Although these are trying times for the United States, with too many citizens out of work, a national debt that’s higher than the ocean is deep, and many of us feeling our hallowed liberties are under siege, something wonderful is happening: the rediscovery of the Founding Fathers.
You have only to look at Amazon to see how many new biographies of the Founders are coming out and how well they are selling. We just can’t seem to get enough of these eighteenth century heroes who made it all possible. And we’re not just reading biographies; some of us who’ve never taken a public stand before, suddenly find ourselves at rallies. You’ll see this if you go to a Tea Party rally-and you’ll also see posters with references to the Founding Fathers or the Constitution.
At a recent panel on the Tea Party movement at the Hudson Institute, the moderator, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, noted our renewed interest in our own very exceptional past. Presenting Bicentennial commemorative stamps to his fellow panelists, Kristol said:
“I do think it is an irony-I remember the Bicentennial well, and a lot of good work was done; there were a lot of good speeches, and my father did some stuff at the American Enterprise Institute, but it didn’t really catch on, I’ve got to say. The Bicentennial came and went in 1976, and for those of us who were old enough to remember it, it didn’t really affect the public much, I think. And it would be an irony, one of the ways history works in a funny way, if the resurgence of interest in the principles of the Founding then comes back here thirty years later-but I think that is happening.”
Are we having a belated Bicentennial celebration on this, the 234th birthday of our nation? I think we are. And I think it’s because we fear, for the only time in my life that I can remember such fear, that we could lose this great country. We could lose it to IOUs we can pay, to a government that rejects the limitations imposed on its powers in 1776, and to the shredding a document that has stood us in good stead for more than two centuries.
This country is a miracle. There were dark days for our Founders, who, as the phrase goes, endured “ill report and loss of fortune” to bring the United States into being. But I have hope. Columnist Michael Barone noted the other day that Americans today are more attuned to the Founders than to the philosophies of our dominant elites. One reason is quite mundane and would undoubtedly be mocked as “selfish” by many. It has to do with not wanting to squander the fruits of virtuous labor.
Here is some of what Michael Barone wrote:
But we still live in an America like the America of the Founders, and unlike the America of the Progressives and the New Dealers, in which a majority of citizens are or have every prospect of becoming property owners. And a nation of property owners is less willing to plunder the property of others in search of some promised gain than a nation where most people don’t and will never own significant property.
So when Susan Roesgen, then of CNN, upbraided a tea party protester in 2009 by reminding him that he was getting a $400 tax rebate thanks to the Democrats’ stimulus package, she was met with utter dismissal. You don’t sell out your property rights for a mere $400.