It begins again. Four years ago, as millions of Americans and people throughout the world cheered with unmatched fervor at his election, Barack Obama became president-elect of the United States. Today, he has retained his position. In the four years between, the fears of those who did not support Obama’s election were proven right as unemployment remained high, the economy proved first disastrous and now sluggish with a chance of remission, bailout and stimulus packages failed to resolve a growing economic disaster, the Affordable Care Act marked one of the most blatant violations of individual rights and the single largest tax hike in American history, entitlement programs continually became an anchor threatening to drag us further towards fiscal calamity, the national debt increased more than under any president in American history, relations with historical allies were shaken while threatening enemies were appeased and often inexplicably provided undue aid and assistance, we led NATO into a conflict in Libya which now seems to have replaced a loathsome but controllable despot with operatives of al Qaeda, the threat of Islamic totalitarianism in the Middle East remained unimpeded, our national sovereignty came under increasing threat from the administration’s attempted subjugation of our self-governance to the imperatives of international law and international organizations, hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds were wasted on no-starter green energy projects that resulted in huge payouts to Obama’s campaign supporters, the Department of the Interior waged a campaign to shut down American offshore drilling businesses without warrant, people around the country saw their wages decline and expenses increase, the Secretary of Energy explicitly declared his intention to deliberately raise gas prices to levels seen in Europe, American businessmen were told that they were not to credit for their own achievements by the president’s “You didn’t build that” rhetoric, American operatives and diplomats were killed in defense of the consulate in Benghazi while the president hesitated to engage the enemy for fear of escalation, Iran moves ever closer to a nuclear weapon with only the slightest concern shown by the president, and many other similarly inglorious travesties and injustices were perpetrated against American citizens and our allies.
Nonetheless, the American people saw fit to reelect a president such as this over a candidate who, though miles from perfect, represented a return to some semblance of reason, normalcy, and American values. Charisma triumphed over self-esteem and standards for success were flagrantly abandoned for emotionalist promises, excuses, and hollow apologies.
This much you know. The question now is: where do we go from here? How do the men and women of reason, purpose, and self-esteem continue the fight for the principles of capitalism and individual rights? Do we, through a pragmatic compromising of our moral values, indulge those who claim that answers are to be found in more moderation, the loyal towing of the centrist line and the surrender of the ideas of small government and individual liberties to the waste bin of “noble, but impractical” dreams? Or do we adhere to the belief, once written and long repeated, that “principles only mean something if you stick by them when they’re inconvenient”, that we are only as good as the content of our ideas, and that our finest hours may be spent clinging with all our power to reason when battered by the doubt and cynicisms of a society in the process of surrender to the enemy it could never define: reality? Do we accept defeat and consign ourselves to be the payments of tribute in this negotiated surrender, or do we conjure the will to resist, no matter how long and how difficult the road to freedom? To the man of reason, only one answer is considerable. To the man who desires his own success, only one is possible.
The American standard for what is expected of our president has been, through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, so horribly corroded as to give rise to the spectacle that was witnessed in this election: a man who lacked a resume when he began as president offering, in his second running, one littered with failure and enmity toward those values on which our nation was founded; a man who arrived as a closely-guarded ideological mystery baring cold, unapologetic nihilism as his philosophic identity; a politician who promises success, yet offers no plan; a president who lacks a past offering no future. What Americans demonstrated was that these things were unimportant to them, that a legacy of rampant failure was no deterrent to them choosing its perpetuation because they held no standards for success to begin with, that they were for sale to the lowest bidder so long as that bidder shared their self-doubt, their moral relativism, their absence of values, and asked little of them in return. They showed that they would endure unknown hardship without hesitation because they had closed their minds to the only ideas that could save them from it– individual rights, freedom, capitalism– and they knew no other way.
Tragically, the choices offered to voters this time around did not demonstrate a true dichotomy of ideologies. In many respects, the Romney campaign’s own ideological faults and contradictions were to blame for his having not enjoyed greater success. On many issues, he failed to engage the president on fundamentals, debating only the particular implementations of premises which the two men shared. In important respects, however, this is not uniquely Romney’s problem. It is, more essentially, the problem of the modern Right and one that they must solve if they are to escape their current condition of being always on the defensive. Remember, as Ayn Rand wrote, “In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.” So long as the American Right holds to the basic premises of altruism and collectivism, it will be disarmed in the face of a Left that does so more devoutly and with less reservation. If the results are to change for Republicans, the equation must change.
The Right is in need of a consistent identity. At present, it entertains merely a lesser degree of the Left’s philosophies on policy issues from fiscal reform and the national debt to the scope and purpose of government. In order to see true success and a viable political future that does not involve this nation’s continual drift toward statism and disaster, the Republican party will have to become a party of ideas– rational ideas. It will have to accept individual rights as a pervading premise in all political issues and the only rational standard by which to measure any act of government. It will have to embrace its role as a defender of capitalism, neither bowing to populist jeering against the purported evils of ‘big business’, nor advocating the perpetuation of government subsidies of industry and coercive monopoly. It must be ruthless in the elimination of extraneous government bureaucracy and meddlesome regulatory agencies and rule-making bodies. No tax dollars should be taken from Americans in order to perpetuate a process that will only shrink the size of markets and raise their cost of living.
The party cannot hope to correct the errors of the past without setting forth a foreign policy of rational self-interest devoted to the security of the United States and the defense of its citizens– including by means of supporting its allies in times of turmoil. It must put forward a rational and articulated defense of Israel as the symbol of modern Western values in the Middle East– not out of tradition or by reasoning that Israel has always been an ally, so it must always be an ally, but because it is a stronghold of pro-reason ideas surrounded by theocratic fundamentalist threats which, given the opportunity, will just as readily harm the United States and its citizens as they do those of the small Jewish state .
In social issues, Republicans will have to recognize gay marriage as fundamentally based on the right to contract. In education, they must become advocates of privatization, as they somewhat inconsistently have been in other services and industries. On immigration, they must look towards a day when individuals can more freely move to the United States and obtain work visas– not to obtain government benefits and payments, which should be eliminated, but to succeed in the way that American immigrants have throughout our history: by the work of their own bodies and minds. They must be willing to unapologetically challenge the moral underpinnings of the government’s many departments, from Education to Energy and beyond. It is only by unblinkingly setting forth to change or eliminate, one by one, the elements which are dragging our government to defeat at its own hands, that Republicans will define their character as a party and restore our country to its former prosperity.
A party is only as good as the individual men who constitute it. Changing the Republican Party’s identity will be a process that entails both pressures against those in its ranks today who deviate from principles as well as, when the time comes, the willingness to vote out those who adulterate its guiding tenets. It is a process both from within and from without. If America is to salvage her future, this process must begin today. It is incumbent upon the constituents of Republican representatives and senators to unrelentingly scrutinize their votes and choices, ensuring that the party of their choosing is securing the economic future of their country and that the party they supported is supporting them in turn. The dynamics of the American political system and the two-party power structure have not substantively changed in this election. Today’s circumstance is much like Monday’s. The Republican control of the House remains a formidable bulwark to the statism rampant in the White House and Senate, but its consistency can only be ensured by political vigilance and a rational approach to governance as offered by the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Rand became a frequent topic of writing and conversation throughout the election season as a result of Paul Ryan’s one-time praise of her works, but the candidate’s spurning of any affiliation with her once his VP slot had been secured was indicative of the general lack of receptivity to her image and ideas in mainstream politics. It is a perception which must be– and, I believe, is in the process of being– changed with time, but the influence of her ideas must be translated into policy positions and political action if America is to avert catastrophe in coming years.
There is no fruit to be had in fatalism. Obama’s reelection is a travesty and a tragic failure of the American public to grasp the ideas on which its own political system was founded and to which it has held in its greatest days. However, proclamations of doom, as have so often been heard since the results emerged, are useless obstacles to action. America, more than any other creation of man, is standing proof of the supremacy of reason and the triumph of ideas. Her skylines are monuments to the businessmen who inhabit them and her bustling markets are a daily symbol of man’s choice of life over death, the embrace of his own nature over life as endless drudgery and toil. Though suppressed by the growing burden of government’s regulations, taxation, and interventions, the fires of capitalism still burn beneath it all, eager to emerge once again in all of their creative power when oppressions are lifted. When that time comes, America will have no use for pessimists and those who have surrendered their spirits in the face of hardship. The symbol of that time will be the man of productivity and pride. For now, we must maintain the strength of character and determination that when that time comes we may count ourselves among them.