The latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll tells the story: Nearly six in 10 voters say they have "just some" or no confidence in President Obama to make the right decisions for the country.
America -- or at least the part of it that voted for Barack Obama for president -- has made a big mistake. Some of those teary-eyed people in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Election Night 2008 would probably admit it if they were interviewed. Many bumper stickers still display fading "Obama '08" stickers, but you'd find fewer that read, "Yes We Can!"
There is no shame in making a mistake. Everybody makes plenty in a lifetime, even in elections. Politicians are good at sounding good. The minority party promises to be more honest and ethical than the majority and then when it has gained the trust of people fed up with too much dishonesty and too little ethics, it becomes like the party it replaced.
The mistake made by those who voted for Obama, thinking it would be different with him, is their belief that it would be different with him. A politician is a politician. You could change the color, the gender, even the party, and you are still left with a politician. That is not necessarily an evil thing. We must have politicians, I suppose, but like the metaphorical crazy aunt who is kept in the attic, a politician should be kept in his or her place, lest the house become chaotic.
The taxing and regulating has only just begun. The Obama people are not intrinsically evil. Like someone caught up in a cult, they sincerely believe in the fiction they are peddling: more taxes will produce a healthier economy; the record debt is not a problem; more regulation will result in banks and big businesses operating ethically and for the greater good of their customers and the country; nationalized health care will mean better care for the sick; unrestricted abortion and same-sex marriage are fine; unenforced immigration laws are good because Democrats need to import votes and Republicans want cheap labor.
If America's wrong course is to be righted, Republicans and conservatives must offer something different from the last time they held power. That should begin with a history lesson. What did the founders and their constitutionalist descendants believe would produce the best results for a people united around certain commonly held principles? What was the result when those principles were applied (or not applied) in our national life and in individual lives?
The problem today is that fewer of those principles are commonly held, because they are not taught in public schools and universities, or reinforced by the media from which we get too much of our information and too little truth.
America is about opportunity, not guaranteed outcomes. If someone lacks opportunity, the goal should be to clear obstacles that block opportunity. Motivation is something else. No one can be taught motivation. That's up to each individual.
On taxes, there is plenty of evidence concerning how our economy responds when taxes are high and when they are low. Why are we allowing the politicians to seize ever-larger amounts of the money we make and misspend it as they do?
Republicans and conservatives are going to have to do more than argue their familiar ideological positions this November and again in two years. They must show their ideas work. To do this, they can adopt some of the Democrats' theatrics. Democrats love to parade legions of the aggrieved and deprived. Republicans should start their own parade, headed in the opposite direction. People who encountered difficult circumstances, but overcame them by practicing Republican and conservative principles, would populate a GOP parade.
Again, it is no shame to make a mistake. It is shameful to repeat it. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is dismantling the America we have known and loved and transforming it into something it has never been: a socialist state. If we let them do it, there will be no forgiveness, no excuse and no going back. And our shame will be an indelible stain for which future generations will judge us.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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