By Ralph Benko
The 2020 election is generating an important, overdue, national conversation. Is America not merely great but, more important, fundamentally good? And why.
President Trump believes in America, which has been very good to him, the Good. So, of course, does Vice President Biden. Mr. Biden, however, may prove susceptible to pressure from his party’s thought leaders.
Many elitist progressives and left-wing activists, both influential in the Democratic Party, aggressively contend the America we grew up in to be irredeemably evil and something to be “cancelled.” The left’s animus is displayed by rioting and, further, defacing statues of American icons like Abe Lincoln. They will not stop there.
I have written extensively over the years and recently intensively at The American Spectator, Newsmax, Townhall, and Western Journal, about the left’s assault on the concept of “America as good” and of the importance of our taking a stand for America’s goodness. “America the Good” is something on which most Republicans and conservatives agree. So, too, do most blue collar and ethnic rank-and-file Democrats. Not “Progressives,” however, who have a different concept of “good.”
So now let’s pose the fundamental question. What is good?
My dictionary defines “good” as “to be desired or approved of, possessing or displaying moral virtue, giving pleasure.”
To put it simply, most Americans I know consider personal and national security, dignity, liberty, ecology and equitable prosperity good.
The left’s idea of good, however, spins on the axis of equality. They take that to an extreme, ignoring and subverting legitimate distinctions and the differentiations those justify. And in practice, as in “Animal Farm” where George Orwell mordantly observed about the ruling and privileged pigs that “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others,” that equality is more rhetorical than real.
Progressives’ version of “equality” tends to flatten distinctions that are crucial to the common sense of goodness. Consider, as an example, awarding athletic contest trophies for participation rather than achievement. Progressives do not consider it fully legitimate for those who work harder, produce more value for the general welfare and for the ecology, manage their assets more capably to prosper more. They award elite status (and the attendant perks) for virtue signaling more than accomplishment.
The classical American sense of “good” has been, and remains, an abundance of opportunities to achieve economic security and to rise to affluence via talent, skill, and diligence. Most regular people don’t believe confiscating the fruits of the labors of the hardest-working and most productive to be “good.”
Those who are seeking to “cancel America” are in part seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the very source of equitable prosperity, capitalism itself. This is part of a power grab rooted, in part, in recasting the sin of covetousness into a virtue. Progressives lust to fund the coffers of a government that they aspire to control by raising tax rates to confiscatory levels and imposing pernicious new taxes, like wealth taxes. This baldly proposes to confiscate capital. What’s up?
By deed, and some explicitly, progressives are prosecuting the “class warfare,” declared by The Communist Manifesto. That war holds that the middle class (the “bourgeoisie”) is the oppressor of workers (the “proletariat’). It calls for “despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production.”
This war has always and everywhere paved a road to Hell for the poor, the working and the middle class especially. See: Venezuela.
To dig deeper, most of us believe that it is only right to be judged on our own merits and faults. Guilt-by-association is a pernicious form of “reverse cronyism.” Guilt-by-association was rightly indicted as a cardinal sin when practiced by Sen. Joe McCarthy. McCarthy used this vicious tactic to destroy the career of many innocents while he ran amok before being censured and dying disgraced.
Guilt-by-association, now reincarnated by the left, is just as vicious now as during the McCarthy era. It is a vile scorched-earth tactic antithetical to the classical liberal republican, democratic capitalist, culture that defined, and still defines, America.
There is another name for this tactic. “Newspeak.”
George Orwell, in Nineteen Eight-Four, identifies this tactic progressives now routinely use to attack those who hold America to be good. Orwell:
“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of [English Socialism], but to make all other modes of thought impossible. … Take for example the well-known passage from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…
“It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink.”
America’s classical sense of good is set forth in the works of Tom Paine, the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution’s protection of life, liberty and property. The good is further protected by the Bill of Rights and other Constitutional amendments. As Orwell points out, what has become “cancel culture” turns America’s original sense of good into a “thoughtcrime.”
Cancel culture is deployed to replace classical liberal (as in “liberty”) republicanism and capitalist equitable prosperity with a dystopian, totalitarian, vision. The 2020 election goes deeper than garden-variety politics. We confront core beliefs of good and evil.
As chairman of the Capitalist League I hold America to be good.
Many “Progressives” disagree. And you?
Ralph Benko is the co-author of The Capitalist Manifesto, the author of The Ten Commandments of Capitalism, and the co-founder and chairman of The Capitalist League.