Is this 2016? Maybe. The crucial but unspoken question as the GOP primaries beckon: What year is it?
For Ted Cruz it’s 1940, when appeasement policies had failed and the British had to choose between surrender to Hitler and a willingness to fight on the beaches and the landing strips, if necessary. Winston Churchill became prime minister because, as his wife Clementine said, “He has the supreme quality which I venture to say very few of your present or future Cabinet posses -- the power, the imagination, the deadliness to fight Germany.” Cruz has that deadliness: Do most Americans think it’s needed?
For Marco Rubio it’s 1980. That year Ronald Reagan laid hold to a “Great Communicator” badge because he could articulate in an optimistic way the conservative principles most Americans were ready for after two decades of liberalism. Rubio has shown that capability, and I also suspect he would be the rare GOP candidate able to defeat Democrats on that all-important question, “With which candidate would you like to share a pizza?”
For Donald Trump it’s 1933, the year Germans rolled the dice with Hitler. By writing this I am not at all suggesting that Donald equals savage Adolf, the author of “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggle”). The title for Trump’s collected works could be “My Money,” and he’s open to anyone who’s ready to make a deal. But Hitler came to power amid financial and psychological depression, gaining a plurality because many Germans disdained weak leaders and worried about cultural decline.
Are most Americans angry enough to propel Trump to the presidency? I still don’t think so, but it’s clear that some candidates with gubernatorial experience miscalculated by thinking things aren’t so bad and our greatest need is for a competent CEO. Trump brilliantly discerned how to develop a symbiotic relationship with the most powerful media: He spits out what others are too polite to say. They give him more publicity than all the other candidates combined. His poll numbers and their ratings go up.
It’s OK that the candidates are implicitly debating what year it is. That’s better than the position we’re in on abortion, where we’re stuck in 1973, the year the Supreme Court hamstrung both democracy and science in its “Roe v. Wade” decision. For example, the North Carolina Legislature wanted each customer at an abortion business in the state to be able to see and comprehend an ultrasound image of her baby. An appeals court said no.
In 2015 many other state legislatures passed baby-protective measures, but courts repeatedly struck down anything viewed as undermining the 42-year-old Supreme dictate. Require that second-trimester abortions in Idaho be done in a hospital? No. Ban abortions in Arkansas when doctors detect a fetal heartbeat? No. Stop webcam abortions in Iowa? No. Require Wisconsin abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals? No.
Meanwhile, many advocates of macroevolution are stuck in 1859. That’s the year Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” but he and his contemporaries thought cells were simple. As the Discovery Institute has pointed out, Darwin cited G.H. Lewes as his authority on cell structure, and Lewes wrote that a cell consists of a nucleus with “mysterious powers” surrounded by a “microscopic lump of jelly-like substance” that is “destitute of texture” and “destitute of organs” with “no trace of organization.”
We know much more now. As former National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts put it, “We now know that nearly every major process in a cell is carried out by assemblies of 10 or more protein molecules.” Our great gains in scientific knowledge since 1859 make Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism irrational propositions, but true believers stick with them: They should read Stephen Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt.”
In this Year of Our Lord 2016, presuppositions will continue to place us in other years and determine our voting patterns. As “The Great Gatsby” concludes, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”