There have always been two kinds of “constitutional conservatives” in America.
First there are those who study the Constitution and history and see political trends through its prism. We generally put ourselves into this group. Although we can’t recall why we were turned this way, we are as devoted to this study as the other kind of conservatives are for their favorite football or basketball teams.
But with the rise of Barack Obama many of you can certainly say when.
Whether we learned from our parents around the dinner table talking politics, or just liked reading history instead of comics, when America hit a bump in the road, we knew where to look for deeper reasons why. Most other Americans simply took things more or less in stride.
But if by our deeper involvement we consider ourselves leaders as well as guardians of the Constitution, we still need to remember, that second group was the main purpose of the Constitution being written in the first place.
And in recent years I think we’ve lost some sense of proportion in that relationship.
What guardians for several years have lost sight of is that this larger group is also the key to destroying the Constitution, so much so that we have become irrelevant unless we can find a way to link arms again. The days of talk as a type of leadership is long past us, and unless we can take a more active role in hands-on leadership, it may all be lost.
Remember, we all walked alongside one another on the same road for many many years, and what separated us basically was how well we paid attention in the 4th Grade.
While our patriotism probably started at our parents’ knee, that fire was fed by a good 4th grade teacher, who made those little elementary history books come alive for a few of us eager, wide-eyed kids. We were enraptured with the exploits of heroes like Washington, Franklin and Jefferson, Grant and Lee…so that when Alan Shepard soared into space and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, all in the span of just seven years, we immediately recognized that seamless thread that began with those original heroes of our youth. It was a handshake that spanned two centuries, bequeathing us virtues like liberty, honor, courage, duty, and love of country, all connected and as endless as the grass.
I believed this in 1968, but things were changing even then.
Which brings us to this second type of constitutional conservative, those who are constitutional by instinct. They have always been by far the larger group, 70% of every school class. Libertarians look down on them because they are C-students, and Liberals for that reason as well, but also since one or two always seemed to make a million bucks in scrap steel or selling chicken wings. This is really why the Left hates the middle class. The opportunity thing.
They are constitutionalists by instincts, and not by education or training. They paid just enough attention in 4th Grade to pass the test. But they instinctively understood the back-end of the “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” promise; going out and getting a job, getting a family and building their House, paying little attention to the other political freedoms guaranteed. They never paid much attention to the front end of that promise, where all the underlying philosophy lay hidden. They were never too keen about politics, or even patriotism.
Most of all they understood that the Constitution and America meant freedom, and they exercised it by building their House, just as the Founders assumed they would. Freedom was something they could drive, eat and drink. A steady job, TV, nice clothes, including an Easter dress every year. Church. Family.
Freedom was found in that pay envelope each week and they too were part of a seamless thread that ran back to the early 1800’s, that freedom meant work, and getting ahead through merit and even harder work. Their peeves and their envies were petty, their lives and religion largely based on moderation.
So, simply by living free, with each passing graduating class and generation, the Constitution was renewed. Refreshed. Begun all over again. (If that reminds you of the regenerative nature of Christianity, it is.)
And unlike the grimy self-indulged low-information voters of today, they were good at connecting three dots at least—job=money=stuff—four dots if they went onto higher education, and five or more if they were particularly religious and believed in storing up treasures in heaven.
But for them freedom was never about the federal budget. They never saw the long view on entitlements. My grandparents didn’t grouse about social security in 1936 although they were told even then that it was a Ponzi scheme and that in eighty years it would go bust. It has. People living under FDR were as uninterested in a federal budget deficit as they were in Eleanor’s dress size.
But today, the tea parties are proof that those 4th Grade classes began closing ranks when Obama assumed the throne in 2009. It seems they didn’t sleep through class as we thought they did, and we’re all the better for it.
But then I remind myself that my 4th Grade class was in 1955. And that most tea partiers are over 50, so their last 4th grade class was no later than 1974.
Let me show where I am going.
Today, just like the 1930s, 84% of the people have jobs, with homes, cars (plural) televisions (plural), all the appliances including gadgets that were only seen in Flash Gordon films and Dick Tracy comics back in 60s. The 84% have’s lives haven’t been impacted much at all by the Obama down turn. Yet.
Stores close, but they always do. National retail chains have been closing and opening for years. Small businesses have shut down outright, not gobbled up, just a portion of the market itself gone. But no one ever sees them unless they installed your A/C, or fire alarms, or checked your termites. There’s nothing there that won’t fix itself in time.
Likewise, after the big surge in unemployment in 1930 and the long bread lines in the cities, life was different during the Great Depression than it is today only by degree. For everyone then life got harder, money got more scarce, saving nickels for a Saturday matinee instead of a dollar for a restaurant. Cheaper cuts of meat. Momma still didn’t get her winter coat. But the have’s and have not’s remained steady. Unemployment remained 16% for close to eight years, while the newspapers said (at FDR’s behest)) that things were getting better. You could sense this in the music. Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” was the song of the American Century. And all those Andy Hardy movies. And after those initial leaps from tall buildings when Wall Street crashed in ’29, corporate America was doing all right. Rich people still dressed in black tie for dinner, and tails for a night on the town. They do that a little differently today, but essentially the rich spent their money in the same way, only in 1935, despite all FDR and the Democrats could do, the Republicans still had more of it. America was still busting at the seams and there was nothing the socialists could do to stop it.
Like today, the Big Lie was hidden, not to reveal itself for many years, and many 4th Grade classes into the future. The people never knew it was coming.
In the 1930s peoples’ main concern for the out-of-work and suffering was voiced by prayers from the pulpit, only why those concerns aren’t voiced from the pulpit these days isn’t because the federal safety net is so much more, shall be say, beneficent, than the meager relief cash in 1934; designer glasses, debit cards for any store, or strip joint, as well as on vacation in Hawaii…but that scarcely half as many Americans hear those prayers anymore, or connect that big dot between good things and the Creator. No Latino, illegal or otherwise, comes here thanking God or America for a single thing.
I can’t say when, but the guardians began to take the common man conservatives for granted, and I would guess somewhere between 1965 and 1975. They continued to assume that every generation would go out and do the same things I just described, get a job, build a House and family, etc etc, and that seamless thread, including God, would simply continue forward, never understanding that that Hadrian’s Wall erected by the instinctive constitutionalists, when they still ran local school boards, to protect their children in the 4th Grade, was coming under siege.
While Conservatives guardians weren’t paying attention to this vast majority of Americans, the Left was.
So, this current generation looks upon our new down turn in almost exactly the same way as their great grandparents did in the 1930s. Things will get better. They always do. The freedom to build their House will always be there. It always has been.And politics are politics as usual, as always.
It is an illusion, an illusion requiring five dots to understand. An illusion requiring active leadership to walk through. Three major reasons, plus dozens ancillary ones, explain this.
First is that the Left took aim straight at the 4th Grade, where most of the values instilled in children are first planted, before their hormones take them off in other directions. The Left replaced George Washington, and removed from libraries any books of patriotism, heroes, banishing entire pieces of history, and any symbol of violence, even if used in self defense.
No one noticed. It was easy.
And of course, the Guardians stood mute.
And the second is that palpable hush coming from America’s churches. Regular church fellowship has dropped off nearly by half in the past forty years, although 90% still profess a belief in God. So maybe the churches ran them off, many having subordinating God to the more secular god of social justice.
And of course there is a 4th Grade connection there as well, as future polls will reveal in coming years, for schools actively try to root God-based morality out of the classroom, and generally get away with it because of reason #3: Half of all homes have only one live-in parent, usually Mom.
The Founders were clear that the Constitution was built on the idea of a moral nation (not to mention a common sensical one). Chesterton said as much when he wrote that the rich don’t need democracy or morality, but for the common man they are absolute necessities (I’m paraphrasing here.) The point is, these aren’t just religious certitudes, but anthropological ones, having to do with behavior that is a guaranty of survival for a culture.
So, why are so many Americans unable to connect that third dot any longer?
Answer: How many 4th grade classes have come and gone since the Great Society in 1965? Nearly fifty, and it was sometime in the mid-1960’s that young children were no longer taught about “My country ’tis of thee”, “America the Beautiful”, or George Washington. Patriotism, virtue, morality, are not taught with enthusiasm, if all all, at that critical age when enthusiasm is so contagious. Instead, other things are taught to capture that special light in children.
That separation between instinctive constitutionalists and trained constitutionalists has gone from 7:3 to 9:1, depending on how many kids are still taught at mom and dad’s knee. And if it was history the child loved, there are still all sorts of history books in elementary school libraries to whet his appetite, just don’t look for any with heroes who 1) are white and male, 2) took up any cause of freedom and 3) took on any injustice except social justice.
Tea Parties or no, the Left feels it can afford to wait us out. Attrition. Like the Europeans who decided to take in all the high life they could instead of reseeding their culture, our 4th Grades have been producing barren crops for over forty years now. Just like the genetically altered corn in Kansas, it looks great but is incapable of passing its seed along.
I don’t have to restate all the things they teach in 4th grade these days instead of George Washington; from Debbie has two mommies, gay is good even for 10-year olds, manhood is bad, polar bears can’t swim, and the State, neither father nor Father, knows best. Make your own list.
Since the election I’ve pounding this one thing home. National politics are almost irrelevant from this cultural perspective. Boehner, Reid, the whole lot of them. You want to drown yourself in their comings and goings, fine. Just strike me from your contact list.
Why they are irrelevant is that the Left knows that in 30 years, at an accelerating rate, the kids who knew who George Washington in 4th grade will simply pass from view. And with them what remains of a once-seamless thread.
As you will continue to hear me say, it’s time for turning over table in the Temple. Lead, don’t wait for others to lead. Light the fires, don’t just go to where they are lit. Make them afraid, once again. Rolled up newspapers sting.
Take back the 4th Grade, then let all other things fall into place.
And yes, this is something you can do at home. In fact, only at home.