If you repeat a lie long enough, people will start to believe it’s true. This quote has been attributed to Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, respectively. Since it has been true since Ancient Egypt, who said it first really doesn’t matter. But it is more pertinent than ever. Lately, lying in public has become so common that “fake news” is more aplenty than Everglade mosquitos. In fact, some deceptions have become so popular that they are being dubbed academic theories.
For example, political scientists claim that the ideological rift between Democrats and Republicans depends on the GOP taking an extreme Right turn under Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. But even if they were rhetorically sharper than earlier Republicans, their views generally reflected their party’s policies since at least the late 1800s. Additionally, until the turn of the last century, both parties had agreed to keep America unique compared to the rest of the world. In fact – on taxes, trade, and states’ rights – the Democrats were often to the Right of the GOP.
Today’s hyper-partisanship doesn’t depend on Republicans rushing off a cliff to the Right, but on Democrats descending into a sinkhole on the Left. Proof of this abounds. For instance, compare John F. Kennedy to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes. While he cut taxes, fought Communism, and held primarily moderate social and cultural views – she is a self-defined “democratic socialist” cozying up to the Castro brothers in Cuba and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.
Even if AOC’s boss Joe Biden belongs to an older generation that doesn’t come off as extreme, in only two years, he has turned the U.S. economy into a dumpster fire and unleashed forces in schools and other institutions whose tacit goal is to turn the U.S. into a European-like welfare state.
By any standard, this is a historical shift. Still, as noted, it has been obscured by professors, journalists, and others telling us that Republicans have gone far-right while what is truly happening is that the Democrats have deserted Americanism – which is what today is ripping the country apart.
Explicitly, every nation needs a national story that people can rally around, offering a narrative that transcends political, social, and other divisions. This is true for age-old unitary states like England with deep ethnic, religious, and other bonds, and even more so for a young, diverse federation like the U.S. Accordingly, after winning independence, the Founding Fathers constructed a story focused on America being a special place destined by God and History to act as a beacon of freedom for other peoples to admire and, if desired, copy.
Indeed, this exceptionalist tale is partially flawed. But so are all nationalist stories and it has, more for better than worse, kept the country together. Without it, George Washington would not have beaten the English. Abraham Lincoln could not have justified the Civil War. And even as late as the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to explain that reforms were meant to save the American socioeconomic system, not to transform it.
This changed with Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s. By then, while turning the U.S. into a European-style welfare state, Democrats started labeling those sticking to Americanism as dangerous reactionaries – or “threats to democracy” – as we are called today.
Moreover, since Democrats have declared roughly half of the population enemies of the state, the nation is falling apart today. In a word, blue rump-states – the Northeast, California, and urban centers such as Chicago and Atlanta – are pitted against a red America paying for liberal policies in the form of taxes, regulations, crime, and cultural decay. Hence, the distance between the Left and Right in the US today is nearly as vast as in the early 20th century when wars and revolutions ripped Europe apart.
There’s no easy way out of this situation. Since Democrats are mainly responsible for it, they must abandon the federal welfare state scheme and allow Washington D.C. to go back to dealing only with defense, diplomacy, and a few other issues. But Republicans must also learn to accept states doing things they don’t like – for example, they cannot – like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – demand federal regulation of late-term abortions. You either have and respect state rights, or you don’t.
Lastly, until the U.S. federal order is restored, Florida can offer a model for how to deal with today’s situation. Unlike President Biden, Governor DeSantis is not ruling by decree but instead in tandem with the Legislature, showing how commonsense Conservatism works for everybody through a booming economy, combating the woke movement, and more.
After their overwhelming defeat last November, Florida Democrats can decide to move back towards the center and, in the process, help pull back Thomas Jefferson’s party from its unprecedentedly destructive route. Florida Democrats can play an important role in stopping the dissolution of the greatest experiment in freedom, justice, and equality in human history. But that would take self-reflection, honesty, and courage.
Anders W. Edwardsson is a political consultant based in Tampa. He holds a Ph.D. in Politics from the Catholic University of America. For more information, go to https://www.edwardsson.biz/.