Saturday, December 24, 2011

One Year To Another

One of the most invisible parts of the life of any human being, no matter
where they live, no matter who they are, is the passage of one calendar
year to another. Of course, each religion and each culture have certain
markers called holidays which reflect the four seasons of life on earth, but
the awareness of years passing only seems to be a conscious matter of the
old as they become increasingly aware of their own bodies aging and the
approaching limits of their own lives.

We are now days from one more passage of the calendar year most observed
in the Western world, and in the United States of America, a nation until
recently unchallenged as the most powerful and productive on earth. It
remains so, but now there are inevitable challenges on the near horizon of
history coming, and there are new self-doubts, self-recriminations and
outright pessimism in its outlook into the always unpredictable future.

The former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, recently penned an op ed in The
Wall Street Journal entitled Capitalism And The The Right To Rise,"; and it
caused an extraordinary amount of interest, even among those not counted
as fans of his, or devotees of his family, now perhaps the most distinguished
in the history of American public life (along with the Adams and the Taft
families). Jeb Bush himself, it has often recently been said, would have won
the 2012 Republican nomination for president (a contest now raging in full
force) had not it been for his surname and his DNA.

There was a reason why Mr. Bush's essay caused so much interest, in my
opinion. That reason was that he identified in a phrase, and in his
subsequent argument, what it is that sets the American republic and its
form of democratic capitalism from all other systems to date.

Recently, prominent American commentators have indulged in a feckless
self-revilement of that distinctly American public process, and an open
praise of other processes, including parliamentary systems and even,
the peculiar totalitarian pseudo-capitalism of the Chinese Peoples
Republic. The U.S. republic, they say, is too corrupt, too messy, too
non-egalitarian, and ultimately too weak, to survive much past the
present time. Centralized, highly bureaucratic regimes, they predict, will
soon overshadow our own "unfashionable" way of life.

Radicals and some liberals have already embraced these criticisms, and
it is suggested that the president of the United States is among them.
Isolationists and those on the far right try to pick and choose their
favorite principles while opposing or ignoring others that are vital to
American success and survival.

The U.S. political center and most conservatives, those who still strongly
support "the American way," have been shaken not just by this criticism,
but by events in very recent years here and abroad. Financial "inequality,"
"racism," "political incorrectness," and lack of "diversity" are the rubrics
of much of this criticism, and the historic assertiveness of the contribution
and creativity of the United States has been replaced with defensiveness,
apologies and passivity.

Even the contemporary contest for the Republican nomination for
president in 2012, for the right to oppose Barack Obama, has been
lacking (much of the time) in effective re-assertions of the basic
American principles. On a few occasions, Jon Huntsman, Michele
Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty and, yes,
Herman Cain have come forward in admirable fashion, but none of
them is going to be president. Much more consistently, a very
flawed candidate, Newt Gingrich, an eloquent and thoughtful
historian, has defended and elucidated these principles, and
through the pre-primary/caucus debates articulated them to make
a remarkable comeback. But now he inevitably has run into a
withering series of attacks on his personal life and his long previous
political record that is overshadowing his campaign.

The likely GOP nominee is Mitt Romney, but he has so far failed to "close
the deal" with Republican voters. In many ways, he is the personification
of Jeb Bush's "right to rise," but he has not yet successfully communicated
this to his party, and GOP voters so far are hesitating before handing him
the political prize he seeks.

I have only met Jeb Bush once, and heard him speak in person later on that
occasion. His record as governor of Florida was as good as any governor of
either party anywhere in recent years, and he is obviously a thoughtful man,
perhaps a "deeper" figure than his grandfather, father and brother. The
political calendar, and circumstances, however, have not been advantageous
to any personal ambitions he may hold.

It would serve those in the GOP contest now entering its climactic stage,
nontheless, to take heed of what he wrote, and the meaning of what he said.
Only when the candidates of his party, or any other party, re-assert the
American basic principle Jeb Bush has expressed, and how to restore it,
will this nation and its society be able to take a rightful place in the world
that is coming in the unknown calendar years in front of us.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Sir:
    I don't believe that any thoughtful person -- on the left or right -- would disagree with Gov. Bush's view that everyone has a "right to rise." This is not an unconventional or controversial view, and the fact that it received such an "extraordinary" amount of attention speaks volumes about the vapid "debate" current underway in the Republican Party.

    Mr. Bush's view may be conventional, but hidden between the lines is a view of government and society that ignores history. The notion that over-regulation is unfairly hindering "entrepreneurial capitalism" (a quaint term in an era when the global economy is dominated by gigantic multinational corporations) conveniently overlooks the under-regulated financial industry, whose profit-at-all-costs dogma brought us the Great Recession.

    This is standard-issue Republican (though, I would argue, not conservative) rhetoric: Get government out of the way and business will deliver prosperity. But anyone who's been paying attention to Congress over the past 30 years knows that corporate lobbyists have been watering down -- even writing -- those regulations. Meanwhile, the wages of average American workers have been languishing to such an extent that our once-vaunted "middle class" is on the verge of extinction. Jobs are disappearing overseas, mortgages are underwater, and the cost of education (once thought to be the key to the American Dream) has become prohibitive. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has widened to a chasm not seen since the pre-Depression days.

    Every thoughtful centrist understands that there is a role that government must play in our economic life. As Mr. Bush himself admits, he signed off on plenty of legislation designed to mitigate some harm visited upon society as a result of unfettered business practices. I would suggest that our "right to rise" is better protected by an activist government than by the blunt instrument that is corporate capitalism.