First, self-rule is hard. Keeping democratic principles alive – even in our 230-year-old republic – is a challenge for each generation. Autocrats, theocrats, kleptocrats, and totalitarian governments do not worry about caucuses (or primaries), impeachments, or feedback or “State of the Union” speeches. American leaders – and We, The People – do. That is the benefit, and burden of self-rule.
Second, we are resilient. Despite acrimony, political gesticulations, and unnecessary histrionics, We, The People, did ok this week. Yes, the Democratic Party has leadership and math problems. The Iowa caucuses were a mess. The impeachment vote confirms what we know, it was a show. The State of the Union made us proud – to be who we are, Americans.
Third, enthusiasm matters – we know when we see it, and when you don’t. In Iowa we learned that when Democratic voters have poor choices, they stay home. Expecting 240,000 voters, they got 172,000. Conversely, when the choice is good, we come. Trump got huge turnout, won 97 percent.
Fourth, we are a country of laws. Two teams of lawyers helped educate the nation on the meaning of our Constitution, impeachment, responsibility, and abuse of it. The White House legal team was platinum, presenting timeless truths. Lessons recited, logic levied, historical context provided, their lessons should be taught in law schools. The Democrat case was painful, partisan, an unforced error.
Fifth, our union is strong. Another way to say this is, when all is said and done: We know America is exceptional. We are believers in the possible, designers of our own destiny. We are doers, dreamers, and self-made by choice, not content to be led, fed and left to entitlements. We are about making things happen, not letting them happen.
Sixth, domestically we are a powerhouse – strongest economy in the world, not because we are lucky, although we are, but because we are individuals who use our freedoms, use our constitutional rights to improve our lot. We are workers, glad for a job. We are not afraid to compete, do not retreat, and win because heart, eyes and minds are aligned on winning.
Seventh, in foreign policy, we are leaders. Our friends see what we can do, will do, and – once again – recall what we have done. From past to present, Normandy, Anzio, Okinawa and Iwo Jima to ending the terror wrought by ISIS, Baghdadi, and Soleimani, we are unafraid to do what is necessary. Our enemies, competitors and detractors see this too. America is leading; they are pulling in their horns.
Eighth, clear-eyed Americans will not be hoodwinked – not in Iowa, the Senate, or beside a fireplace in the Heartland. We know truth from talk, action from posing. Most are glad impeachment is over, aware Iowa is just a frustration, and glad for the leadership of an authentic, unbowed President Trump.
Ninth, we have fight. In standing his ground this week, and for three years – President Trump taught something else. If you know you are being unfairly pursued, pasted, persecuted, whether by prejudice, jealousy, antipathy, or collective political angst, stand your ground. Truth will eventually out. Fight.
Finally, as if we needed to learn it again, we are reminded by recent events that noise and knowledge are different things. Media whine, political actors decry the constitutional process, and critics twist into knots trying to change what is and should be … into what isn’t and shouldn’t. But we are patient, discerning, and strong, We Americans. One more thing: We really are lucky to have each other.
Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses, as congressional counsel for five years, and wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003) and “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), the latter on WWII vets in a Maine town.