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Two Roads Diverged For America

By Anthony Signorelli

07 October, 2006

America is facing a crisis in its political direction. I mean “crisis” in the old sense: A fork in the road, a bifurcation of direction in which we head down one path or the other and can not go back. The dominant political force today appears to be frozen, while the forces around it—one of traditional mainstream American principles and the other emanating from the extreme right wing—vie for the imagination of the people with powerful, creative ideas.

While the Republican Party implodes on its own lies and stagnates on an agenda that promises more of the same, there is a possibility of renewal brewing in the Democratic Party. No doubt, old guard Democrats like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy still hold many cards, but new ideas and positive imagination are beginning to emerge from other places: former Senator Gary Hart is articulating new principles and sound policy, and Barack Obama is articulating an agenda of hope to which most Americans relate. New ideas are even percolating up through prominent Democrats, such as Joe Biden’s proposal for dealing with Iraq. In addition, many of these ideas are finding energy in the blogosphere, the electronic grassroots of Democratic Party activism.

Meanwhile, Republicans white-knuckle their adherence to failed policies. Iraq is top of the list. But they also cling to a torture agenda, class warfare, and fiscal disaster. Social conservatives are feeling betrayed, corporate thieves have little left to steal from the public treasury, and the entire neoconservative agenda is an increasingly obvious failure. There seem to be no new nodes of energy or ideas arising from that party right now.

For America, it means we are ripe for a new crop of leaders with powerful, imaginative ideas. If such leaders appear quickly to galvanize the American imagination with mainstream principles, we are likely to proceed well as we get back in touch with the principles of our national soul. But if we delay, or if such emergence is derailed by big political money going to the wrong places and not supporting the emergence of such ideas, the vacuum for new ideas will remain. That vacuum is dangerous because, as I have written in my new book Call to Liberty, the political conditions in the country are ripe for fascism. If principled ideas do not emerge in the new leadership of the Democratic Party, the vacuum will likely be filled by dynamic ideas vying for prominence from the far right wing. Right wing ideas and leaders will build on the existing conditions and utilize extra-constitutional powers and structures created in the Bush administration to foster the theocratic fascism they envision for the United States of America. Ten years ago, such an outcome could hardly be imagined; today, it is painfully possible.

The election of 2008 will be won on the basis of what people are voting for, not what they vote against. The Republican Party’s new ideas will come from the extreme right; the Democratic Party’s new ideas will come from new leadership based on American principles. Either party could wind up with a boring candidate with no new ideas, but both parties have a unique opportunity to try to capture the American imagination. The election of an old guard leader from either party will likely only forestall the kind of decision America must make; our future is cast in the competition among these ideas.

Check out my upcoming book - Call to Liberty: Bridging the Divide Between Liberals and Conservatives. You can blog with me at

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