This strenuous path, however, Comrades, has not traditionally been the American way. The United States, in its most vibrant epochs, was a nation in which the citizenry engaged in rip-roaring political debates, cast their votes and then went back to their ploughs,shops, hearths or what have you. The ideal of perpetual, intense exertion in the political arena that takes citizens beyond their comfort zones was not the norm. The normal was the norm. In other words, lives as usual were usual. Some of us can remember when it was considered rude to have a knock-down political battle over a holiday dinner. But an Obama ally actually encouraged us to politicize, of all things, our family gatherings.
I refer of course to Pajama Boy, the androgynous poster boy created by Organizing for America, which grew out of the Obama campaign, who was supposed to use the holidays to harangue his family about ObamaCare. We hooted down Pajama Boy—a good sign that the Obama vision of life as an endless campaign has not yet taken us over completely. But the idea was still there: we no longer have lives as usual. Next time, alas, Organizing for America may find someone less personally absurd to use in an advertisement.
There are several ironies in our predicament. One is that, even though we live in a hyper-politicized environment, we feel more helpless than ever before to control our government. We learn that government agencies are putting on lavish events at our expense, but we don’t really know how to stop this. We learn that the IRS has been targeting conservative organizations to prevent them from obtaining tax exempt status. So far, we the people haven’t found a way to punish the culpable and ensure that this never happens again. We are more engaged in public debate than ever--and more powerless, too.
The other irony is that, if we want to return the republic to its normal course, wherein private lives are not subservient to the political, we may have to take a leaf from Michelle Obama’s book. Conservative citizens, the sort of people who want to lead normal lives, away from the glare of politics, may have to move beyond their comfort zones--just for a few years. We may have to read more, become more informed, and fight harder. We have just a brief window of time to turn back the tide that has engulfed us. But in surrendering ourselves to politics, we must remember that the goal of life is not politics. In the American tradition, it is the liberty to lead lives as usual.