Gratitude, Even in November 2012 (NRO Symposium)

For the last four or five elections I have believed that at stake was whether God still blessed America. In the eyes of our Founders, belief that He does (“With a firm reliance on Divine Providence”) is conditional on our national behavior. How can we expect Providence to bless our efforts, George Washington told his troops in 1776, if we do not live worthy of Him? My depression about the election lasted only one night. The rest of the week I was depressed by the mess the nation is now in, and the old policies the president promised to pursue during his campaign.

The president is well on his way to forcing our military down to levels unseen in the last 50 years — fewer ships for the Navy than in 1939–40; aircraft older than the young men flying them. We shall no longer have an ability to fight two wars at once — or even to fight one with unchallengeable military strength.

The president has already racked up national deficits so large they cannot be paid off in the lifetime of our children, and will still weigh down our grandchildren. Our generation is so “compassionate” we will spend money (for the poor, we say) that we do not even have.

On the other hand, experience shows that Providence, in failing to grant our prayers, normally has wiser things in mind. In a way, our present loss may be a reprieve for the Party of Liberty, such that it does not have to inherit the damage that is surely coming down on this nation during the next four years.

Obviously, the majority of the country does not grasp the peril our nation is in. So maybe it is in fact wiser that incoming perils be tied unmistakably to the New Statists, to their long-term discredit.

Our Founders concluded from their long search for the fatal flaw in all previous Republics that the most destructive of all social flaws is envy — envy of one class for another, one section of the city for another, one dynastic family for another. Envy is more destructive than hate, for envy never calls itself envy, but justice or fairness. Yet it leads ineluctably to social warfare, even at the price of self-destruction.

President Obama’s persistent effort to paint the top 2 percent of income earners as foes of “fairness” and the “common good” poisons national amity. That will have effects for years to come. To what good end? Private capital that would have been invested in jobs for future wealth creation will be seized by government. With what practical results?

Sometimes nations need chastisement before they get the point: There must be a high level of mutual respect in the daily life of a Republic, if there is to be unity, amicability, and a just estimate of the unique contributions of each sector to the whole.

Published in National Review Online on November 22, 2012