Americans will wake up on November 3rd to a changed political landscape. Republicans will celebrate. Democrats will recriminate. The underlying fear of America’s downfall that motivated voters to redistribute seats in the House and Senate, however, will remain. The question they asked themselves before the election will still beg for an answer. Is America’s decline inevitable, or can we avert the disasters so many are predicting and restore the American Dream?
Predictions of doom and gloom are so prevalent these days that it’s preferable to tune them out, if you can, rather than let them depress you. Even if you personally haven’t been hurt by the recession, bad news is everywhere. Whether it’s about persistent high unemployment, home foreclosures, or out-of-control deficit spending, you can’t escape it.
Even worse are predictions that, no matter what happens in the years ahead, America will never be the same. Retirement funds and entitlement programs are going broke, our children won’t be better off than we were, and America’s days as the “shinning city on a hill” are over. Such prognostications are nothing new; it’s just that this time they have the ring of truth.
President Obama and Democrats in Congress were elected to deal with these issues. They’ve had two years to address the country’s problems, and the majority of Americans aren’t happy with the outcome. Their economic stimulus bill hasn’t curbed unemployment. Their policies haven’t helped small businesses create jobs. Instead of staying focused on the economy, they set out to “fundamentally transform” center-right America with a progressive agenda of healthcare, energy, financial, and education reform intended to remake America along the European social-democracy model.
What Democrats have done and continue to do only promise to make America’s problems worse. The deficit has soared. Healthcare and financial reform have become law, but both are widely perceived as doing more harm than good. Without Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, the president’s legislative agenda is going nowhere in the 112th Congress. Still, Obama administration bureaucrats will churn out thousands of pages of regulations to implement healthcare and financial legislation and attempt to accomplish administratively with energy and education what they couldn’t get through Congress.
A Republican-controlled Congress, even if it’s only the House, will do what it can to turn things around, but there’s only so much it can do. Republicans won’t have the necessary two-thirds majorities in both houses to repeal and replace Obamacare and financial reform or override a veto. The best they can do is starve the Democrats’ programs of funding and hold hearings that force the administration to justify its policies to the American public.
By next January, however, the election campaign of 2012 already will have begun; and it will be fought over a different set of issues. Circumstances will force Americans to confront difficult choices and decide if they want to give a Republican president and a Republican Congress the opportunity to do what Democrats wouldn’t. To earn that opportunity, Republicans must first demonstrate that they stand for the values and principles the majority of Americans believe in, and that, once in office, they won’t revert to politics as usual. There wouldn’t be a Tea Party movement or a Democratic government if Republicans had done that.
Americans can chose to continue divided government in 2012, but that will only ensure that America’s decline will continue. Divided government in today’s highly charged partisan environment can’t achieve consensus and solve the really big problems Americans face. Entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable. America’s dependence on foreign oil and foreign countries to finance our debt has created the largest redistribution of wealth in history. American competitiveness in the international marketplace is on the decline. America is bleeding to death.
Saving America requires new blood. That means rejecting big government and adopting difficult but necessary solutions much different from those President Obama and the progressive Democratic Party have put forward. Preserving Social Security means making changes to it that reflect 21st century realities and actuary tables. Saving Medicare requires reducing the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare with a system that incorporates tort reform and models itself after free-market insurance systems that keep costs reasonable. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil requires that we exploit our own abundant sources of oil, gas, and coal while increasing the use of nuclear energy as we develop alternative energy sources. Making America more competitive requires lower taxes and fewer big-government and union regulations that stifle entrepreneurship and drive American jobs overseas.
America cannot be saved if it does not have the right president. Only a strong, skilled leader, who believes in American exceptionalism, is dedicated to American values, and who believes America’s best days still lie ahead, can restore the American Dream. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have fit that description in the past; and the balance of political power in Washington, D.C., has moved from one side of the aisle to the other under their leadership.
But as the 2010 election will demonstrate, most Americans don’t believe that President Obama fits that description. He’s not on the ballot in November, but Democrats who supported his policies are; and they will feel the voters’ wrath. In 2012 they’ll have the opportunity to replace him; and it is that election, not 2010, that will determine whether or not we can restore the American Dream.
Ed Ross is the President and Chief Executive Officer of EWRoss International LLC, a company that provides global consulting services to clients in the international defense marketplace. He publishes commentary at EWRoss.com.