Is American Democracy at Risk?

COMMENTARY Conservatism

Is American Democracy at Risk?

May 2, 2022 1 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Lee Edwards, Ph.D.

Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought

Lee Edwards is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books.
We are now engaged in an epic debate—this time about our political future. Matt Champlin / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The United States has a history of facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, beginning with its founding

The United States is exceptional because of our God-given ability to meet any challenge by calling on the conservative ideas articulated by our Founders.

In this present political crisis, we must resolve anew to preserve and protect that most precious of our possessions—ordered liberty.

The United States has a history of facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, beginning with its founding when Americans won independence by defeating the most powerful nation in the world.

We preserved the union and ended slavery in a horrific Civil War. We worked our way through the Great Depression and led the Allies to victory in World War II. We withstood the shocks of assassinations of political leaders, defeat in Vietnam and a cultural counterrevolution at home. We held firm to our convictions despite the Watergate scandal. We defeated Soviet communism and tracked down our enemies in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We surmounted a great recession, and we are fighting a deadly pandemic.

We are now engaged in an epic debate—this time about our political future. It is complicated by our mass media, which stress all that is bad and ignore all that is good about U.S. society.

Why have we survived? To put it simply, we are a nation favored with abundant natural resources, an industrious population and an unparalleled national defense. Most of all, the United States is exceptional because of our God-given ability to meet any challenge by calling on the conservative ideas articulated by our Founders and nourished by Western civilization.

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Those ideas, contained within the framework of a representative democracy, are limited constitutional government, free enterprise, individual freedom and personal responsibility, traditional American values based on our Judeo-Christian heritage and a strong national defense. When we have been guided by these ideas, we have prevailed, as when President Ronald Reagan led us out of a profound psychological depression by insisting our best days were yet to come; ignited a period of unparalleled prosperity through tax cuts and widespread deregulation and ended the Cold War at the bargaining table and not on the battlefield.

Even with COVID-19 variants, persistent inflation and racial tension, the United States remains an exceptional nation blessed with institutions such as the conservative movement, the only social movement deeply committed to the first principles of the founding of the country. As in the past, the solution to our problems lies not with the federal government but with us.

In this present political crisis, we must resolve anew to preserve and protect that most precious of our possessions—ordered liberty. If we do, we will keep the republic that the Founders handed to us almost two-and-a-half centuries ago.

This piece originally appeared in the CQ Researcher