EDITOR OF REDSTATE
Nostalgia & Decline
Apple has out a new app in its App Store — Cards. You can take a picture on your phone, design a card, and have it sent via the post office to someone. Think about that for a minute. In an age of digital communications, text messages, emails, and cell phones, Apple has produced a product that harkens back to one of the earliest message transmission methods — snail mail as the kids these days are calling it.Siri, the assistant on the iPhone, kindles fond memories of growing up in the age of Star Trek for the thirty somethings out there.A friend of mine two nights ago showed me an awesome app he works on called Goba. It’s available for the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. It lets you plan an offline gathering of friends and manage sending texts and emails and the replies thereto. An app for the phone designed to facilitate a gathering of friends off line and unplugged.My neighborhood is pretty new. Almost every house has a relic of an earlier time — a front porch. My wife, me, and our kids sit on the front porch in rocking chairs or the kids play on the porch. On sites like Etsy, people are getting back to early American crafts — typography, quilts, homemade soaps, arts, etc. Like with Apple’s Cards program, people are trying to reconnect to a past that exists in our dreams. Part is real and part is not real. But we are trying to connect to it.At this time, as so many perceive a decline in the country, there is a profound sense of nostalgia for a past era. Successful technologies from Apple or this Goba program or others are those technologies that actually help us realize, in some way, some part of that past. From getting a card in the mail to meeting friends on a front porch in the evening for a drink, Americans want to turn back to a simpler time or at least a time that they perceive to be simpler. This is why the Republicans will lose next November to Barack Obama.
Now, to be clear, the GOP does not have to lose to Barack Obama. They can turn it around. But to beat Barack Obama, the GOP is going to have to offer up something. That something needs to connect with American nostalgia. The anger on stage at the CNN debate might fire up the base and it might drag it out for Mitt Romney, but voters are ready to return to an era of happy warriors brimming with optimism and a vision of the country that is positive, not premised on American decline. The anger was directed at each other, not at the state of the country.This is why Herman Cain resonates. This is why 999 and its utter simplicity resonates. As a society, regardless of party, we’ve made our lives too damn difficult. It is not easy to file your taxes. It is not easy to start a business. The byzantine structure of the tax code, the bureaucracy, the regulations, and so on have complicated our lives needlessly. People are mad as hell because we’ve gone from a country that rewards hard work to rewarding failure. Those who played by the rules are forced to bail out the people and businesses who didn’t. Kids are growing up expecting reward without either risk or success. To quote Jeremiah Wright, “the chickens are coming home to roost.”We’ve gone soft as a nation, propping up the nanny state to make life easier and more egalitarian, but in the process we’ve seen some really are more equal than the rest of us and our efforts to make life easier and less risky have created a growing social safety net smothering risk and freedom. We’ve tried to ensure outcome of equality, not creation stage equality.And people, subconsciously or consciously, are trying to turn back the clock. They want to get back to a time that was less complicated, maybe a little more raw, but filled with the wild west spirit of optimism and hard work that saw each horizon as something to be crossed to a better tomorrow.Right now, only Herman Cain really expresses that time. Rick Perry says he wants to make Washington as inconsequential in our lives as possible, but where is the hope? Where is the optimism? Where is the warrior for what’s right? Where is the guy who is willing to throw out the money changers?Herman Cain is running not against Obama, but for a view of the United States that is still the shining city on the hill. I hear him speak and I hear him connecting with that sense of American nostalgia so many are embracing right now — a nostalgia that says, “Yes, yesterday was pretty awesome for America. But you ain’t seen nothing yet.”I hear Rick Perry talk about that in terms of Texas. I hear Romney talk like a technocrat muttering on about plugging in various variables into arcane economic formulas to churn out various forms of growth and zzzzzzz . . . .Where is the vision of the shining city on the hill? Where is the vision of the better tomorrow. Where is the rhetoric that transcends red meat? I’m not hearing it and people want to hear it. They don’t want to wait for the general election. They want the happy warriors with their optimism in the fight for freedom now. And let’s not underrate the “warrior” bit. Along with the optimism must come a heavy dose of moral outrage at what is right now going on. The outrage is outrage against those gaming the system, against the politicians making it harder and harder for the entrepreneur against the established business, and against a less than free market where the government picks winners and losers largely based on campaign donations.These candidates need to sell hope. Not the false hope that Obama sold. Obama sold a hope in himself. He wanted people to put their hopes in him. And now he’s lost them. But the GOP cannot gain them merely by not being Obama. They’ve got to offer more.In the Bible, Paul writes about hope. That hope is a specific hope. It is Christ. The hope in a supreme God who through his son will deliver those who believe into the promised land, vanquish sin, and save the world.In America, we have always had our own brand of hope — that of America against the world. That hope that says we are the last best hope for mankind and all those yearning to breath free can come here, work hard, and thrive and the government exists to make sure everyone has a chance to compete.It is a hope that has real punishment and consequences both for those countries that try to outpace us and for those of our own citizens within and outside government who try to stifle the American entrepreneurial spirit.Right now, we’re not thriving. We’re rewarding those who are gaming the system, not working hard. We’ve let the government pick winners and losers instead of a free market, which itself is increasingly not free. We’re putting up candidates who make decisions based on how it will look when they run for office, not on whether it is right or wrong. See e.g. Mitt Romney last night on his sanctuary mansion saying, “”I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”The Republican who should be the nominee and who can beat Barack Obama is the Republican who can tap that Reagan like optimism in this country and also the Reagan like moral outrage at the condition we find ourselves in — an outrage driven by conviction in a better way and a better set of principles rooted in freedom. Right now, from the President to the rest of the field save Cain, they are saying the words, but they sound angry and defeatist. They say America’s best days are ahead of us like they think we really are in decline.Right now, America just needs someone with a warm smile, a heavy amount of indignation at where Washington has led us, and a vision and real hope for a better tomorrow. The candidate who delivers that will win. We need a happy warrior.