Although the right has constantly accused the mythical, unicorn, left and liberals of imposing a mantra of rejecting self reliance, accountability, in favor of weakness and sloth, it is as usual the right who has asked nothing of Americans except to be consumers. Americans look fondly upon Reagan because he made us “feel good” about ourselves. Today when social critics complain about how we raise children and praise them for everything, indulge their whims, and fail to teach them the harsh lesson that they won’t “win everything ” need to look at the right and how they rejected the idea planning for a future shock. Reagan encouraged the idea of expressing pride in ourselves just for the hell of it, the right has infantalized us, encouraged us to stay too long at a party we never should have attended in the first place.
Our own VP said Conservation may be a personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy many years ago. Prior to the so called Reagan revolution, old school conservatives used to believe that stuff ran out, that this guiding principle in essence surfaced in the market. There was not an endless supply of “stuff” and what drove some amount of competition and anxiety was negotiating for the stuff we could get.
I always saw the “market” as being a big fucking rigged casino and stock trading as horoscopes for the wealthy, but I am not an economist, and it is the rare economist who is willing to question the sanctity of market principles in North America. If they did, my guess is that they might have chosen other calling. Even mild critics basically believe it works well for a vast majority of citizens even when it doesn’t. They remind me of people who insist on praying for miracle cures while evidence piles up that none are forthcoming.
The cheapest laugh, the quickest way to chest puffery, for the right is to mock President Carter. I was born in 1964, so I recall, the economic turbulence in the 1970’s.
As the child of a single parent, I was very aware of when stuff “ran out”, Mom got paid monthly and toward then end of the month when money was scare we ate vegetarian. I had clothes she mostly sewed and my “cool stuff” I obtained as hand me downs from the children of a woman my mother knew who had married well. It wasn’t presented as hardship, or sacrifice. It was considered annoying. Prior to consumer gas shortages, Mom drove a Volkswagen Beetle, and then a Honda Civic that were both the size of a large dog.
Men on the block claimed that, “Japanese cars could not withstand the harsh Canadian winters.” She drove that civic for ten years and sold it to a college student as part of a garage sale.
I thought I would have a second look at Carter’s famous speech in which he said:
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
Those who want to digest the entire speech can do so here.
And where did he get this feedback? He drew this conclusion partially on his own but the summary was actually obtained from a collection of American citizens he invited to Camp David. He took the radical step of inviting people to voice their concerns.
I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our society — business and labor, teachers and preachers, governors, mayors, and private citizens. And then I left Camp David to listen to other Americans, men and women like you.
We can argue about whether it was an accurate cross section of American society, it may not have been. He made the attempt.
President Carter engaged himself in democracy. President Carter was ultimately punished by the right for daring to ask ordinary people what they thought. The right suddenly realized that if they did not wrestle the propaganda mantle away, they might not be in the wilderness because the liberals had corrupted America and turned it into a sinners paradise of uppity women, workers, and and emerging Americans of various color, they might be there because the opinion of elites might be downgraded, and outsourced.
Here are some samples of what carter was told at Camp David:
Mr. President, we’re in trouble. Talk to us about blood and sweat and tears.
Some people have wasted energy, but others haven’t had anything to waste
I feel so far from government. I feel like ordinary people are excluded from political power
The big-shots are not the only ones who are important. Remember, you can’t sell anything on Wall Street unless someone digs it up somewhere else first
A few people even told him a few things he might not have wanted to hear….
You don’t see the people enough any more
Mr. President, you are not leading this nation — you’re just managing the government
That came from an unidentified southern governor.
Imagine a President offering statements that do not flatter him or her.
As many know much of the discussion centered on the economic struggles many in this nation faced and how to achieve some kind of energy autonomy. This advice might have been Carter’s undoing.
Be bold, Mr. President. We may make mistakes, but we are ready to experiment
Turns out the American people were ready to consider alternatives. They were ready to chart new directions in 1979.
Although I am not keen on war analogies myself clearly others did recognize that energy needs were both paramount and a priority. He was also told…
The real issue is freedom. We must deal with the energy problem on a war footing
Carter went on to outline several approaches, one of them included relying more on coal which we all know has problematic consequences. I found this suggestion rather interesting.
Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000
Guess how much of our national energy needs are supplied by solar power today? According to this article.
last year it provided less than 0.01 percent of the country’s electricity supply – is unlikely without significant technological breakthroughs. And given the current scale of research in private and government laboratories, that is not expected to happen anytime soon
It appears that we might have a commitment issue. Apparently, both the private and public sector have different priorities. Why shouldn’t they since conservation is only a “personal virtue”, public virtues are just a silly notion, that doesn’t belong in the market, right. The idea of public virtue has been surgically altered and we have been implanted by the right with twisted notions about family values that claim to offer caring but usually simply spew condemnation and social control. Now, debates what should or should not become a “public virtue” are fraught with anxiety about social control and fears about the relinquishing of personal liberty and they can’t be easily wiped away. My ideas and yours might not match. But I would argue that if we cannot agree that something like energy conservation and a Marshall Plan like approach to funding actual workable alternatives should be exempt from the ideas of formulating “public virtues” then our problem is not that we disagree on personal philosophy. Our problem is that we are doomed, so best not to worry about scoring debate points.
Carter dared to suggest in his speech that his initiatives would cost quite a bit and that there were things American could do in every day life to help support this vision.
he also suggested that capitalism and its rewards were not in fact the greatest American value.
Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning
Oops. How did that slip in?
He also warned that all of this would require effort and sacrifice. Carter did spend quite a bit of time detailing problems, concerns, and the fragile mood of the times. The speech did not however end on a sorrowful or morose note. Carter actually believed Americans who had demonstrated their ability to adapt, struggle and overcome obstacles on the past were more than capable of doing so again. Carter, believed in America.
In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God’s help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail
No long after, Reagan became President, and we forgot about all that shit. It was cumbersome and complicated. We wanted to “feel good” again. Americans seemed to want to hear the truth but when handed the opportunity, they realized it was too painful. Why enter into long term costly therapy that requires commitment, thought, participation and reflection when drugs will mask the pain? I am not using the analogy to knock the use of therapeutic medication, but we can’t substitute the promise of “hope” from one candidate or “experience” from another and use it as a balm to make ourselves feel better.
Do we want the truth, or do we want fuzzy patriotism, and reassurances that our lifestyle can be maintained?