Many years ago, back when I was a young, believing man, when Jimmy Carter was trying to restore the tradition of F.D.R.’s "fireside chats" by seating himself before a log fire in the White House and talking earnestly to the American people about the nation’s energy crisis, way back then, I knew that the people of the United States were essentially disinterested in having earnestness and honesty in their daily politics.
Our collective inability to address this pathology over the past twenty five years has lead in turn to neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism. Each of "the neos" is constructed out of cynicism and both have their roots in the economic and social dissolutions that followed the Viet Nam war. Neo-cons believe that "New Deal" modernism and its associated reliance on federalism is the source of the erosion of traditional values. In other words: social safety programs will unfairly tax the middle classes and will prevent the poor from developing a work ethic. Neo-liberals bought into this idea because they correctly understood that, after Reagan, the new "lingua franca" of American politics was going to be religious rhetoric and not the language of the old fashioned American social contract.
Both positions are wrong. The United States needs strong social programs that can put young people to work in the manner of the Works Progress Administration. We need such programs desperately. The language of faith and values, with all its glorification of volunteerism can’t obscure the fact that young people need jobs and education at the very moment our nation’s infrastructure needs modernization. So to be direct about the matter: I want Jimmy Carter back! I want a President who believes in tackling the nation’s energy problems while championing human rights. I want a president who has religious values but who believes in the best of F.D.R.’s New Deal. I believe that the nation will vote for the candidate who is best able to understand that both the neo-cons and the neo-libs are collectively lacking both vision and courage. I felt like typing these words this morning. I hope my readers don’t mind. I just can’t help it. And one last "dig": both the neo-cons and the neo-libs are respectively concerned with lifestyle choices rather than ethical government. Lord help me! I’m starting to feel like Christopher Lasch.