This political season has been a confusing one for the media and elites of both parties. In truth, the last few years have been confusing, especially the last three-odd congressional elections.
They are only now starting to act as if they might “get” part of the decided tendency voters are showing toward what have been called the “outsiders.” Donald Trump seemed to be opening the door for the non-establishment political newcomer. But GOP voters have given top-tier status to three plain-speaking candidates, none of whom have held elective office before. They are all accomplished, independent people. The pundit class is beginning to grasp a few things about their connection to the public — but the essence of it is still out of their wheelhouse.
Several factors play into their confusion. But for now, I’ll focus on just one. Something about the basic American character that the pundits and the Beltway Cartel completely miss. Individualism.
In this new age of intellectualism, globalism, collectivism, and political correctness, the concept of the rugged individual is seen as not merely passé and quant, but Neanderthal. Trump, Carson, Fiorina and, yes, Cruz (although he is a senator) are not accepted members of their party. It fact, all four have not only prospered but excelled outside of the political circle. They do not follow the standard political formula for interviews, speeches, or appeals for support. They are very much standing on their own feet against the weight and cash of an elite who have managed to ignore the stated will of the electorate for almost a decade.
The successful republic is not based on the collective. It thrives on the will and drive of the individual. That has been the strength of the nation since its founding. It was the resident strength of the fertile colonial soil from which the nation grew.
The nation’s success is owed to the success of individuals and the constitutional structure that fostered them. What the public sees in these “outsiders” is their ability and the inclination to stand up for themselves. And in so doing, they stand up for those who have been ignored. Fight and scrape are a not only part of our nature, but our heritage — and we like to see it.
Individualism is characterized not just by the lone pioneer on the plains, but by the shift worker who saved and then took the chance to begin that hot dog stand in the parking lot, or that small shop on the corner. Our story involves individual risk, effort, reward, loss, and hope.
Every success story has lapses, failed efforts, and re-starts. I have often considered these “failures” to be the real heroes of our culture. They are, perhaps, the truest measure of the individual. Individualism does not exclude the bad year, the poor decision, or just plain poor luck. Neither does it exclude the help and concern of those around us. Safety from these failures and risks does not build strong people or strong nations.
The message of collectivism has always been one of false safety.
These outsiders, these individualists, break the mold of politics as a fraternal order that requires not just an apprenticeship but acceptance from the members-in-standing. They don’t appear to be asking anything from the establishment — one that has ignored the very base that provided them with their positions.
They help to remind us that we are not just one of many nations, but an exceptional experiment in liberty never before seen in the world. On second thought, they do not remind us of that. They tap into our realization of it, a realization that comfortable Beltway elites ignore and transformative leftists seek to destroy.
They have each, in some way, gained strength as the early stages of the campaign process plays out. They will all have plenty of opportunity to better define where they would take an administration if given the chance. No matter who wins the nomination, it’s a necessary, positive step to reach back to our true national nature for someone who reaffirms the potential of the individual. It’s the beginning of putting the American character back in its proper place as a model for our children and the rest of the world.