In school we all learned the basic tenets of classical liberalism upon which the United States was founded: liberty, equality, capitalism, freedom of religion, private property ownership, free trade, and limited government, to name a few. These concepts were considered radical at the time of the founding of the United States, the first nation formed out of the Age of Enlightenment.
So far, it has been successful experiment, although not without its missteps and tragedies.
The year 2023 marks a quarter century of increasing partisan polarization, which began with the 105th Congress, where Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who by escalating the nastiness of Republican rhetoric and organizing re-election campaigns at a national level, demonstrated a model for success that his Democratic counterparts quickly seized upon. Fueled by 24-hour news channels aligning themselves with right- or left-wing bias, new narratives have been created for our national values that are very one-sided.
And if you embrace one set of values, it seems you can’t embrace any from the other side, thanks to partisan fear-mongering. This is a tremendous problem for policy, for progress, and for our national dialogue. And these partisan narratives take us away from our founding national values of classical liberalism.
The Democratic White House continues to press to wipe out student loan debt. To force all taxpayers to repay the debt of a minority population who attended college is quite simply wealth redistribution and rejects the capitalist principles upon which our nation was created.
Republican-led states who pass draconian abortion bans that also prohibit such care in the cases of rape, incest or medical reasons are removing basic liberties from half of their population. Women who are forced to give birth at risk to their own life or to children who cannot survive or are already dead do not have personal liberty.
Nearly a hundred years ago, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote a famous dissent to the majority ruling in Olmstead v. United States. The case was about the appropriateness of wiretapping in criminal prosecutions. Brandeis’s dissent invoked “the right to be left alone” as a key provision of the Fourth Amendment.
So many people I speak with have “given up on” or “tuned out” of politics. More and more voters are leaving the major parties every year, tired of the same scare tactics and lack of forward momentum. People just want to be left alone, which isn’t that different than “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” when you think about it.
While it doesn’t look like 2024 will be a watershed election that moves America closer to its foundational values it will have to mark the end of an era quite simply because neither likely nominee is likely to be alive much longer. Whether we can dump our tired 21st century tribal tropes and return to the radical ideas of the 1780s remains another matter.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appeared regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run one head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.