With the Tea Partiers

In Search of Americanism

Republicanism has proved insufficient as a guidepost for American values.

By From the May 2012 issue

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Time and again the progressive Left succeeds in forcing people to play by its rules. We see it in the halls of Congress, in statehouses, and even in school boards, as principled politicians run and hide to escape being labeled with one of the Left’s “ists” or “isms.” By balkanizing the electorate with labels that obscure the basic unifying principles of our Republic, progressives seek to divide and conquer. And they’re winning.

There’s communism, socialism, fascism, authoritarianism, and collectivism, all of which are kissing cousins that originate from a basic belief in the centrality of the state to people’s lives. Under these “isms,” man exists for the state; all of them are therefore antithetical to a country founded on the fundamental belief that government exists for the people. The Left uses other “isms” to drive its agenda through intimidation (like false charges of racism) or misinformation (environmentalism). And then, of course, there’s relativism, secularism, multiculturalism, liberalism, and, yes, Progressivism.

In all the “ism” talk, we lose the most important one, and arguably the only one that really matters: Americanism. For years, academics, philosophers, and political scientists on both ends of the spectrum have argued about how to define Americanism. Progressives believe that Americanism—very loosely understood—is everything we are as a nation. Others on the Left argue that establishing a concrete definition of Americanism is to be jingoistic or insensitive to the larger world.

Further, Americanism has been polluted by other “isms,” and by ideas brought from European nations that don’t seek to empower individuals, as we do. Everything from the welfare state to secular relativism has infiltrated America with help from progressives who stopped believing in the supremacy of Americanism. We feel the sting of their faithlessness every day as we watch our economy weaken, our government expand, our businesses struggle, our taxes shoot higher, and our cultural values become unrecognizable.

The American dream has long been seen in the pillars of our communities, like service organizations, business associations, and religious groups, which today are crumbling along with our bridges, dams, and tunnels. At many local Rotary Club luncheons, for instance, a large percentage of active members have long ago retired or closed their businesses. Younger generations either don’t see the value in such institutions or can no longer afford to take time to participate in their good work. This provides openings for progressives and pro-government forces to tighten their grip on our nation’s communities. Apathy spells the end of the America we love, and, quite frankly, crushes the essence of the American spirit.

IT'S TIME TO FIGHT for the survival of Americanism, and to do that we must understand its tenets. Americanism isn’t all things to all people, nor is it jingoistic. You don’t have to live in America to believe in Americanism; anyone on any corner of the earth can believe in the values that have made us the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

Americanism is freedom founded on the power of the individual, and his ability to achieve without undue government interference. It’s the idea that the state exists to serve man, to protect God-given rights, and to allow the greatest amount of political freedom within the bounds of ordered liberty. It’s the idea that people truly own their property and are not merely renting it, and that they are free to use their talents, initiative, and “can do” spirit to make the lives they dream for themselves a reality.

It is indisputable that the Left has long had better grassroots organization and has pursued its damaging statist agenda relentlessly. After all, if you believe government should be all things to all people, then you’re going to encourage its expansion for your own benefit. Americans need to realize that we are up against a group of agitators that have very well-funded—and consequently very large—platforms for driving political debate: the media, Hollywood, public employee unions, and progressive groups backed by Leftist billionaires.

Meanwhile, the decline of the Republican establishment from coast to coast has been a long-coming inevitability, as officials give lip service to supporters, then vote for more spending, more debt, more borrowing, and higher taxes. Discouraged, aging, and dwindling committee members often lack the energy to run vibrant grassroots campaigns at the local level. When Americans who share our conservative values are content to work hard for an election cycle, then pat themselves on the back and leave the fight to the Washington think tanks, GOP establishment, and television talking heads, they have in effect surrendered to the advancing Left. The Left plays smash-mouth football, while the perceived conservative movement plays tiddlywinks on the sidelines, more concerned with form and appearance than substance.

WHAT'S REQUIRED IS a cultural shift among conservatives. Republicanism has proved insufficient as a guidepost for American values, as is patently obvious from the lack of political courage exhibited by supposedly conservative politicians. Many to this day participate in the expansion of government at a level that threatens our future. We must view Republicanism as little more than an institutional or legal vehicle through which to participate in the political process. Our real platform must be Americanism.

All who appreciate Americanism have to celebrate and defend it in their daily lives. America needs everyday citizens to engage continuously on local, state, and national issues. It can be as simple as talking to your children, colleagues, friends, and neighbors around your dining room table about America, its greatness and its challenges, or as easy as joining existing political or civic organizations and being unafraid to let people know where you stand on protecting America.

Then Americans must reengage in the political process by getting involved in their local committees and campaigns. That’s when real people take back control from the establishment forces and the Ruling Class that have blurred the lines between the parties and brought Americanism to the brink of the abyss.

The magnificent story of America is only over if we choose to let it be. If we’re willing to put our hands to the plow and relentlessly pursue Americanism—and truly fight for it—this nation can be renewed and climb to even greater heights of freedom and prosperity in the 21st century.

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About the Author

Ned Ryun is the founder and president of American Majority, a political training institution. His "With the Tea Partiers" column run each month in the The American Spectator's print edition. You can follow him on Twitter @nedryun.