In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama began with a near-perfect expression of progressive dogma. The great and glorious future awaits, we need only calm our quaking hearts and embrace the fundamental transformation. The old beliefs must be discarded, and American history shows that only fear can slow change:
America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.”
This is a neat trick, and in the hands of a talented politician, it can be a potent means of avoiding debate.
Concerned that the sexual revolution is destroying the family and fraying the fabric of society? You fear love. Concerned that mass numbers of low-skill immigrants are decreasing wages, increasing crime, and overwhelming social services? You fear people who look different from you. Are you demanding that the Obama administration step up its war against ISIS? You’re too fearful and ignorant to realize that, as the New York Times helpfully reminded readers this week, your bathtub is more dangerous than Muslim terrorists.
Thus, we end up with the stirring call: Embrace the president’s agenda, or give in to our worst fears:
Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?
#share#But Americans aren’t fearful. They’re angry. The entire alphabet soup of federal agencies has not only failed the American people, they’ve often turned against the very citizens and Constitution they’re required to serve. The IRS attacks the conservative movement. The VA leaves veterans to die. The EPA lawlessly expands its power until it regulates and restricts vast sectors of the American economy. HHS attacks religious liberty. The Department of Education wages war on due process and free speech. The list could go on and on.
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Indeed, rising anger against political correctness is itself evidence of American fearlessness. At its very core, political correctness endeavors to alter reality — to transform perception through selective deception. Yet it turns out that Americans crave the truth. We want to understand the true dimension of the jihadist threat. We want to understand the roots of poverty and the behaviors that drive Americans into bankruptcy and hopelessness. We want more, not less, information about the impact of mass immigration on our nation’s economy and culture.
There are, of course, times when public fear is a significant factor in public affairs. Stock market crashes, surprise attacks, economic disruption — all of these things can cause fear. And politicians often intentionally try to whip up fear to advance their own interests. But any politician — such as Chris Christie, who declared that Americans were “scared to death” of ISIS — who tries to argue that America is in the grips of fear now is misdiagnosing the public mood.
#related#Obama should know better. Indeed, arguably the two angriest candidates in America today — Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump — are drawing support from his own side. Sanders, the grumpy socialist, is appealing directly to many of the same progressives who mobilized to elect Obama. But what about Trump? His most dedicated supporters are often alienated Democrats, people “on the periphery of the GOP coalition.” Indeed, some polls indicate that Trump could win as much as 20 percent of likely Democratic voters in the general election.
Anger can be a virtue — even Jesus got angry — and in this moment of American history, properly channeled anger might be the very thing that restores American strength abroad and begins to correct injustice and rampant abuses of power here at home. Indeed, without anger, we may not have the fortitude to change. To those crying out for “sunnier,” more pleasant politicians, ask yourself if these people have the strength of will to confront entrenched, malignant ideologues in the IRS, DOJ, EPA, BLM, VA, and every other leftist enclave in American government. Ask yourselves if they’re prepared to confront ISIS, Iran, and Russia.
The American people aren’t fearful. They’re angry, and that anger may well be the very thing that motivates the change America needs.
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.