Back in 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater told his party's convention,
"We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom."
That was then. In 2008, the Republicans had their Monday themed for "Serving a Cause Greater than Self." Tuesday was "Service," Wednesday was "Reform" and Thursday was "Peace." But, as Steve Chapman points out in the Chicago Tribune, what was missing here? It was "only what used to be held up as the central ideal of the party."
The heirs of Goldwater couldn't spare a day for freedom.
Neither, in the Land of the Free, could the Democrats. While the Republicans preached "Sacrifice," "Service," and "Country First!" (come on, you saw all those placards, right?) the Donks banged on about "One Nation," "Renewing America's Promise" and "Securing America's Future."
The party proclaimed "an agenda that emphasizes the security of our nation, strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, honest government, and civil rights." Expanding and upholding individual liberty? Not so much.
So what's happened to morning in America? What's happened to its founding ideals, unique in human history, wonders Chapman?
What has set this country apart since its inception is not the notion of obligations but the notion of rights.
"All previous systems had regarded man as a sacrificial means to the ends of others, and society as an end in itself," wrote the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. "The United States regarded man as an end in himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary co-existence of individuals."
That idea got lost somewhere between Thomas Jefferson and John McCain.
To be fair, it never even made it across the Pacific. But in the nation that started out committed to honouring human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness, it's a hard fall from there to see its leading presidential candidates see who can outbid whom in extolling self-sacrifice to the collective.
The differences in fundamentals between the candidates is slim that as Burgess Laughlin said so insightfully over at Rule of Reason,
I think of the difference between McCain and Obama as the difference between "NATIONAL socialism" and "national SOCIALISM."