Press reports tell us that Republican activists are convinced that the nation is hurtling down the wrong road, about to lose its place in the world to the Chinese. Weak, feckless, and faithless, burdened by too much debt, the America we grew up knowing is on the skids.
As usual, press reports are probably wrong. I ask, if we are in decline, compared to what? The Republican activists I know are, to be sure, concerned that many things about America are far from where they should be and getting worse. But doomed? Hardly, and most conservatives are confident things can be turned around with a few — well, more than a few — changes. The results of the 2010 election, for one thing, probably tell much about how Republican activists think about the current state of affairs. There is no shortage of concern about Washington’s spending habits and debts, about our involvement in two endless wars sucking up billions of dollars every week, about the morals, values, and faithlessness of the American culture, or the radical attitudes and incompetence of our president and his administration. But losing our place in the world? Replaced by the Chinese? Is that where we are?
As the Carter administration drew to a close just over 30 years ago, predictions of imminent decline were flying around like summer swallows. Interest rates had hit the roof, debt was overwhelming Washington, unemployment was the highest in years, the stock market was in the doldrums, and Jimmy Carter talked about a paralyzing malaise that was inundating the country. But with the election of a new president in 1980, someone willing to make some tough choices and able to push new and innovative policies through Congress, it did not take long before the economy was booming, jobs were plentiful, and America on the road to 20 of its best years ever.
That was not the first time the idea that America was on the skids arose. And there is no question that we have had our share of problems, and still do. But the good news is, we have always been able to recover and reemerge as the exceptional place the world expects us to be. For one thing, Americans are the most resourceful people in the world. Our economy remains far and away the largest and strongest, we have many of the natural resources we need and access to the rest, our culture is the envy of the world, and, despite the best efforts of the liberal establishment, the system our Founders put together still works.
In any case, we have asked a few thoughtful people what they think about America’s decline. Suffice it to say that most think America still has the wherewithal to thrive, if only the wet blanket of suffocating government can be lifted and the genius of the free market, the ingenuity of a free people, and the exceptionalness of America can be allowed to thrive once again. As we at the Spectator have been saying for more than 40 years, it is all about government versus freedom.
Incidentally, Midge Decter in her contribution may strike some as being a bit harsh when she writes that under President Obama our country has been subjected “to the dumbest — and almost certainly the most ignorant — administration in living memory.” Truth be told, she is just being charitable.