October 28, 2009

The Attack on Americanism

Illustration from The Masses. ca 1910-1920

During the same era as the illustration above, German sociologist Werner Sombart questioned why socialism never became viable in America while the rest of the world was embracing the ideology. He suggested that, “all the socialist utopias have foundered upon roast beef and apple pie." Sombart believed that Americans had no need for socialism because they were living in the land of plenty. The reality of the time however was far from a land of roast beef and apple pie. In fact if Sombert was right in his assumption then it would seem that conditions were ideal for the establishment of another socialist state.

The second industrial revolution was under way; mechanization was eliminating skilled jobs at a time when waves of unskilled immigrants were flooding into the country. Anarchist, sydicalists, and socialists existed in fairly large numbers and the new European immigrants were not strangers to the radical tradition. The social conditions included high unemployment, high levels of poverty with masses of people living in squalid urban conditions.

Many Americans were in fact foundering and yet, even with the roast beef and apple pie offered by the left, socialism still did not take hold in America. The left never jelled into a cohesive force capable of unseating the cultural norms inherent in Americans. The reason for that lies in the fact that Americans are cut from a different cloth. As Seymour Lipset wrote in "American Exceptionalism";

Born out of revolution, the United States is a country organized around an ideology which includes a set of dogmas about the nature of a good society. Americanism, as different people have pointed out, is an "ism" or ideology in the same way that communism or fascism or liberalism are isms. As G. K. Chesterton put it: "America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed (not on ethnic identity).

That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence. . . ." the nation's ideology can be described in five words: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire. The revolutionary ideology which became the American Creed is liberalism in its eighteenth- and nineteenth century meanings

Polls show that the majority of Americans still adhere to this creed but Americanism is once again under attack. This time led by a president that openly rejects Exceptionalism.

The battle that is raging over health care and the rest of the left's agenda is not that there are problems that cold hearted conservatives would rather ignore as the left claims. It's that the majority of Americans, like our ancestors in the early 1900s, are not willing to fundamentally reorient the Ameican Creed in a new and dangerous direction to ameliorate these conditions.

The outcome of this latest attack on Americanism remains to be seen but if we hold true to our values, as a nation, we should once again emerge intact. Battered perhaps but not beaten.


Anonymous said...

I agree with basically everything you're saying. The problem as I see it is that there is there is 21% of the nation that desperately wants socialism. The 35% of America that calls themselves moderate is actually apolitical and is easily swayed by emotional lefty arguments.

I'm not saying that defeating Obama's pathetic statism is impossible. It's just gonna be tough given the fact that our side is fighting against a tide of entrenched leftist nonsense.

On the other hand, Obama fast becoming the Right's best weapon against liberalism, so as you say we might just pull through.

Scott said...

I think I wrote the conclusion during a rare moment of optimism about our situation.
Now writing in a moment of extreme pessimism I have to say that beyond the fact that the left looks to be positioned to put the finishing touches on what has been a long term project is the fact, as you pointed out, that the leftist mindset has become so pervasive. It is entrenched in our institutions, the bureaucracy, and in a large part of the mindless 35% that decide elections. Not sure how you undo the damage at this point.
Excuse me while I go stock up on beans, beer, and bullets.