The Keys to Success Aren’t Mysterious
One of the most negative and troubling features of the message of the American left is its constant, thoughtless class warfare; its class-based demagoguery; its anti-rich, anti-privilege silliness.
Progressives, as they prefer to be called, appear in both major parties, but by far most are Democrats. Any discussion of the American Dream with a liberal Democrat inevitably devolves into an argument about who’s been cheated by whom, how badly and why. It sometimes seems that the very essence of the Democratic Party is grievance and envy. And it’s wrong.
Like many others in central Pennsylvania, I grew up in fairly modest circumstances in a nice, small bedroom community that housed many blue-collar working families supported by local manufacturing operations. I and others like me know that the politics of envy is wrong. Promoting such politics damages young people, sometimes irreparably, and it hurts America.
During the last presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama said, "I simply believe that those of us who have benefited most from this new economy can best afford to shoulder the obligations of ensuring that every American child has a chance for that same success."
He didn’t mean that those who have been successful should mentor young people or that America should do what is really necessary to make the failed schools in America’s poor communities functional. Candidate Obama meant that he would, and, indeed, President Obama has already begun to confiscate the rewards of the efforts of the "more fortunate" to provide benefits for others through the redistribution of wealth. It’s an old liberal theme. It sounds good to many, but it is wrong.
The seeds of class envy are often sown early in life, an unanticipated outcome of progressive intrusion into public education. The over-arching liberal concern for building and nurturing children’s self-esteem often has negative consequences. Constant positive reinforcement, poor discipline, grade inflation and unearned promotions in public schools, and "participation" trophies for everyone participating in youth sports are all liberal-devised strategies to minimize youthful angst.
These practices allow many young people to go through a K-12 public education followed by college without knowing a single thing of which they’re truly capable, because, for those 17 years, they’ve been made to believe they can do anything. Many of the young people unfortunate enough to believe that will be sorely disappointed. Some will fail because of it.
We wish all of our kids would learn to speak like Abraham Lincoln, write like William Shakespeare and achieve the success of Bill Gates. But it’s wrong to permit the illusion that such things are possible for everyone. When has it ever been?
Most often it is people who have been failed by government who turn back to the government to sustain them. Liberal politicians are happy to oblige. Dependence on government produces large blocs of votes for the politicians who engage in class warfare.
There is nothing that the government can do to guarantee Gates’ success for everyone. But what the American system of government can do and has done is something few, perhaps no others have ever been able to do.
America is a wonderful country, a generous country populated by a great people. America is a force for good in the world. We’re not racist. We welcome immigrants who follow the rules. We have no imperial ambitions. America has freed more people around the world from tyranny and bondage than any other nation in history, and we’ve opened our arms to many millions who have been tyrannized and bound.
Equality of opportunity is built into our system. Though the equality of outcomes is not guaranteed, every normal, capable person who pays attention in school, lives a responsible life and works hard has the same chance to do well.
Politicians who tell you they can solve perceived problems of poverty and inequality, who claim to have a better vision for expanding social welfare and who will raise your taxes to redistribute wealth are not serious about solutions. They are part of the problem.
The real solutions are education, work and personal responsibility.
Americans will always help those who can’t help themselves, but responsible Americans understand that the best things that happen to people, the things that generate most pride, the things that last in people’s lives and sustain them are the things they do for themselves in an American system that gives them every opportunity to succeed.
A native of Annville, Shenk was involved in Frank Ryan’s campaign for U.S. Congress. He is co-editor of The Rebuilding America website. E-mail [email protected]