – self government – has taken hold in this land, and we reject all forms of despotism, including the soft despotism progressives are offering.

Americans must choose. Just as they had to choose between Anti-Federalism and Federalism, or slavery and freedom, or Jim Crow and full civil rights for all Americans, they must choose between soft despotism and freedom.

Haidt’s idea of a ‘grand bargain’ between progressives and conservatives may be motivated by a sincere care and concern for our country, but it is akin to putting new wine in old wineskins. It won’t work.

We know what does work. We know what is right and good and true.

Senator Tom Coburn from the State of Oklahoma delivered his farewell speech in the Senate chamber on December 11, 2014. He was emotional and eloquent in pointing out the dangers of progressivism and the blessings of freedom.

Some excerpts:

The loss of freedom we have imposed by the arrogance of an all-too-powerful Federal Government, ignoring the wisdom and writing of our Founders that said: Above all, we must protect the liberty of the individual and recognize that liberty is given as a God-given right.

I know not everybody agrees with me, but the one thing I do know is that our Founders agreed with me.

Every Member of the Senate takes the same oath and this is where I differ with a lot of colleagues. Let me read the oath, because I think it is part of the problem. I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Your whole goal is to protect the United States of America, its Constitution and its liberties. It is not to provide benefits for your State. That is where we differ. That is where my conflict with my colleagues has come. It is nice to be able to do things for your State, but that isn’t our charge. Our charge is to protect the future of our country by upholding the Constitution and ensuring the liberty that is guaranteed there is protected and preserved.

Senator Tom Coburn argues for an America that celebrates the wisdom of the Founders and the liberty that self-governance provides and warns that the good intentions of a central government run by well-meaning politicians and their hoard of elite compassionate bureaucratic ‘experts’ is a threat to every American’s freedom.

Yes, conservatives operating under the ‘constrained’ vision have the better argument. No, progressives laboring under the ‘unconstrained’ vision aren’t the devil, they’re just profoundly wrong.

Choose well, America.

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2 Comments on “The Battle for What Kind of Country America Will Be”

  1. linda says:

    Well written Marshall

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