For the next few weeks, we will be drowned in news media coverage of every detail of the presidential campaign.
Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s in? Who’s out? Who raised how much? Who used which negative ads? Who had which previously secret scandal suddenly released by the news media or their opponents?
The media will be obsessed with it. Yet there is a much deeper historic pattern developing beyond the headlines and the analysts.
The American people believe our country is on the wrong track. We currently have a level of public disenchantment that is historic by post-WWII standards. What’s more, the American public has been burdened by its own disenchantment for a longer stretch of time than any other since the Great Depression.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that this is still America, and we’re still Americans. And as Ronald Reagan used to say, we’ve seen the American spirit triumph too often in our lives to stop believing in it now.
Americans, not Washington, Are the Center of America
Two and half weeks out from the Iowa caucuses, here’s where we stand:
The Bush presidency is generally unpopular.
Congress is now even more unpopular than the Bush presidency.
The Republicans have failed to live up to people’s expectations of them.
Now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) are doing a much poorer job of getting things done than the Republicans were.
But thankfully, Washington is not the center of America.
Americans still remain the center of America.
Most Americans Believe Their Taxes Have Gone Up. They’re Right.
There are more than 513,000 elected officials in the United States. This includes representatives from every level of government — from school boards, county commissions, city councils and sheriffs up through state legislatures and governors to the 537 elected federal officials in Washington.
And while politicians in Washington argue about tax cuts, the fact is that our taxes at the state and local level have been going up.
Most Americans do not believe their taxes have been cut in the last six years.
Most Americans believe their taxes have gone up.
Liberals are playing with fire when they propose tax increases, because they misunderstand the underlying mood of the American people.
Americans Are Working Harder and Not Keeping Pace
Americans believe that they are working harder while failing to keep up with rising costs.
There is no positive political impact from the relatively good macroeconomic numbers, because the microeconomic personal numbers are so uncomfortable.
- We fill up ours cars and trucks, and we stare in disbelief and then in anger at the total price.
- We watch our co-pays for healthcare go up and wonder how we will get coverage if we lose our jobs.
- We save to put our children (and in our case, grandchildren) through college and watch tuition and costs rise faster than the savings.
- We are told we must shift from a defined benefits plan to a defined contribution plan, and then we watch as the stock market wobbles under the impact of the subprime mortgage credit crunch.
A Bureaucratic Solution to the Subprime Mess?
We were counting on the constantly rising value of our homes as a major store of wealth, and now we are told the credit crunch from giant corporations mismanaging the mortgage market could reduce the value of our homes for the first time in more than a generation.
Now, we watch as politicians pander absurdly to try to find a quick political fix for people who should not have bought houses they could not afford and for huge companies that should not have lent money recklessly. If we are not careful, we will have the government, once again, punish those who work hard, save and live prudently in favor of bailing out those who choose to live beyond their means and those who sought huge profits from irresponsible loans.
The idea that bureaucracies can solve the sub-prime loan mess is one more example of Washington’s detachment from reality.
Government Failures vs. American Breakthroughs
Our federal government cannot control the border nor control who is in the country.
Many of our local schools cannot educate children adequately to compete with China and India.
FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is so out of control that it called a press conference with its own staff pretending to be reporters. Equally ridiculous, it actually thought that the news media would not catch on and would not humiliate the agency for sheer stupidity. And nothing has been done to fix it!
Yet, despite the failures of government and frustrations of the current economy, we see story after story about great progress and real opportunities. For example, every day we read about new breakthroughs in fighting cancer. All of us know someone who is alive today who would have been dead from cancer or heart disease 15 years ago.
Americans Are Caught in a Race Between Potential Catastrophes and Potential Breakthroughs
There are constant breakthroughs in science and technology and real opportunities for new entrepreneurs to develop new sources of energy and new sources of ultra-light, ultra-strong materials that have the power to change the entire energy economy of the United States and change every projection in the economy, the environment and national security.
We Americans seem caught in a race between potential catastrophes and extraordinary breakthroughs that may lead to a renaissance more exciting and at a pace more breathtaking than anything seen in 15th Century Florence.
Because we Americans are both romantic idealists and hard minded pragmatists, we find ourselves wavering among the various presidential candidates and campaigns.
The Presidential Campaign Could Be One of the Most Extraordinary in American History
But over time, people have always done better betting on optimism and believing that the courage, creativity, energy and determination of the American people will overcome challenges that would break a weaker country.
The creative angels of our hearts and minds have always won out over the negative demons that have tried to tear us down.
This campaign could be one of the most extraordinary in American history.
The American people have been having a dialogue among themselves about the realities they face and the dreams they want to achieve for their children, their grandchildren and their country.
As we watch the negative, petty cynicism of much of the news media coverage, the alternately condescending and acidic tones of too many of the so-called commentators, and the vicious advertising and campaign tactics of the more cynical and unethical of the consultants, we need to keep mindful of one important thing: Beyond all the negatives, there is a great American people, a people who will, in the end, insist that this campaign is about a lot more than money raised, polls taken and consultants employed.
The Real Campaign Begins January 3
The real campaign begins at the Iowa caucuses on January 3, when, for the first time, some American citizens vote. From then through the following 10 months, we Americans will have an opportunity to think through the future we want and the hopes we are determined to build toward.
For our part, we know that if you take time to look beyond all the usual politics, there is a great hunger for real change in America.
Our discussion of the scale of change we need began with this video on YouTube, which we call "FedEx vs. Government Bureaucracy." It’s now been seen by more than 1.23 million people — not because we’ve advertised it, but because it strikes a powerful cord.
The Platform of the American People is set of solutions that Americans support regardless of party. We will be encouraging both Democrats and Republicans to take the platform to their caucuses in Iowa January 3 as a set of solutions that are supported by a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents. The platform will be a central focus of American Solutions through the fall election as a resource to both parties.
Real Change — and the Why We Should All be Optimistic About America
Then, on January 15, Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works will be published (you can preorder it at Amazon.com).
I’ve talked about a lot of hard truths today, a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about America.
Real Change will tell you why we should all be optimistic.
It will outline just how practical it is to imagine a fundamental and dramatic improvement in government at all levels and a corresponding improvement in services so that every American can have more choices of higher quality at lower cost.
Real Change captures the American spirit that President Reagan spoke of so often and so well.
It captures that spirit and translates it into bold solutions for a better future.
After all, it’s worked before — why stop believing in it now?
P.S. — I want to let you know about a unique opportunity for you to send our troops your personal voice-message of support this holiday season. It’s called Voices from America.
Major label recording artists such as Hinder, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and the Backstreet Boys are encouraging Americans to thank the troops this holiday season. Fans can call into 1.888.312.2612 (toll free), listen to a message from the artist and leave their own message of support. The troops will get these messages through the support of Armed Forces Entertainment and Mozes, a software development company. All messages can be heard at mozes.com/troops. Call 1.888.312.2612 and send the troops your message!
There’s also still time to order personalized autographed books from the newt.org store.