Proud to Be an American This Independence Day?

Are America’s best days ahead? It’s a time-tested question asked for decades to gauge the nation’s mood, and the answers give clues on whether people are proud to be an American or whether they are “over” America’s grand experiment. Fortunately, the fundamental belief in the greatness of the nation is still strong.

As Independence Day 2017 approaches, Americans are feeling pretty good about the nation’s form if less so about its function.

According to a new report that looked at a series of polling questions repeatedly administered over many years, the American spirit is still trending strong. As recently as March, 75 percent of Americans told the Gallup polling company that they are “very” or “extremely” proud to be an American. Unfortunately, this number is down six points from the previous two years.

But other poll questions that looked at particular aspects of America showed good will toward the nation’s ideals and achievements. For instance, 84 percent told Gallup they are proud to live under the U.S. system of government. More than half of Americans in an AP/NORC poll said they are extremely or very proud of America’s Armed Forces, as well as achievements in science, technology, sports, history, arts, and literature.

As for the nation’s best days, 62 percent of registered voters told Fox News in May that America’s best days are ahead; 29 percent said they were behind us. That’s an increase from recession-era May 2009 when 57 percent thought our best days were ahead and 33 said they were behind, but slightly down from mid-2012.

As far as exceptionalism – the very profound idea that America is unlike any other nation because of its emphasis on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — 81 percent told Gallup in 2016 that America is exceptional, and holds a responsibility to be a leader in the world.

But as Karlyn Bowman and Eleanor O’Neil, researchers on public opinion and its impact on U.S. policy, write, just because people are proud of their country doesn’t mean they are happy with how it’s being run.

Pollsters tend to focus on our problems, and they are real, of course. When you care deeply about your country, you want to shine a light on problems to fix them. …

It will come as no surprise to anyone that we are dissatisfied with performance these days. In recent months, in a question Gallup has asked since the 1930s about the most important problem facing the country, more people volunteered “poor leadership/dissatisfaction with government” (25 percent of respondents) than mentioned any other problem. In a 2017 AP/NORC survey, 53 percent said political polarization was extremely or very threatening to the American way of life. It ranked higher than all of the other things asked about including the nation’s political leaders, illegal immigration, economic inequality, the influence from foreign governments, and legal immigration.

Likewise, the notion of division is palpable, with 86 percent saying they believe America “is more politically divided than in the past, the highest response on this question that was first asked in 2004. Around six in ten feel Donald Trump is doing more to divide the country than unite it.”

So, if a majority of Americans feel divided and are not confident in the way the government is being run but they are still optimistic about whether problems can be fixed, can common ground can be found? How do we go back to functioning cohesively? Could it be a grand project like putting a man on the moon? Does change start with us? The big ideas are noteworthy topics to remember and celebrate on America’s birthday.

Happy Independence Day!

What’s your idea for bringing together those who are proud to be an American to getting them to work together to solve the country’s biggest challenges? Leave a comment or join the conversation on Facebook.

Sasse Vision Talks: America’s Political Parties Suffer a ‘Crisis of Political Vision’

College students are talking about robots and the role they will play in America’s future. The political parties are fighting over whether to make America Europe again or make America 1950 again.

No wonder young people are largely disinterested in the debate in Washington, concluded Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.

“Neither of these (conversations) is very interesting,” Sasse said recently, telling an audience in Washington, D.C., that the major political parties in America would be considered failed enterprises if looked at from a business perspective.

“Both parties have a massive vision problem about what we need to accomplish in our time and place,” he said.  This problem is “a crisis of political vision that flows partly from the fact that we have two exhausted political parties right now. We have a conversation in Washington that is really stultifying relative to the vibrancy and vitality of the American people and relative to the magnitude of the challenges we face right now, and what really needs to be accomplished in our time,” Sasse said.

Sasse was speaking during the latest Vision Talks, a series of conversations convened by the American Enterprise Institute that puts together Washington policy insiders with social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and other enterprising organizations outside the Beltway.

Sasse described the other contributors to the most recent series of Vision Talks, including two men whose organizations help ex-inmates and disabled people find work, and a small business owner who challenged her state government to change the licensing requirements for hair braiders, as “heroic” in their efforts to live freely and independently while contributing to their communities.

These types of people and organizations are looking outside of Washington to create solutions that honor the dignity of all the natural rights of everybody, American ideals that are close to being extinguished if the political parties can’t change their respective directions, he said.

Noting a Pew research study that found that 203 of the 230 largest metro areas in the nation — containing 75 percent of the U.S. population — have a shrinking middle class, Sasse said America’s political parties aren’t up to the task of laying down a vision for the future because they look at the new information economy using the lens of politics relevant to the industrial era.

Republicans “are suffering from a declining customer base, because root core Republican voters are dying. The Democrats don’t have the same customer base problem, but they have a massive product problem because the Democrats are still trying to pretend that if you just expand 1965 entitlement programs and the chassis of the federal government from 50 and 51 years ago, that somehow this is only three tinkers away from being a working system. It’s not true. The Democrats are trying to sell central planning in the age of Uber,” Sasse said.

The presidential candidates aren’t explaining to young people, the post-industrialist up and comers, solutions to address job market prospects in a rapidly changing economy.

“Jobs that are routinize-able, if that’s a word, and predictable, those jobs are going to become more and more rapidly disintermediated and disrupted. We’re going to need to create a completely different kind of conversation than we’ve ever had before, and our politics are not really up to that level of disruptive conversation.”

Fortunately, Sasse said, all is not lost. America still has a lot to offer, and it’s up to the people to take the opportunity during this upheaval to form the future.

“The distinction between politics and culture is really important. There’s a lot that’s broken in our politics, but there’s a lot about our culture that’s still hopeful. and there’s a lot to dream about and lot to try to recover, and culture is well upstream of politics. Politics is downstream from culture.”

Watch the entirety of Sasse’s remarks in AEI’s Vision Talks.