The topic of conversation for this Constitution Monday concerns the way that America should move forward from this point in time. America is standing at the crossroad of its future. Democrats, liberals, and progressives are pushing and pulling to move the United States into multi-culturalism. Republicans and conservatives are trying to slow this movement while seeking to “preserve the American way of life.”
Thomas D. Klingenstein coined the phrase “preserve the American way of life” and said that it is more than “a bumper sticker or a talking point.” It is “the essential starting point for a strategy.”
Rush Limbaugh liked the idea so much that he suggested it as the theme for President Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. Limbaugh’s reasoning is that “Make America Great Again” is was good for his first term but not a second time, and “Keep America Great” does not make sense with our current circumstances.
The purpose of this essay is to summarize Klingenstein’s ideas about what the American way of life is and how we can preserve it. He first explained that “Strategy follows from purpose.” This means that we must clearly understand our purpose; otherwise, our strategy “will be muddled” in changing circumstances.
Klingenstein used an example of a man who wanted to climb a mountain and found a trail that he was confident led to his destination. He could follow the trail with his head down, but he might run into problems “if the trail is washed away, blocked, or disguised.” His only choice would be to “find an alternative route – but this requires keeping his head up and his destination in sight.”
The author emphasized that President Trump understand this principle. His mission – his mountain top – is “Make America Great Again.” He keeps his eye on his goal and understands that he must used a route that is different than that traditionally used by Republicans. He said that Republicans often describe their mission as “freedom” or “constitutional government.” Freedom does not give guidance as to how to preserve it in different circumstances – such as we have seen with COVID-19.
We need a concept both more focused and more comprehensive than just freedom. We need a mission. If Republicans formulated their mission as preserving the American way of life, I think it might be clearer to them that minimizing deaths form the virus and the health of the economy, important as they may be, are not the only considerations.
Klingenstein then focused on constitutional government or limited government and said that this “is not a mission: it is a means to a mission. The Constitution does indeed provide limits and we should, of course, stay within them – but within them there exists a great deal of latitude.” He continued by saying that limited government does not “provide enough guidance as to what the government should be doing at any particular time.”
The mission I propose is shorthand for “securing the conditions necessary to pursue a worthy life.” “A worthy life” is what the founders meant by “happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. The most essential “conditions” are the beliefs and values that must be held by society at large in order that each American can pursue a worthy life. These beliefs and values support the American way of life; hence the short form version of the mission: To “preserve the American way of life.” …
What is the American way of life that Republicans should want to preserve? …. They want to preserve, and in some respects recover, what Americans thought was the right way of life until a generation or two ago.
We then believed that we were the shining city on the hill, marked out to show the rest of the world that people can govern themselves….
We believed that we had done great things in the past and were capable of doing more. This success, despite numerous missteps, made us a confident people….
We believed ourselves to be the least class-conscious, most individualist, most religious people in the world. We believed that success in life depends on one’s own talents and character and so we glorified the self-made man. We valued work, no matter how humble, and self-reliance. Dependency was thought to be shameful. This was all part of the “American Dream.”
Although we understood ourselves as individualistic, we believed that happiness (a worthy life) requires doing good in this world. And so volunteerism and sacrifice for the common good was highly valued and publicly honored. This meant more than voting and obeying the law: it meant serving in the military and participating in civic organizations, local government and political parties, and teaching one’s children what it meant to be a responsible citizen. For most people, happiness was found in family, church and community.
Many Americans still hold this understanding of the American way of life. It is this, I believe, that Republicans would like to preserve.
After describing the American way of life, Klingenstein said that we must recognize that this way of life is being destroyed those who are pushing multiculturalism. Having this purpose would help us to repel the regime of multiculturalism.
… As I am using the term, multiculturalism sees society not as a community of rights-bearing individuals with a shared understanding of a national good, but as a collection of cultural identity groups, ranked in order of victimhood (though all oppressed by white males), and aggregated within highly permeable national boundaries. Multiculturalism replaces American citizens with so-called “global citizens.”
Identity politics is the politics of multiculturalism. Political correctness is its enforcement arm. Multiculturalism involves a way of life that cannot exist peacefully with the American way of life any more than could Communism or the antebellum South.
Klingenstein described the conflict between multiculturalism and the American way of life as “a regime-level context.” The two systems cannot exist at the same time, and the “Differences in ends cannot be negotiated.” Trying to use both systems would divide our country because “A nation cannot go in opposite directions at the same time.”
According to Klingenstein, multiculturalism operates in a socialism environment with “social justice.” It infiltrates the education system where it indoctrinates the rising generation in its precepts in numerous ways, such as changing the nation’s history. This is one reason why statues of early leaders in our nation are being pulled down, names of cities and states changed, etc. It teaches our children and grandchildren that America is evil and must change.
Multiculturalism seeks to destroy not only our history but education more broadly, as well as the other institutions that teach the beliefs and values necessary for preserving the American way of life. The most important of these institutions is family, because it is here “that the foundation of morality is laid” as John Adams put it. In other words, family is the foundation of the American way of life.
For Adams, as for most Americans until rather recently, a strong family generally requires a mother and father. The mother has primary responsibility for taking care of the children, the father primary responsibility for supporting the family financially. Americans understood what our social scientists have demonstrated conclusively: children raised in such a family are likely to be more law-abiding, more public-spirited, better educated, and wealthier than children raised in other arrangements.
Our regime depends on such citizens. Without them, we cannot have limited, constitutional government. In other words, it is the family (along with other value-forming institutions) that makes republican government possible.
The multiculturalists, on the other hand, seek to destroy the family as it traditionally has been understood. Their desire for outcome parity requires separating women from motherhood, for it is caring for children that makes it very difficult for women to compete with men in the workplace and other spheres outside the home.
The article by Klingenstein is long and has much more information in it. I suggest that you read it to gain full understanding of why America is at a crossroads. If Americans try to live peaceably with two different regimes – the American way of life and multiculturalism, we will be a divided nation unable to withstand attacks from foreign nations. However, Americans must take a stand for the kind of country in which they want to live.
Just as the Civil War was fought between southerners who sought to maintain slavery and northerners who sought to end slavery, America today is facing a great cultural war. We must understand that multiculturalism will destroy the American way of life. We must become knowledgeable about the many invasions being made into our way of life and decide which battles we can fight. I choose to battle by standing up for the family and by refusing to bow down to political correctness. Our mission is to “preserve the American way of life.”