Fighting Fatalism

 

shutterstock_135889718Like many right-of-center Americans, I fell into a months-long funk when Barack Obama was re-elected. I understood voting for a charismatic cipher in 2008 after years of war, scandal, and a financial collapse. It would have been hard for a Democrat not to win, especially with the cheerleading of newsrooms and popular culture.

But 2012 was a different matter altogether. The voters knew who Obama was. They lived through four years of economic stagnation, failed foreign policy, and the callow dilettante presiding over both. They saw the backroom deals and the trillion wasted on a fictitious stimulus, but the American people didn’t care. They agreed with Mitt Romney on nearly every issue, but Obama made failure look cool. They applauded American decline and signed on for another four years.

Week by week, I slowly got over my 2012 fatalism. I focused on the small victories conservatives could win in the states and school boards. I saw a rising tide of right-leaning problem solvers in governors’ mansions and statehouses. And despite the bad rap many millennials get, I met so many young people who got it. My inherent optimism slowly returned.

But Thursday, Bush-appointed Chief Justice Roberts decided for a second time that the economic and moral garbage fire known as Obamacare be rubber-stamped — the law and the English language be damned. The American people will continue to suffer under this monstrosity (my family lost our plan) while liars like Gruber, Pelosi — and yes, Obama — give high fives and cash bigger checks. The bad guys won again and fatalism is hard to fight.

The U.S. has spent six years tossing matches at the Middle East powder keg, encouraging petty expansionists like Putin, and almost begging China to replace us as hegemon. Our national debt is higher than our gross domestic product and politicians from both parties demand we spend more. Beijing has stolen the most personal of information from 18 million federal employees and Washington insists we hand them our medical records as well.

It’s hard for freedom-loving Americans not to be fatalistic. To declare America over and seek greener pastures or just drop off the grid. Personally, I can’t run to a virtual Galt’s Gulch since my kids and other younger generations need me to at least try to stop the slide if not reverse it. So I remind myself of the times America faced tougher trials: the world wars, our nation’s founding, and the fight between the Union and the Confederates (if I’m still allowed to use that trigger word).

Despite the multiple crises, our betters are screeching about utter nonsense. Whether a flag should be displayed in an iPhone game, whether people can choose their race and gender, if old ladies should be publicly flayed or just put out of business for not baking a cake.

Eventually the electorate will come to its senses — I mean, they have to, right? As Glenn Reynolds often says, “what cannot continue, won’t.” But what cataclysm will it take to shake us out of our navel-gazing, microaggressed, Brawndo-swilling stupor?

An even worse financial collapse than in 2008 with no borrowed money left to rescue the banks? A deadlier act of war than 9-11? And if either happens, God forbid, will Americans just use the moment to blame each other in even uglier terms?

My ultimate hope, as a Christian, is knowing that God is in control. Being a student of history, I know that cultures have endured far worse calamities than our comfortable decline. But I want to know how you keep your hopes up. Fatalism will never win hearts and minds, let alone elections, so do you have advice on keeping political setbacks from dragging you into despond?

Maybe you take a break from the news (this website excepted, of course). Do you hug your kids more? Slam three shots of bourbon? I’d rather be a Reagan than an Eeyore, so let me know in the comments.

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  1. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:Eventually the electorate will come to its senses; I mean, they have to, right? As Glenn Reynolds often says, “what cannot continue, won’t.”

    OK, I’ll sign up to be that guy:

    If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

    Herb Stein, Ben’s father, and the original “Dear Prudence”

    • #1
  2. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    As I mentioned over on Pseud’s thread, I read history when trying to avoid current events and I’ve been reading a lot of it lately. And yet, things are really good in my own life.  If the country were not going down the tubes, I’d be really happy.  Since I have 5 adorable grandchildren, however, I cannot give up the fight.  I do think things tend to by cyclical and the left, as Kevin Williamson argued yesterday, has reached peak fecklessness.  We hope.  I agree with you, it seemed like the peak in 2012, but voters were clueless? Stupid?  All of the above?  Who knows.

    • #2
  3. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:Eventually the electorate will come to its senses; I mean, they have to, right? As Glenn Reynolds often says, “what cannot continue, won’t.”

    OK, I’ll sign up to be that guy:

    If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

    Herb Stein, Ben’s father, and the original “Dear Prudence”

    Thank you for the sourcing! I read it on Instapundit all the time, but wasn’t sure where he got it from.

    • #3
  4. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    You left out the fact that China now pwns our government’s IT infrastructure.

    Oh, and our cities and towns and even some states are on a trajectory to make the Grexit negotiations look tame.

    Sorry, I can t offer much in the way of optimism.

    • #4
  5. Butters Inactive
    Butters
    @CommodoreBTC

    events over the last few weeks have made me feel more disheartened than at any time since the Nov 2012 elections

    • #5
  6. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    As John Calhoun once said, “The Union – next to our liberty, the most dear.”

    As the aforementioned union has become repressive and no longer protects individual liberty, it must go.

    • #6
  7. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    I just can’t see how the dodos who make up our electorate will ever figure things out.  Maybe an economic collapse but even that may make them more susceptible to charlatans like Obama.

    Sorry but I don’t hold out much hope for the future.  I believe it will go steadily downhill until the Second Coming

    • #7
  8. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    The Republic is dead.  Long live the restored Republic of Texas!

    • #8
  9. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    The only solution I see is to split the country – let states vote whether they want to stay in the Progressive dream that is the modern USA or join the new America which lives by the original intent of the founders as spelled out in the constitution and offers freedom for all irrespective of race, creed or color.

    If the majority of people really are conservative than we shouldn’t have any problem with states voting the right way.  Heck, I’d even let the Progressive USA keep all of my social security “lockbox” money as long as I could quite paying into the system!

    • #9
  10. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    Bret Stephens said it best: “the truth of American exceptionalism is not that we are the ‘best’ at everything. It’s that we’re a nation founded on a belief in human liberty, which contains within it both the power to do and undo. Whatever is done… can be undone; the consolation to the loser is a warning to the winner. Who can’t but be grateful, to live in a country like this?

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    “Eventually the electorate will come to its senses — I mean, they have to, right? As Glenn Reynolds often says, “what cannot continue, won’t.” But what cataclysm will it take to shake us out of our navel-gazing, microaggressed, Brawndo-swilling stupor?”

    Consider this: around this time in 1991, with both the end of Communism and the Gulf War success, was there any reason one could think of why Bush 41 could NOT win re-election? Granted, there was the “Read my lips; no new taxes” tax increase, but it certainly was not enough to stop a Bush-Quayle re-election.

    So what happened?

    Give a realistic answer to what happened, and you might just find out the Dems’ potential disaster zone come Nov 8, 2016. Hint: no major national cataclysm is needed.

    • #11
  12. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    I will surely join you Mr. Gabriel, if the American people choose Leona Helmsley Hillary Clinton over one of the capable candidates we have to offer. Right now, I get the feeling the insanity of the left is peeking at peak whackadoo, partly because they realize they are never going to get what they want if Obama couldn’t produce with his unique blend of minority support and gentry-liberal, faculty lounge coalition building. I really think things are going to get better when we are able to ask the Dems in debate if they support statements like Nepolitano’s guidebook, saying that claiming America is a land of opportunity is a racial micro-aggression.

    And Mr. LaRoche, we discussed that thing about Texas leaving before – The Jersey Boys say fugetabuttit

    • #12
  13. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    First, knowing God is in control, and that all this is far, far smaller than it seems.  Knowing that He knows my place in it.  Knowing that when He put me in this time in history, He did so because there is something for me to do in it.  After all, my life is not about my security or my pleasure.

    I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

    “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

    Second, I refuse to assume that one defeat leads to another.  We can see dominoes lined up, but we cannot see the two that are just slightly farther apart than we think they are, or the finger that may hold one up.  And I still hold that every single domino is worth fighting for.  Sometimes things that seem inevitable do not happen.

    • #13
  14. jerry Inactive
    jerry
    @GreenEyes

    The bad guys won again and fatalism is hard to fight.”

    It’s almost impossible to fight it this time.  I probably will apply bourbon in the meantime but there must be a way to have some hope.  I feel like sinking into a long bender of booze and non-stop cat videos but that won’t help in the long run. So, I’ll settle for this one evening. (Have you seen the one where the cat is afraid of a spider?)

    Tomorrow I’ll have to take care of real life. That will give me distance.  I scrolled through my twitter timeline since I read this article and I saw many good people, tweeting important links and quotes.  I’ll read them tomorrow. I don’t think I will ever completely trust a politician again though.

    • #14
  15. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    What’s pissing me off is the Republican response to rolling back the unconstitutionality of the Obama regime. In 2009 we were told we had to wait for 2011. In 2011 it was “Wait for 2013.” In 2013 it was “Wait for 2015.” After today’s ruling I’m hearing “We can’t do anything until 2017.”

    And in 2017, I fully expect to hear that we have to wait again.

    The only words I have are unfit for Ricochet.

    • #15
  16. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Green Eyes:“

    It’s almost impossible to fight it this time. I probably will apply bourbon in the meantime but there must be a way to have some hope. I feel like sinking into a long bender of booze and non-stop cat videos but that won’t help in the long run. So, I’ll settle for this one evening.

    • #16
  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Eventually the electorate will come to its senses — I mean, they have to, right? As Glenn Reynolds often says, “what cannot continue, won’t.” But what cataclysm will it take to shake us out of our navel-gazing, microaggressed, Brawndo-swilling stupor?

    That’s cute. But that’s like saying of a heroine addict: “It will eventually kill him, so surely he will stop.”

    That aphorism can be applied to some impersonal systems. But even then it breaks down. For example, one might argue that a program’s budget in which outflow consistently exceeds income (Social Security) is unsustainable unless it is revised. But that budget might remain afloat indefinitely despite the continuous deficits if it is subsidized by external accounts.

    The aphorism cannot be applied to personal systems. The human will can always mistake or refuse valid information and reasonable strategies.

    Even if we were perfectly and exclusively reasonable beings, people would still disagree with each other. The sheer volume of data involved, let alone projections of secondary and tertiary (+) effects, guarantee disagreements among honest and reasonable people. And even the best of us is not always honest and reasonable. We are passionate beings, for both good and disastrous effects.

    As a Christian, John, you know that God hardens hearts as well as opens them. We will witness both miracles and ruin.

    • #17
  18. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    Sometimes one reads a post and can only nod… sadly nod.

    • #18
  19. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Aaron Miller:

    As a Christian, John, you know that God hardens hearts as well as opens them. We will witness both miracles and ruin.

    I thought of pointing out that, as Christians, we should especially be wondering whether these are, in fact, the End Times. Anyone who doesn’t read “Barack Hussein Obama” and the phrase “nuclear Iran” and think of the Book of Revelation and the anti-Christ… may want to give it another read.

    • #19
  20. user_473455 Inactive
    user_473455
    @BenjaminGlaser

    hegemon is word that needs used more. 

    • #20
  21. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    Some time ago my pastor was talking about the Christians in early Rome, how they focused on service, meeting the needs of those  around them, in ways society couldn’t understand.  300 years later (don’t quote me on the date) Christianity was flourishing and the “official” religion.

    It’s easy to say “we don’t have 300 years to sway opinion,”  which is true.  None of us, not even Merina’s adorable grandkids, will be alive in 300 years.  So, for now, I focus on being surprising.  In my compassion, in my conversation.  So that people go…oh, you’re a Christian…or in the political case…”you’re a conservative?”  Hmmm, I haven’t met someone like you before.

    We have survived worse that this…we’re a different people now, and persuasiveness looks different, culture change looks different.  But for me, I focus on the wins I can get now…always keeping my eye on the ball and, most importantly, instilling my values in my kids.

    I”m also trying to come up with a counter-example to show my liberal friends the damage that has been done to the rule of law, and how it has the potential to bit them…haven’t got one yet.

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @JimmyNeutron

    Jon – wonderful site, and a wonderful piece you’ve written.

    I wish my optimism would return but I can’t seem to conjure it. I had great fun on election night 2014 but seeing our weak establishment majority (et tu Chafetz?) and now Roberts caving again I just can’t imagine a rebound. People woke up after four years of Carter, but they re-elected Obama. Our nation has devolved to silliness. I’d love a peaceful parting of ways – reds and blues. I no longer feel any kind of kinship with half the country, don’t want to see eye to eye with them, and no longer want to be affiliated with them.

    • #22
  23. Fjordhopper Inactive
    Fjordhopper
    @Fjordhopper

    I’ll admit to being pretty down today, but I can’t tell you how depressed I’ll get until I hear the outcome of Obergefell v. Hodges either tomorrow or Monday.  And, with it the effects it will have on churches, synagogues, and mosques.  Gaming them out yesterday, I would have suspected King v. Burwell might go our way, but Obergefell v. Hodges wouldn’t.  I still don’t know what to think on the latter, but I don’t really see how the court can be consistent in it’s attack on federalism here, and yet return SSM to the states.

    Today’s ruling is very much a strike not only at federalism but the whole American experiment.  If the plain words of the text do not matter, but rather only the intention of those creating the law, I see no way this ends well.  Justice Roberts’ assertion that, “But in every case we must respect the role of the Legislature, and not undo what it has done,” destroys any concept of an independent judiciary, striking at the heart of the principle that the court can indeed undo legislation by declaring it unconstitutional.  The only irony being that the only words that do mean what they say, are Justice Roberts words implying that words don’t mean what they say.

    So, I wish I could find some silver lining, but not today, and I fear tomorrow or Monday will be worse.

    • #23
  24. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    Dammit people!

    What’s all this laying around stuff? Why are you all still laying around here for? Nothing is over unless we decide it is!

    What the f- happened to the Ricochet I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Roberts, he’s a dead man! Reed, dead! Niedermeyer…

    • #24
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    I think it might be helpful to draw up a list and look at it from the other side.

    Obama won in 2008 and 2012; this was meant to be the liberal’s period of victory.

    What has happened?

    Starting with the Reagan three legged stool.

    On foreign policy, we’ve passed trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, completing the old dream of Bush 41 (a free trade zone going from the Bering Strait to Tierra Del Fuego), and it seems likely that we’ll get Japan added before Obama leaves (better still, he’s preparing the EU agreement to be passed by the next (hopefully) guy). The public has returned to supporting defense spending and intervention, and it appears that it will escalate its support over the coming years. China is flexing its muscles, but the TPP is the most comprehensive strengthening of the wall against China that we’ve seen from any President in a long time. While things are awful for Syrians and Iraqis right now, Egypt has dramatically improved, and the Tunisians replaced an Islamist government with a Secularist one through a peaceful election. Things are mostly going our way, although Iran might present an asterisk.

    On social policy, abortions are down, gun rights and self defense are better protected than ever before, as are free speech and federalism. Religious liberty is a wash (better Constitutional protection at both state and federal levels, but more statutes pushing up against it). We’ve been pretty successful at preventing amnesty from passing. School choice is at new heights and still climbing. Things are going our way unless you place a high priority on SSM, which I don’t recall your doing.

    On Fiscal policy, we had an absolutely terrible few months when the Dems had a super-majority; healthcare semi-nationalized, Dodd-Frank, and vast amounts shovelled out to unions. Since then, though, total government spending for FY 2015 is at 34.63% of GDP, below the 1986 figure of 34.7%. Federal spending is in an even better relative place; Reagan outspent us from inauguration until ’87. Normally, people respond to that by saying that our entitlement situation is worse, but unlike then (or any time since Hoover) we now have a majority in Congress who have been happy to vote for entitlement reform. Unions are being disempowered across the country and membership has been declining, public and private sector combined, for decades.

    Immigration seems like a third leg, and that seems to be going relatively well. In 2008, there were 88k businesses enrolled in e verify. Now there’s 482k. Obama won on “self deportation”, but the policy content of that phrase has been enacted under Obama. The most sympathetic cases have been amnestied, but the numbers there are small, the second tranche has been blocked by the courts, and the whole thing is passed under an executive order that can be reversed by the next President. It seems entirely plausible that Obama will have managed to amnesty 100k/ year, or less than a third of a tenth of a percent of the American population. Meanwhile, it looks as if the Congressional amnesty that would have moved much larger numbers is dead in the water for the foreseeable future.

    In terms of the electorate being sensible, we’ve elected the wrong President, but the right Congress (both in primaries and the general, it’s more conservative than it’s been since the 1920s) and more of the right state legislature chambers than at any time since 1920. If you add in governors as a third chamber, we have more Republican chambers than at any point in history.

    We’re not there yet, and it’s not plausible that we could get a supermajority in 2016, but it is totally possible we could get one in 2018. For the past term and a half, we’ve been trading wins and losses; I think that we’re more up than down, but perhaps we’re more down than up. Either way, it doesn’t seem like reason to despair. For the same period going forward, there’s every chance that it will be literally unprecedented in terms of conservative reform.

    • #25
  26. user_525137 Inactive
    user_525137
    @AdrianaHarris

    I’m going to wallow in despair until Monday, then get back to work.

    • #26
  27. user_404027 Member
    user_404027
    @BlakeAnderton

    The last defense I have against fatalism is the thought of the millions that have died or otherwise sacrificed for the cause of liberty. I don’t want to have to explain in the next world why I gave up on the nation just from a string of political defeats.

    I’ve had to fall back to that bulwark more times than I’d like in the past couple years.

    • #27
  28. gnarlydad Inactive
    gnarlydad
    @gnarlydad

    Jon, I feel your pain. Well, actually, I feel my pain and, assumming it is similar to yours, I commiserate. This is how I cope:

    I don’t drink. Alcohol does not taste good to me, it makes me shudder like an epileptic mime.

    Instead, I listen to my wife sing. She sings in the morning while getting ready for work; just little worship choruses or snippets of old, half remembered hymns.

    She works at a job helping those with severe cognitive and physical disabilities integrate into the small midwestern town we call home. It’s difficult, thankless work, not something that she really enjoys doing, and because the funding is tied to state regulations, she spends most of her time generating metrics intended to appease bereaucrats whose single goal in life is self preservation, rather than actually helping the folks who so desperately need a friend. And yet, she sings.

    I am reminded that any sense of optimism or security we may enjoy is at best, mere illusion, and at worst, sheer arrogance. None of us knows what may happen in the next moment. Best to take each breath as a gift, and return it to God with grattitude.

    • #28
  29. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Blake Anderton:The last defense I have against fatalism is the thought of the millions that have died or otherwise sacrificed for the cause of liberty. I don’t want to have to explain in the next world why I gave up on the nation just from a string of political defeats.

    Thank you for this. I will now stop besmirching my father-in-law’s Navy service by giving up.

    • #29
  30. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    All the talk of “fighting” for liberty. What do you mean — specifically?

    Executive power is effectively unconstrained. Judicial power is effectively unconstrained. I feel like we’re at the point when we discover that we’ve been trying to win the game (figuratively speaking) with our best tactics, and our best strategies, and we’ve just discovered it has been pointless — because the game is rigged like those carnival swindles. Our opponents have been playing with a trick deck. There’s no way to win; our only recourse is to turn over the table, try to reclaim what’s ours, and go home.

    I don’t have the stomach for that, quite frankly.

    • #30

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