Who Are the American People and What Do They Want?


That question seems to have been floating in the air since last election.  This week, both sides are trying to tackle it.

On the Left, a Salon article reports  that “A survey of thousands shows candidates from both parties think the electorate is way more right-wing than it is.”

Alex Pareene writes:

“It should be said that while imagining the country to be much more conservative than it actually is seems to put the Republican Party at a bit of an electoral disadvantage, the myth has been unquestionably a huge positive for the conservative movement, because it leads Republicans to use whatever power they have to push policies beloved by that small, radical minority, even if those policies are massively unpopular. And the myth has long prevented popular liberal policies from even being seriously debated.”

Meanwhile, over at National Review Online, an article asks  “Do we on the right still trust the people?”

Jim Garaghty writes:

“Since the election, we’ve been marinating in this very grim story: we, a bunch of Americans who love freedom and believed that we can live happy lives if the government will just get out of the way, got swamped by a growing swarm of voters who believe that government — the very same government who had disappointed them and failed them time and again — will solve their problems.”

american-flag-wiki-commons1Both columns could be saying the same thing: There is a dawning realization that the American people are shifting toward faith in government.

Or it could mean something else: It could mean that the American people who elected George W. Bush twice and then Barack Obama twice — the American people who elected a split Congress and a Washington/State House split with the most GOP governors ever — want something that neither party is offering.

So what do the American people want?

If I knew that, I would be making a lot more money than I do.

But a piece of evidence comes from  a Barna survey of 1,008 adults across the religious spectrum. “Most Americans are Concerned About Restrictions in Religious Freedom” says the study.

The article’s main three points:

“First, Americans have a relatively gloomy view of religious freedom in the United States.”

“Second, there seems to be widespread agreement on what ‘religious freedom’ means, in principle.

“Yet, many controversial aspects of religious liberty are bubbling over, with most Americans subscribing to us-versus-them narratives.”

It just may be that what we are seeing here is a consensus for freedom — but a disagreement about who is most likely to deliver that freedom.

The 2012 presidential election seemed to draw the battle lines along Market and State lines.

The Republican candidate focused on business prosperity, making the GOP the “Market Party,” while the Democratic candidate focused on state and military intervention, making the Democrats the “State Party.”

Many poorer, minority and immigrant voters rejected the “Market Party” approach in record numbers because, if they aren’t entrepreneurs, they do not see in it any serious attempt to take their needs into account.  Meanwhile, white middle class voters abandoned the “State Party” approach in record numbers.

Maybe both wanted freedom, but maybe the Market is only a path to freedom for office workers and the State is meddlesome only to those who have order and security in their lives without it.

What is an answer to the Market- and State-Centered dilemma?  For Catholics, it has to be a family-centered political agenda. It has to be an agenda determined to put the family in the center, and bat back the market when it encroaches on freedom (as it does, from, yes, health care to pornography and other aggressive forms of consumerism) and bat back the state when it oversteps (as it does, from taxation to public school indoctrination and other aggressive forms of secularism.)

Ironically, the HHS mandate combines the worst of both worlds: The constraining forces in the Market (pharmaceutical companies) and the constraining forces in the government joining forces like Pilate and Herod to push an anti-family policy together.

At any rate, what is sorely needed is an agenda that stands up for the family.

The other alternative, of course, is the “reset” button. But that’s another article (this article, to be precise: “The March for Life Lesson We Can’t Afford to Ignore“).

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department and edits The Gregorian, a Catholic identity speech digest. He was previously editor of the National Catholic Register for 10 years and with his wife, April, of Faith & Family magazine for five. A frequent contributor to Catholic publications, he began his career as a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area and as press secretary for U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer. He lives in Atchison with his wife and those of his nine children still at home. The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Benedictine College or the Gregorian Institute.

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