Numerous topics suggest themselves this week for a policy-heavy “look ahead” column for 2018 – but, alas, not just 2017 but the whole of 2016 and half of 2015 were so politically exhausting that all I want is a break, a big break, from everything political and governmental.
I suspect I’m nowhere near alone in this.
I think millions of Americans just want the political noise to stop. We want the ideologues to stop insulting everyone else; we want the idiotic sloganeering to cease; we want the partisanship to be reduced and the demagoguery to disappear; and we want the resident of the Oval Office to curtail his tweets and end his weekly barrage of falsehoods.
And we especially want both sides to stop automatically impugning the motives or the human decency of people who happen to reach different conclusions or hold different political philosophies. It is calumny for the Chuck Schumers of the world to portray most conservatives as being indifferent (or, worse, hostile) to the poor; it is likewise calumnious for right-wingers to mistake liberal media bias for grand-scale, deliberate dishonesty.
None of this is to call for some sort of namby-pamby, fuzzy-headed, permanent political kumbaya. Sharp policy differences can merit sharp debate, with sharp criticism of the assumptions or logic used by the other side. Still, sharpness need not be insulting – and, done well, can indicate a base-level respect despite the disagreements.
Yet, as 2017 draws to an end, I recoil even from those sorts of policy disputes that are respectful but contentious. For at least a week or two, I actually would welcome a bit of kumbaya. It’s not that I would abjure a serious policy proposal right now – Lord knows, tax reform was only the easiest part of the crucial series of changes needed to set government aright – but I would really rather have everybody take deep breaths, play some golf or read a book, and say absolutely nothing political unless it is broadly upbeat, unifying, or uplifting.
For example, at the end of his first year in office, Ronald Reagan spoke of the lights of Christmas trees and of Menorah candles, and said this: “We are blessed with a freedom and abundance denied to so many. Let those candles remind us that these blessings bring with them a solid obligation, an obligation to the God who guides us, an obligation to the heritage of liberty and dignity handed down to us by our forefathers and an obligation to the children of the world, whose future will be shaped by the way we live our lives today.”
That is the tone we would welcome. That is, right now, the tone we surely need. We’ve had enough of tales of morning hosts supposedly bleeding from plastic surgery, of supposedly “good people” marching with neo-Nazis, enough of sexual harassment and allegations of teen sex abuse, enough of crazy leftist warnings that a mere tax cut is Armageddon, enough of the finger-pointing and name-calling and blame-casting.
What we need is a reminder of the ways we pulled together this year. Houstonians helping Houstonians after Hurricane Harvey, and a “Cajun Navy” sweeping in to lend a hand. A police deputy rescuing a boy from an icy pond. Heroes rescuing bunnies and goats from raging wildfires. More attention to the triumph of Western civilization against the Islamic State. And, most importantly, a firm insistence that there is such a thing as Western civilization worth defending: that Western civilization is not a crass concept of cultural hegemony but a heritage of freedom and human dignity deserving of protection, preservation, and celebration.
More than that, we need reminding that in all of the great annals of Western civilizations, the greatest freedom and greatest decency and grandest accomplishments (Apollo 11, anyone?) were American ones – growing directly and uniquely from an American exceptionalism based not on “blood and soil”, but on ideas, ideals, and the strengths of a thriving civil society.
So on anything that divides us right now, let us just pause a while. Let’s try instead to recapture what brings us together.
Happy New Year.
Quin Hillyer (@QuinHillyer) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a former associate editorial page editor for the Washington Examiner, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.
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