The Debate: A Worldview in a Word

There was one word the President uttered in the Presidential debate that said more to me than all of his other words combined. Maybe it summed up what all the other words combined were trying to say. And it does not bode well for us as a nation if it reflects the sentiments of the majority of Americans.

We said last week that this Presidential election was a battle of worldviews. And one big worldview question that was asked in the first Presidential debate was how the candidates viewed “the mission of the federal government.” The President, after mentioning national safety, said: “The federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed.”

Now where that mission is in the Constitution among the enumerated powers given Congress, I have no idea. If by that he simply meant that we, a free people, could climb the ladder of success if the federal government fixed rules and regulations for the free flow of commerce among a free people; if it protected people’s ideas through patents and trademarks; if it provided for the flow of information by post offices and post roads; if it maintained our internal integrity through immigration and naturalization laws; and if it protected us from foreign powers — all powers enumerated in the Constitution — then okay. But these specific powers enumerated in the Constitution were not what he meant.  And it was made very clear, though almost unnoticeably so, in his closing statement. The word just slipped by.

Here is what he said:

All those things are designed to make sure that the American people, their genius, their grit, their determination, is — is channeled and — and they have an opportunity to succeed.

Did you notice the key word? It was “channeled.” The worldview of the President is that the government’s mission is to channel who we are and what we are capable of so that we can succeed. It’s the kind of worldview that allows the civil government to make sure “everybody’s getting a fair share,” the words the President next spoke. We cannot, though, be a free people if we want a civil government whose function is to make sure we’re properly channeled toward success. To the President’s way of thinking, it is not “we the people,” as free people, who chose how best to pursue our happiness; no, we need the government to somehow help channel us down the correct path to ensure “fairness.”

That a near majority, if not a majority, of Americans embrace such thinking makes my heart  heavy. If that is where we are as a nation, then I fear we have become a people who no longer want to be free, as our Founding Fathers envisioned freedom. It was freedom our Founding Fathers found worth risking their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Freedom is great, but it entails risks. It can include failure. It can be hard and not safe. To our Founders, you were responsible for “channeling” yourself in pursuit of that which you deemed success and, if a Christian, your Guide and Source of strength for that pursuit and your Sustainer if you fell was God, not civil government.

I fear we are becoming a people who will accept dependency in lieu of freedom in exchange for a sense of security that is only imaginary. In fact, earlier the President decried the possibility that Americans would be “at the mercy” of the private sector for their health insurance when they could have the government’s promise of safety to assure them.

If that is what we want, then beware. As Benjamin Franklin said so well, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

In the words of Thomas Paine, it is time for “those [of us] who expect to reap the blessings of freedom” to “like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Let me suggest a place to begin is by really learning the beliefs and values of those you will be voting for shortly. You can find them through our voter guides and other resources at our Voter Education Headquarters on our website and in the Incumbent Voter Scorecards at our Voting Record Accountability Headquarters.