Today is the official start of the primary season, which which means it’s also the time when many people officially shift into political panic mode.
A lot of us are in a panic, fearing that Western civilization — or at least America’s future — is at stake and that something must be done quickly to avert disaster. But what Americans really need is to to heed the advice of Greg Forster: Don’t panic.
With all due respect to baseball, panicking is America’s favorite public pasttime. From colonial times (Salem!) right down to the present day, American history is one long chain of panics – financial panics, religious and moral panics, racial and ethnic panics, health panics and political panics; panics about Catholic infiltrators, fascist infiltrators, communist infiltrators, Islamic infiltrators; panics about what’s in the food and what’s in the water and what’s in the air and even (remember cell phone towers?) what’s in the ether; panics about anything and everything you can imagine.
The biggest problem with the Religious Right movement, which was well-intentioned but did so much damage to both the cause of the gospel and American civilization, was not that it was naive about politics. It was naive about politics, but that was a symptom. The cause of that naïveté was panic. The fate of the country hinged on winning the war against liberals, and winning it now. There was no time to stop and figure out how politics really works and what it can and cannot achieve.
Of course, every now and then the survival of our civilization really is immediately affected by election results—see 1860. But much more often, it simply isn’t. It wasn’t in 1980 and it wasn’t in 2008 and it almost certainly isn’t in 2016.