As we celebrated the Fourth of July just last week, it is important to look at the state that our nation appears to be in during our two hundred and forty-second year as a free, independent, and sovereign republic. Although most people were preoccupied with planning barbecues or going out to see fireworks, we must remember another event that took place on this day thirty-nine years ago. On July 4, 1979, President Jimmy Carter was at Camp David, and began to write a speech that defined his time in office. Having inherited the White House less than a year after the bicentennial in 1977, he succeeded a long like of controversial figures. The United States was still reeling from the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, and the dual assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. The Vietnam War only ended with the Fall of Saigon just two years before Carter’s inauguration. Watergate saw the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974, and his pardoning by President Gerald Ford—although in retrospect a good decision—saw a nation feeling that justice was vanishing. Inflation was rampant, and as was common in the 1970s energy was a major issue. The Iran Hostage Crisis had yet to occur, but it would cap off a chaotic two decades for the country.
It was for these reasons and many others that Carter chose to address the nation just eleven days after the celebrations of our independence. He spent time after that holiday to speak to people from all fields, including politicians, academics, economists, philosophers, preachers, and others. In this address to the nation, Carter spoke of how the nation’s liberties and freedoms would survive, and how the United States’ strength still existed, and instead spoke of a spiritual matter, saying that “The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.” This speech did address the important issues of inflation, unemployment, and the government’s role, as well as the generational shift from the Greatest Generation, who faced the threats of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan while overseeing the creation of a superpower, to the Baby Boomers, traumatized by the chaos, uncertainty, and devastation of the 1960s. Although these days are long gone, the memory of the 1960s and 1970s fading into our national memory from our personal ones, the United States once again faces a Crisis of Confidence.
First the facts of the world in 2018 must be known. This nation is at the height of an economic boom, the likes of which we had not seen since the 1990s. The Great Recession is just a memory, and the economy is buoyed by a low unemployment rate of 3.9% as of April 2018, and the Dow Jones up from 7,062 in February 2009 to 24,434 as of June 2018. By all these historic measures the economy is doing well. And yet, the country appears to be facing Crisis of Confidence in 2018, although the backdrop of a bad economy only appeared in 1979. The approval rating of President Donald Trump is at an abysmal 40% according to Gallup, while Congress only as a 19% approval rating. According to a Washington Post poll from October 2017, 71% of Americans believe that this country has reached a low point in terms of a lack of unification on political issues. Of those people in that poll, 39% believe that this situation is permanent, while 31% believe it is a temporary situation. In that very same poll, 70% of people believe that this nation is just as divided if not more than the period of the Vietnam War. Similarly, 61% of Americans believe that the President does not represent their political views, while 57% of Americans feel that way towards the Republican Party and 44% for the Democratic Party.
The reality of America’s present-day Crisis of Confidence is that despite the relatively good economic situation, faith in government is at a historic low. If any other President had a similar economy or international situation, they would be a shoe-in for re-election and their political party would not be at risk of losing Congress. Instead, we have a government that continues to grow in unpopularity due to their mistreatment of migrant children and immoral separation of families, and which threatens the livelihoods and rights of millions of LGBTQ+ Americans and attacks the rights of women to choose what is best for themselves and their bodies. In addition to that, the institutions of the free press and our closest allies such as Canada, Britain, and others are constantly being attacked by President Trump. Although Presidents often limit their damage to the nation in terms of policy, the damage we face as a nation is bone deep. Faith in the office itself is dwindling, and faith in our democratic institutions are vanishing. Pundits and other figures in Washington attempt to make sense of these changes, but most simply conclude that there has been damage and offer no solution. Politicians meanwhile exacerbate this lack of faith in government, from the President to Congress, whose ineptitude or negative actions grows this divide that plagues the country.
Although our politicians claim to know what is causing this divide, the only solution that at this point seems possible is to vote against the incumbent political party. The Republican Party has time and time again obstructed the administration of President Barack Obama, while President Trump wears his denigration of our democratic institutions on his sleeve. Voting out the Republican Congress will check the President’s power and prevent the nominations of Supreme Court judges who will support him. Following that, it is necessary that the President be voted out of power in November 2020, and to restrict the power of the office which has allowed a person with so much power to continue to divide the country and act on his impulses. This is the only chance to return to normalcy as this country enters the 2020s. Our elected representatives and the President of the United States need deal with the issues that will impact generations of Americans. We need leaders who will talk about issues like Social Security, Entitlements, foreign policy, civil rights, the rising gap between the rich and poor, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the infrastructure of the country, climate change, and immigration among others. Rather than being bogged down in a swamp of mediocrity and corruption as we are in today, we need true leadership and character to Make America Great Again.