December 15, 2013
Is the 'New Normal' the End or the Beginning for America?
James G. Wiles
Writing in the on-line edition of the New Yorker, former Jimmy Carter speechwriter Hedrick Hertzberg spots an odd parallel between 2013 and 1979 which I've also been wondering about.
President Carter's famous "malaise" speech (in which the word never appeared) was given on July 15, 1979. Three years in Jimmy Carter's Washington had proved chastening. It was the era of "The Limits to Growth" and "The Population Bomb," just as today we hear of "the New Normal" and global warming.
Carter's speech was much mocked at the time -- as the "malaise" moniker soon showed. In fact, the speech proved to be a counter-factual: it presaged not an American future, but the nation's wholesale repudiation of Carter's failed Presidency in 1980. In December of 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. That same month began the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Radical Islam had just captured its first country.
And an American president, in a nationally-televised speech, told the American people it was all their fault. In March, 1980, Mr. Carter found himself facing a primary challenge from Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. A Boston Globe headline read: "Mush from the Wimp."
Eight months later, American voters refused to go quietly into the national decline toward which Jimmy Carter and the Democrats sought to lead them.
Ronald Reagan's 1980 election and the Republicans' taking of the U.S. Senate -- greatly helped, of course, by stagnation, the surrender of the Panama Canal, record interest rates, the hollowing-out of the American military, the Misery Index, gas lines and 60,000 Cuban troops in southern Africa and the Horn of Africa (not to mention a Communist takeover in Nicaragua and a Communist insurgency in El Salvador) -- was a rare and striking rejection of an American President. Mr. Carter, as is plainly evident today in 2013, has yet to recover from it.
Are there parallels to that time and this one? Yes, too many to count. And engaged conservatives and libertarians like the readers of American Thinker are only too aware of them.
The Great Recession lingers. Obamacare is loosed on the land. Congress struggles with gridlock and bitter division.
The print, on-line and on-air media have divided along political lines. So, too, have the states, into Red and Blue, as the American people continue to sort themselves geographically.
Not least, foreign challenges are gathering yet again - in the East and South China Seas, in Central Asia and across the Middle East and Near East. Ten days ago, an American guided missile frigate and Chinese navy flotilla led by China's new aircraft carrier came within 200 yards of a high seas collision -- and an international incident.
Whether it's in Syria, Ukraine, Benghazi or the Senkaku Islands, men who are no friends to America are proving the truth of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's maxim that "weakness is provocative."
With President Obama and the American left's mask dropped and their objective plainly to be seen, the issue is drawn for the voters.
Hedrick Hertzberg has his own take. But here's mine: I can't read the country.
I thought the American people, last year, would react to Benghazi as the American people did to the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and put Mitt Romney in the White House. They didn't. Will the epic fail of Obamacare's roll-out finally trigger buyer's remorse?
Again, I don't know. I notice that, over at PJ Media, our friends are asking the same question. "What Will It Take?" is the title of a David Solway post that has drawn considerable attention
So here's what we don't know:
Can political lightning strike twice? Will 2014 and 2016 be a repeat of 1980? Or will the American people, 36 years later, in a much-different United States, this time consent to being led off the world stage?
Next year will give us a clue of America's future.