Jonah Goldberg

President Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge, the poster boy for the '20s, was once asked what he thought of his achievements in office. He replied: "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business."

That was the return to normalcy FDR was talking about. A government minding its own business, according to FDR, amounted to the spirit of fascism.

It's not hard to see why so many liberals today take one look at the vast gatherings of decent, middle-class Americans known as tea parties and instantly think "fascists!" Never mind that fascists, properly understood, don't usually demand less government intervention.

What we have here is a fundamental conflict of visions, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Sowell. One side believes that people are born into their station in life and it is the government's job to make their miserable lives a little better. Indeed, it is the natural order of things for the government to provide jobs, health care, homes to the people. If you object to this concept of government, it must be because you want to "punish" the downtrodden and discriminated. You must be animated by racism, sexism, greed, "fascism!"

The other side says that our rights come from God, not from government. That while the government has an obligation to promote the general welfare, it doesn't have a holy writ to design the nation as it sees fit. The Constitution is not a coupon insert in your local paper, brimming with all sorts of giveaways and two-for-one deals. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights delineate what the government cannot do, not what it can. What was so fantastic and revolutionary about that is that for the first time in history, a nation was founded on the proposition that the government should mind its own business. Believing that doesn't make you a fascist, it makes you a patriot.

But the leaders of one America don't see it that way, and probably never will. Which is why, whatever happens in Congress in the coming days and weeks, it will be "two Americas" for a very long time.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.