Published April 4, 2021
The country reinvents itself from time to time. Reinvention is what Americans have instead of revolution, which Karl Marx called the “locomotive of history.” Who needs a locomotive when you’ve got the Wright brothers and Elon Musk ?
The country started with people coming across the ocean to reinvent themselves—a project that was either glorious or genocidal, depending on how woke you are. It reinvented itself, as a democracy, by electing Andrew Jackson in 1828, when all those unwashed white men swarmed into Washington from beyond the mountains. It reinvented itself in 1861-65 by fighting a civil war, and after that by creating, in effect, a new country in the vast expansions (of population, of settlement, of industrial development) during the Gilded Age. It reinvented itself and its way of government in the New Deal. It reimagined itself after World War II, among other things by creating the GI Bill and the interstate highways—two brilliant new systems of mobility. During the 1960s, the baby boomers conjured a “counterculture” around a noisy repudiation of their parents’ America. What they came up with arguably wasn’t an improvement, but it was definitely a reinvention.
Now the Biden administration, headed by a man a few years too old to be a boomer, entertains ambitions to take a great leap forward. But wait. Does a transformation require a mandate? By what mandate does the Biden administration undertake the work of irrevocably altering American society? Do Mr. Biden and his people claim that the dogmatic and occasionally hysterical certitude of the woke is sufficient warrant to turn the country upside down?
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Mr. Morrow is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His latest book is “God and Mammon: Chronicles of American Money.”