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Signs of Decline, July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017

Donald Trump, won the election for President in November 2016 defeating former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Both Trump’s defeat of the Democrat candidate and his nomination as nominee for President of the Republican Party were surprising. Few predicted his election and even fewer thought that a thrice-married, former Democrat and real estate tycoon from New York would win the Republican nomination.

In retrospect, we should not have been surprised because the Grand Old Party has shown lack of conviction and imagination and was still suffering from the influence of Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

George H. W. Bush, often celebrated for his distinguished record of appointive public service, lacked a philosophy of government consistent with that of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.  George “W” as he is called when distinguishing him from President George H. W. Bush, had a likeable personality–critical in American politics–and was sufficiently unprincipled to run for President as a tax cutter though the only reason he didn’t raise taxes as Governor of  Texas is because movement conservatives in the Texas Party fought his every move.

The Bush family was the committed enemy of movement conservatives and George H. W. Bush himself was elected to political office in Texas only as a member of Congress. Texans saw him for being what he was, a New England political Liberal who was favored by President Richard Nixon. Under Nixon’s protection “H. W.” served as Ambassador to the United Nations and Chairman of the GOP. Nixon’s successor, the ill-fated Gerald Ford, nominated “H.W.” to serve as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (commonly referred to as “Communist China” in an earlier time) and then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

As a result, “H.W.” was often referred to as “the Resume” because few politicians brought as many significant appointments to his candidacy for President of the United States in 1980.  George H.W. Bush lost the election to Ronald Reagan who, against the advice of conservative Republicans, and contrary to his personal pledge, chose George H.W. Bush as his Vice President.

Movement conservatives from the political circle of Senator Jesse Helms preferred Paul Laxalt, Governor of Nevada, and one of their number, Tom Ellis, told friends that, upon hearing of Reagan’s selection of G. H.W. Bush as his Vice President, “I cried like a baby.”

You can be active in politics for decades and never see a politician cry, but that event signified the future watering down by the GOP of principled limited government.

In other words, the beginning of the crisis of American civil society that we sense today can be traced to an unwelcome decision by the GOP’s nominee in Detroit, Michigan on July 17, 1980.  I was at that convention and was sitting behind George H.W. Bush staffers who were downcast to learn that Reagan had begun negotiations with Gerald Ford to be his Vice President nominee.

Clearly, something was awry in the Reagan camp because neither Gerald Ford nor George H.W. Bush shared the Gipper’s political principles.

A timeline of the forty-two years from August 1974 when Richard NIxon resigned the Presidency through November 2016 when Donald Trump is elected President shows evidence that the American political order is in decline.

1974               President Nixon resigns

1974               Vice President Ford assumes Office of the President

1976               Jimmy Carter elected President

1980               Ronald Reagan elected President. George H. W. Bush is Vice President

1981               James Baker named Chief of Staff

1985               “Iran-Contra”

1988               George H. W. Bush elected President + “Read my Lips”

1990               George H.W. Raises Taxes

1991               Soviet Union collapses

1992               William Jefferson Clinton elected President

1998               Clinton Impeached

2000               George W. Bush elected President

2003               Invasion of Iraq

2008               Banking Crisis

2009               Barack Obama elected President

2010               GOP captures U.S. House of Representatives

2014               GOP captures U. S. Senate

2016               Donald Trump elected President

Whether these politicians who were elected to the office of President of the United States were the source of public disorder, or the American people who elected them, is the great question of our times. Is it our political system that attracts aspiring politicians lacking in commitment to principle?

If it’s the politicians’ fault, replacing them solves the problem. If the American voter is the problem, then we face a long period of decline ending in the death of constitutional government.

In 1978, a time of grave danger for the United States, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn declared that we lacked courage. Two years later, a committed anti-Communist was elected President of the United States. Nine years later, the Berlin Wall fell and in 1991 the “evil empire” itself collapsed, but the United States has continued along a path of decline. On that we should reflect this 4th of July 2017.

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