In a fascinating New York Times op-ed "How Movements Recover" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/15/opinion/brooks-how-movements-recover.html?_r=0), David Brooks examines the Catholic Church at the beginning of the fourth century and contemplates the philosophies of two rival reform movements, the Donatists, who sought a return to the Church's "core identity," and the Augustines, who would accept the world's "impurities as well as purities." Brooks concludes:
"The natural instinct is to turn Donatist, to build an ark and defend what’s precious. The counterintuitive but more successful strategy is to follow Augustine, to exploit a moment of weakness by making yourself even more vulnerable, by striking outward into complexity, swallowing the pure and impure, counterattacking crisis with an evangelical assault."
Advice for the Republican Party? Possibly. Notwithstanding Obama's disastrous economic track record leading up to the 2012 presidential election, the Republicans were still unable to place Romney in the Oval Office. Should the Republicans, as advocated by the Tea Party, double down on their purist principles, e.g., demand a balanced budget, limit growth in federal spending, and abolish Obama's health care legislation? Or should the Republicans reach out to minorities, particularly Hispanics, who were responsible for their 2012 defeat, and modify immigration policies?
Alternatively, should Brooks's opinion piece be regarded as advice to the United States as a whole? Certainly the United States is in decline, given its spiraling debt of $16.7 trillion, which is never going to be repaid, and its declining influence around the globe, reflecting Obama's foreign policy of leading from behind. But is the United States a movement? I think so. With all its warts and indiscretions over the years, the United States remains the world's primary exporter of democracy and freedom. Its founding principles stand in stark contrast to radical Islamicism, which has enveloped the Middle East and much of Central Asia, and a Chinese strain of communism, financed by slave labor, which owns some eight percent of US debt, i.e. enough to cause overnight American economic collapse were this debt to be dumped on world markets.
How should the US respond to its declining internal fortunes and burgeoning external challenges?
For someone like myself, who has always believed in American exceptionalism, the answer is simple: continue to export democracy and economic freedom. But will anything remain in 2016, given incessant growth of federal debt? Recall how Obama stated in July 2008 (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/03/gail-collins-last-pope-and-next-budget.html):
"The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years, is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents. Number 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back, $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic."
He was correct five years ago. How quickly he has forgotten.
And then there is Obama's wavering foreign and defense policies, as best exemplified by John ("Americans have the right to be stupid") Kerry and Chuck (America is the "world's bully") Hagel, i.e. a cabinet consisting of the worst and the dumbest.
Can America rise from the ashes and continue to proselytize? Stay tuned.