| Frank Wright, Ph.D.
President & CEO
George Washington had a lot to say about our Republic and its government. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and presided over the Philadelphia Convention when the Constitution was written. Given those positions, and the fact that he served as America’s first President, Washington was a uniquely suited commentator. Perhaps few men in human history have held so many pivotal – and different – roles in relationship to the governing of a people. To say the least, his perspective was large and informed by a great deal of personal experience.
Yet I often wonder if many of our nation’s political leaders have any real knowledge of, or at least appreciation for, the details of our nation’s founding. In his Farewell Address, Washington warned against the harmful effects of allowing a “faction” to circumvent the will or good of the people. Saying that such factions are “often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community,” it almost seems that he was prophetically looking down the corridors of time to this very hour.
We stand, today, at the threshold of a bridge that, once crossed, may not offer a way of return anytime soon. The shifting political landscape has enabled the advancement of ideas that were almost unthinkable a generation ago. “Right” and “wrong” have been turned on their heads. It seems that policies are “right” if you have the raw power to enforce them – or rather force them – upon the general populace.
I wonder if there will be any principled young men and women training to be doctors when, if the President has his way, the government directs healthcare and mandates that one’s medical training include abortions? After all, abortion is “legal” in our nation, “desired” by some, and described as a “fundamental human right” by everyone from college professors to Hollywood icons.
In this environment, neo-populism is gaining ground. One neo-populist entity defines the term as “identification and redress of public and private rules, regulations, laws, policies, ‘expertise’, and/or attitudes that violate the Rule of Law and/or institutionalize elitism with an adverse impact on the common man.” Talk about subjective! Given that definition, one could topple any “rule” if you’re able to suggest that it propagates “institutional elitism.” In reality, far too many of today’s neo-populist ideas involve the abandonment of truth and principles derived from truth. Truth would, in fact, only stand in the way of anyone who seeks to “redress” a public or private rule that they don’t like.
Even worse is the fact that leaving truth behind has implications far beyond today's political and philosophical battlefields. Some political leaders seem ready to jettison the very Constitutional protections that have been the guardrails of this Republic. Free speech? It is inconsequential unless it’s regulated by those enlightened ones in political power. Free religious expression? Religious speech and action should only be free, in the neo-populist world, if it is “tolerant.” Any discussion of sin (or Truth), is dangerous in their paradigm.
As a result, many of today's leaders naturally reject the central tenant of the American Experiment – that our rights are endowed by God and not granted by human governments. As George Washington is credited with saying: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
If men believe that they alone grant rights, those same men will believe that they have the authority to take them away. Which explains why our nation is standing today at the approach of a bridge that – if we step upon it – may forever bind us to government as that fearful master. We face unique challenges that did not exist in previous generations; consequently we face choices from which there can be no return. Surely this is a bridge too far.
[Paragraphs 16-17, “George Washington’s Farewell Address To the People of the United States,” The Independent Chronicle, September 26, 1796: re-printed by “Archiving Early America,” www.earlyamerica.com; www.neopopulism.org.]