Progressive hostility to the Tea Party movement has reinforced my conviction that strengthening civil society is more urgent today than ever before. We Americans need to regain something of Tocqueville's sense of awe and wonder at the power, ingenuity and creativity of those vital institutions.
Several years ago, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a Heritage Foundation audience how a vibrant civil society contributed to a more just society in the rural Georgia of his youth:
"When someone down the road fell upon hard times," Justice Thomas recalled, "or when sickness beset a family, or when a hurricane or fire destroyed or damaged someone's house, people instinctively helped in whatever way they could. Not helping was unthinkable."
We need to remember that we are not helpless, ignorant masses desperately clinging to our guns or religion, as President Obama once said on the campaign trail. Nor are we anxiously awaiting the arrival of a messiah-president to deliver us from what Tocqueville called "the trouble of thinking and the cares of living."
Rather, we are the American people. We remain strong and resourceful. And we must open our minds to the untapped potential of freedom, to the hidden strengths of civil society, and to the indomitable power of the American spirit.