The issues now being debated in the 2016 elections are framed as if the country revolved around a great big cookie jar. The benefits and promises candidates offer are like cookies that must be substantial, instantly gratifying and abundant.
All the problems the nation faces seem to be reduced to who has access to the cookie jar. Ideally, everyone agrees that people should be entitled to as many cookies as they can get. However, the truth of the matter is that there are often not enough cookies to go around.
Thus, how cookies are distributed is up for debate. For some, those on the top always seem to take the best cookies, while the more disadvantaged must reach down for the crumbs. For others, expanding cookie production is the solution for everyone getting a fair share. There are yet those who question the right of illegal newcomers (or unborn babies) to have a hand in the cookie jar. Candidates in electoral debates seem to center only on what can be done to correct cookie injustice and bring America back to cookie greatness once again.
The cookie, of course, represents our American way of life whereby we enjoy the fruits of our vibrant economic system with its great dynamo of production.
This system has long churned out material comfort and a surface happiness. Thus, for some time now, candidates have framed the debate around filling the cookie jar so that all will be well with America again. The election is about who can better deliver the goods, in this case, the cookies.
The problem is that the system is no longer churning out material comfort and happiness. The goods aren’t being delivered. The nation is divided, the economy is stalled and nothing seems to put things back on track.
This impasse points to an even more serious problem that most people dare not address: Perhaps life is not one big cookie jar …
Let it be said that there is nothing wrong with enjoying cookies. But a person who just eats cookies becomes fat and sick. Cookies require restraint and discipline since they are the reward for a balanced diet not the main course. As every child knows, one cannot talk about cookies without first dealing with the meat and potatoes.
And that is what is missing in the present political debates. The meat and potatoes. Even when conservatives enter into the meat and potatoes moral issues, it is often as an appetizer for the cookie main course. The right issues are not really being addressed.
Everyone likes to talk about taxes and jobs for middle class American families, for example, but candidates should really be looking at the utter devastation of the family. It is time for candidates to admit that the sexual revolution is ruining the nation. It is tearing society and even the economy apart. It is eroding the faith of countless Americans. The real issue is the restoration of the family. America was only great when families were strong.
There is debate about freedom, rights and entitlements. Candidates should be talking against the frenetic intemperance of the present times, where everyone wants everything instantly, effortlessly and without restraint. What needs to be addressed is the lack of self-restraint that lies at the root of the destructive practices of abortion, drugs and pornography that are ruining the moral fiber of the country. What has happened to the sense of right and wrong? It is time to abandon the present moral relativism and call a spade a spade. America was only great when she feared God and followed His commandments.
Finally, the candidates spend so much time talking about restoring material prosperity to the nation. Candidates should be talking about not only material, but also and above all spiritual matters. There needs to be a return to what Russell Kirk referred to as the “permanent things,” those norms of courage, duty, courtesy, justice, and charity that owe their existence and authority to a power higher than government officials, which is a transcendent God. Perhaps it is time to ask to look beyond self-interest and embrace great causes. America was only great when she had honor and fought for all those permanent things that really matter.
There will undoubtedly be those who smirk and claim that such a meat and potatoes program will hardly attract those reveling in a cookie culture. However, issues like these need to be raised to find a way out of the present disorder. Moreover, in this time of crisis, so many Americans want to see these issues raised. They long for a return to order.
As things get worse, more and more people are soul-searching, looking for order, honor and authenticity that they sense once existed and might yet return. What are needed are candidates who dare to defy our culture and say “Enough!” Until this happens, we will have cookie-cutter candidates who sugarcoat the issues and reduce the debate to a cookie jar.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Soceity--Where We've Been, How We Go Here, and Where We Need to Go. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.