With all our differences, Americans agree that we’re on the wrong track.
The latest Gallup poll asking “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?” shows just 25 percent satisfied. Even among Democrats, just 35 percent are satisfied.
Lest you think that Americans are chronically unhappy, satisfaction in 2000 — when George W. Bush was elected president — was over 60 percent. It then spiraled down for the next eight years, bottoming out at 7 percent at the end of his second term. During the Obama years, satisfaction peaked at 36 percent in the early days when many Americans still believed that Barack Obama had something new and positive to offer the country.
The portrayal of Tea Partiers as crazy ideologues that sprouted suddenly from the grass roots in reaction to Barack Obama is not accurate. The Tea Party movement expressed dissatisfaction which had already long been fermenting. It was dissatisfaction with business-as-usual in Washington that was key to Obama getting nominated in the Democratic Party and elected president.
The Republican “establishment” is complicit in the problem because none of today’s biggest problems are new. They have been growing and obvious for many years and Republicans who have held power in Washington — both in the White House and in the congress — have ignored it all.
Barack Obama did not invent the problems with American health care. Costs were going through the roof before he got elected. Tens of millions of Americans were living without insurance before he was elected.
But Republicans did nothing. They were afraid of being bold, of taking on hard issues, of being too ideological.
So Americans elected a president, twice, who was not afraid of being bold, of taking on hard issues or being ideological.
What Barack Obama did was step on the accelerator of the destructive trends that had been already taking place in the country.
The trend toward growing the welfare state, the trend toward more government interference in private American life and the trend toward interpreting religious freedom as absolute moral relativism.
The issue for Republicans today is whether they can be as clear and principled about who they are as Democrats are.
It is not enough to just talk about spending. All government spending is not created equal. Spending for national defense is a clear constitutional responsibility of the federal government.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the main source of growth of government spending will be entitlements — government health care programs and Social Security. By 2038, they will double as a percentage of our national economy.
Spending per student in our public school system has increased 200 percent since 1970 with no change in test scores.
Despite claims that so-called “social” issues are different from economic issues, the evidence is overwhelming correlating poverty, lack of education, and lack of upward mobility to growing up in a home without two married parents. Can we continue to delude ourselves that we can have a free, prosperous country when almost half our babies are born to unwed mothers?
As our country ages and there are as many Americans over 85 as there are under 5, can we continue to believe that it doesn’t matter that we abort a million babies a year?
Lincoln told America that it can’t be half slave and half free. It will become all one or all the other.
Tea Partiers have been the voice of opposition from the grass roots. The question remains whether Republicans will listen and respond with the same boldness to lead in the direction of freedom as Obama and his party have in leading in the opposite direction.
Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education.