Conservapedia/debate: Is bad culture reinforced by bad government crippling America?

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by Newt Gingrich [1]

There is one critical topic for the 2008 campaign that is so far outside the elite mainstream that it probably will not be mentioned:

This key issue for America is how bad culture reinforced by bad government is crippling America and trapping the poor in disastrous situations.

To his credit, Senator Barack Obama began this conversation in his speech in Philadelphia, but this critical conversation is a long way from being finished. The coming months will test whether we can have an honest, direct dialogue about the disastrous cultural patterns and destructive government policies of the last 40 years.

Replacing bad culture and bad government with good culture and good government is the most important single challenge we face here at home.

The Need to Go from Preaching to Meddling

This is a decisive moment. Unquestionably, confronting bad culture and bad government will be threatening to most of our elites, our bureaucracies, our lobbyists, our political consultants, and our news media. Every effort will be made to avoid the challenge.

There is an old saying that someone has "gone from preaching to meddling." If we insist on a serious, candid discussion about bad culture and bad government, we will clearly have gone to meddling -- and our elites will resist.

Yet this topic is the key to creating a better future for all Americans and solving our major domestic problems.

Senator Obama Was Simply Wrong to Emphasize Racism in His Speech

Last Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) I gave an initial response to Senator Obama's Philadelphia speech on racism.

For an hour, I emphasized that the key problem of poverty in America is a function of bad culture and bad government.[1]

My point was that Senator Obama was simply wrong in his emphasis on racism.

In case after case it is clear that the number-one threat to poor people is not racism. Instead, the poor are trapped by bad culture and bad government.

Yelling racism is an attempt by the elites on the left to hide from this reality. After all, the bad culture and bad government trapping the poor are in large part a product of the efforts made by those elites and their allies.

The more I talk with people about the sorry state of our current dialogue, the clearer it is to me that both sides are missing this crucial point. This failure to confront reality has brought us to a decisive turning point in American history.

Senator Obama has opened the door for a fundamental conversation about why there are poor people in America and what we need to do about it. It is incumbent on us to have the courage to engage in that conversation without fear and without flinching.

It's Time for Right and Left to Follow the Lead of Bill Cosby

The Left is determined to blame all the current problems on President Bush and pass a series of programs that will actually make those problems worse.

But since the Left -- with its academic, Hollywood, trial lawyer, bureaucracy, and union factions -- is the cause of much of the bad culture and most of the bad government, it can hardly be expected to voluntarily start a dialogue about repudiating its own cultural values and reforming its own bureaucratic allies.

Sadly, however, the Right has been too shallow and too focused on raising money and developing clever tactics to engage in the level of fundamental conversation America needs.

Bill Cosby has been a lonely voice advocating a serious look at the fundamental patterns and the cultural crisis that underlie many of our most serious problems.

It's time the rest of us reinforced Bill Cosby and followed his lead.

The Founding Fathers Knew: Good Government Requires Good Culture

One of the amazing things about the generation that founded America was that they knew we as a people would eventually drift into a crisis of bad culture and bad government. And they had no doubt which came first. They knew that bad culture leads to bad government -- and good government requires good culture.

Consider just a few quotes from our Founders:

  • "...there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained..." -- President George Washington's First Inaugural Address

  • "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports." -- George Washington's Farewell Address

  • "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." -- John Adams

  • "Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness." -- Samuel Adams

  • "Reading, reflection, and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts ... in which all religions agree." -- Thomas Jefferson

  • "Religion is the only solid Base of morals and Morals are the only possible support of free governments" -- Gouverneur Morris

  • "The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments." -- Benjamin Rush

American Government and Culture Took a Wrong Turn in the 1960s

How did America go from Benjamin Rush's call for religion as the only foundation for a useful education to the amoral, do-your-own-thing, militantly secular culture and bureaucracy we have today?

America took a wrong turn in the 1960s, both in culture and in government.

The counterculture and the militant Left repudiated middle class values and assaulted the core patterns which had worked for 200 years, creating the most prosperous country in the world.

But we didn't stop there. Big bureaucracies were created at the federal, state, and local levels; and they have been decaying in efficiency and effectiveness ever since.

The result is that we now have red-tape-ridden governments that reinforce the wrong values and undermine the still healthy parts of the culture.

The Result? An America in Which a 13-Year-Old Is Arrested as a Madame

Bad government and bad culture reinforce each other. Bad culture preaches vice over virtue, getting something for nothing over hard work, and immediate gratification over saving and planning. Bad government then rewards all these destructive habits, fostering even more bad culture.

This pattern has created an America in which:

  • A 13-year-old is arrested as a "Madame" in Dallas.

  • One out of every five eighth graders has tried an illegal drug.

  • We have a horrendous high school drop-out rate that will ultimately doom America in economic competition with China and India.

  • Atheists seek to use the courts to erase every element of God from public life.

  • Celebrities routinely make headlines for drug and alcohol addiction and other self-destructive behavior.

  • African American males who drop out of high school face a 73% unemployment rate in their 20s and a 60% chance of going to jail in their 30s.

  • We have the largest prison population in the world: One out of every 100 Americans is in prison.

  • A subprime mortgage crisis exists because greed, short-sightedness, and self-deception convinced both very sophisticated financiers and very unsophisticated home buyers to enter into commitments which were historically guaranteed to create a disaster. Now the nation is being asked to bail both groups out.

These Are Not the Patterns of a Society Prepared to Maintain Its Freedom and Prosperity

These are not the patterns of a healthy, wise society prepared to maintain its prosperity and sustain its freedom.

These are the patterns of a self-destructive, juvenile society that is putting everything at risk by ignoring the lessons of history.

I wrote God in America, Winning the Future, and Real Change to begin laying out the fundamental changes America needs if we are to remain the most successful country in history (and more recently, Callista and I produced the DVD version of Rediscovering God in America for the same reason).

We founded American Solutions and created the first draft of the Platform of the American People to begin a positive dialogue about the solutions and the policies that will bring us together as Americans. Our goal is to create a red, white, and blue dialogue of unity to replace the red-versus-blue screaming match of partisanship that has blocked real change in our federal and state capitols and in our city halls and county commissions.

Mr. Gingrich is the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of ["Winning the Future"]

References & Notes