“In revolutions, the most fiery spirits and flighty geniuses frequently obtain more influence than men of sense and judgement; and the weakest man may carry foolish measures in opposition to wise ones proposed by the ablest.” John Adams, 1790
The overflow crowd gathered at McCracken County High School two Saturday’s ago opened my eyes. Prior to that, I sensed a movement taking place in this country. I published a column here in May of 2015 and another a few weeks later predicting that there were two politicians that readers should expect big things from in 2016, one state and one national. Both were considered by most media at the time to be the longest of longshots. The two were Matt Bevin and Ted Cruz. Bevin of course went on later that year to pull a huge political upset and become Governor of the Commonwealth. Now Cruz finds himself a very close second for his party’s presidential nomination.
When I made those predictions they were based only in part on the merits of the individual politicians, though their merits were significant. But equally as important, was the wind I sensed sweeping the country. Still, I didn’t realize the magnitude…the power, of that wind until the Kentucky primary.
On a gorgeous Saturday, (the nicest one we’d had in some time) hundreds of citizens in my home county in Kentucky lined up before polls opened to vote. Over and over as I waited in that line which weaved throughout the campus, I heard people remark, “I didn’t know there were that many of us.” I knew what they meant.
For some time now, many hard working, patriotic people have felt alone. They have felt abandoned by both parties. Many have felt that both they and perhaps their immediate circle of friends and family were the only sane folks left, that the rest of the world had lost its mind. But the truth is they aren’t alone. For those reasons, Election Day in Kentucky was uplifting and inspiring. As I made eye contact with one fellow voter after another I realized that the day was more than a part of the political process. It was validation. Without saying a word it was communicated throughout the crowd, “Yes, I have sensed it too. Something is terribly wrong in the republic and we are stepping up to stop it through the peaceful, lawful, process afforded to us.”
Of course this process did not only occur in Kentucky. Voter turnout is setting records across the nation. Voters are energized and motivated…and yes…frightened. Millions are scared of what is happening to the country. And that takes us back to the quote I used to begin this column. We must be careful that this soft revolution we are undergoing as a country does not make the error Adams warned about. As of this writing, both parties look precipitously close to doing just that.
While Trump and Sanders may appear to be two candidates from either extreme of the political spectrum (right and left) I would posit that they are both in fact creatures of the left. Only their rhetoric differs. At the same time talk of contested conventions and third party candidates may be equally destructive. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around all that is occurring. I have been a political junkie since I was a boy and Nixon dominated headlines. Yet I have never seen an election anything like this one.
In the quote, Adams, the American Revolutionary, was describing his grave concerns about the direction of the French Revolution. It was a bloody coup much different than the American Revolution he helped lead. The French Revolution had no basis in a Judeo Christian ethic nor did it recognize inalienable rights endowed by a Creator. Instead it was based in the fancy of a brief moment in time, led by fiery spirits and flighty genius. Despite power brokers and millions of campaign dollars spent it will be up to us, the voters, to determine the scope and type of the mini-revolution of 2016. Will we tear everything down to ruins as the Jacobins did in France? Or will we, after much struggle, return to the principles that built the greatest nation on earth.