- - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

American Exceptionalism, which gave birth to the greatest civilization in human history, has reached the tipping point.

Unsustainable debt, unprecedented growth of government, declining prestige in the world, surrender of the rule of law, demographic winter, and the loss of our spiritual and moral heritage literally has the United States of America — as its been known since 1776 — on the brink of extinction. As G.K. Chesterton famously observed, the United States of America “is the only country ever founded on a creed.” And the foundations of that creed – faith, family and freedom – are on life support.

Certainly we didn’t dig ourselves this deep a hole overnight, and we can’t claw our way out of it overnight, either. However, the first crucial step to getting out of the hole you’ve dug yourself is to put down the shovel.

That’s why for those of us expecting to be here at least another 30 years or so, putting down the shovel means getting it right in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. It is the most important election of our lifetimes. While I am normally skeptical of such talk due to its abuse nearly every election cycle, this time it’s actually true.

If our national debt were laid out in single-file dollar bills, the line would stretch all the way to the planet Uranus – and that doesn’t count more than $120 trillion in unfunded liabilities and mandates we’re still on the hook for. Every household in America would need to pay $540,000 to cover that shortfall, and only 1 percent of American households make that kind of money in the first place. If the interest alone on our debt were its own economy, it would be one of the 30 biggest in the world.

There are currently 148 million Americans collecting entitlement checks of some sort from the U.S. government, but there are only 86 million taxpayers working in the private sector paying into the system. That means there are 70 percent more tax takers than tax payers. Ten states have government as their biggest industry.

Then there’s millions of illegal aliens we can’t afford waiting to be given amnesty. The government takeover of health care and the internet. A government that spies on its citizens as if each of us is a potential terrorist. We slaughter 4,000 of our own offspring each day in the name “choice.” There is a movement afoot to use the coercive power of government to erase the very first freedom, religious liberty, from public view and the military once and for all. Judges who believe they alone are the law, regardless of the will of the people or what the U.S. Constitution explicitly says. Middle-class wages have stagnated for 15 years. We literally have a better relationship with the terrorist-regime in Iran than we do Israel, and are about to cut a deal with Iran that will permit them “only” 6,000 nuclear centrifuges.

This is the price we’ve paid for allowing progressives to have squatting rights to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for decades.

Not since George H.W. Bush ran for what amounted to Ronald Reagan’s third term in 1988 – vowing no new taxes while attacking Michael Dukakis for being the leftist he was – has the country had a truly American presidential election.

But that first President Bush went back on his famous tax pledge and sowed the seeds for what followed. Never forget this: Bad Republicans always lead to worse Democrats.

Bush 41 also has the dubious distinction of being the rare president to lose an election after winning a war, receiving the smallest percentage of the popular vote for a president running for re-election in 80 years.

And since that time, the options presented to the American people have essentially been various shades of progressivism — Teddy Roosevelt small “p” progressive or a capitol “p” statist progressive. Bob Dole, Bush II, John McCain and Mitt Romney offered the country an echo, not a choice. They might’ve managed the decay better, but they were what Barry Goldwater once described as “dime store Republicans.” Translated: There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them and Democrats.

Because when you boil it down there are only two substantive differences between the progressives in both parties:

1) Who gets your money: Government bureaucrats or corporatists?

2) How do we fail in foreign policy: By appeasing our enemies or using our military as their urban renewal plan?

So for Republicans worthy of the label, this is a time for choosing. We already know the Democrats are going to nominate someone who believes it is the state that offers the means by which we live and breathe. Will the GOP nominate someone who believes hope is found within crony capitalism, that mere humans can decide for themselves what is right and wrong with no help from the heavens, and that governing the country is nothing more than managing factions and pandering to demographics?

The alternative is to nominate someone who sincerely believes in our founding traditions of limited government as defined by the Constitution, Judeo-Christian morality, and steadfast courage in defense of our allies and defeating our enemies. The first fruits of American Exceptionalism.

While the brick and mortar of America is not in danger, the danger to American Exceptionalism has reached a mortal phase. If we fail in this election, we’ll still have the same flag but the values that inspired its creation could be gone for good. We could be fundamentally transformed into the spitting image of Europe’s socialist, culturally rotting democracies.

Just as at the end of the 1970s, when American Exceptionalism was threatened by Jimmy Carter’s malaise, Soviet superiority, Watergate, losing the Vietnam War and the disastrous sexual revolution, 2016 is a 1980-like rendezvous with destiny. While Reagan wasn’t an American pope, he was our last truly American Exceptionalism (not progressive) president. He represented a paradigm-shift in the most powerful office in the land, and that gave American Exceptionalism enough time to re-establish itself.

Given how far we have fallen, it’s quite possible there won’t be enough moral courage remaining in our culture to elect an American Exceptionalism president if it doesn’t happen right now. Conservatives must set their egos and excuses aside, and realize that it won’t matter who wins the 2016 general election if we fail to nominate an American Exceptionalism candidate.

Otherwise the debate next year will be nothing more than the speed at which American Exceptionalism gets tossed onto the ash heap of history.

(Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)

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