American Flag At Sunset
American Flag At Sunset

America at the Crossroads: A Free Republic or a Police State?

Originally published at Townhall

Just when you think it cannot get much worse—with lawlessness overtaking our cities, our southern border being overrun, and the president of United States declaring half of voting age Americans “a threat to the very soul of this country”—unsettling bricks are being added to the wall of an emerging police state in America.   

We now learn that the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security has officially categorized Trump supporters—the so-called members of MAGA—as “domestic terrorists.”  Additionally, the FBI has formed a secret task force that appears non-partisan, but actually operates in unprecedented ways that depart from prior focus on cells, anarchist, militia and violence-prone groups, and now focus on people who may be peaceful but identify with anti-government and anti-authority thinking.  FBI sources acknowledge that these new categories and task force have been created to target MAGA and Trump supporters.  

Not coincidentally, Hillary Clinton has reappeared just as this new information surfaces in a lengthy Newsweek article by William Arkin. In media interviews she labels Trump supporters a cult, and suggests that there needs to be “a formal deprogramming of these cult members.”  Hillary must favor a police state as it’s the only way such a mass deprogramming could be undertaken. 

The Patriot Act, which was enacted on October 26, 2001, created new laws and protocols to thwart another 9-11 external terrorist attack. Passed with some haste after 9-11, the Patriot Act  also introduced what would become a slippery slope of internal political weaponization of the legal system, the FISA courts, and the 3-letter federal agencies—reinforced by the legacy and social media—resulting in American citizens being denied protection under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments.  This trajectory, unchanged, surely leads to a police state. 

So great are the depth and breadth of America’s problems now that most people feel that the relatively free America, we took for granted may now be irretrievably lost. And because of the secular nature of the scribes of history, the more important and more consequential stories that account for both America’s rise and success into the mid-twentieth century, but also account for our decline and failure that ensued right up to the present, are unlikely to be told. 

 So here are the most important parts of that story:   

The original thirteen colonies were founded primarily by Christians who shared a vision and disposition to live in freedom and pursue diverse opportunities they perceived as abundant in the Americas. And because of their beliefs most of the early settlers were predisposed to work hard, be self-reliant, law-abiding, and tolerant. 

From its constitutional founding in the late 1780s right into the mid-20th Century, America was uniquely respected among the nations of the world because its people were free and understood that their rights came from God. As such, those rights were unalienable and couldn’t be taken away by the state. No other nation was formed in such a way. 

With that freedom came a general recognition that the combination of tolerance and the competition of ideas would lead to truth, solutions to problems and the advancement of progress. Everyone understood that such a society would have the best shot at success through competition and merit. America became uniquely respected not only for its economic success but also for its moral stature that came out of its religious legacy, the accomplishments of the civil rights movement, and the enduring strength of a constitutional system that protected its citizens’ freedoms.

Morality and virtue have been not only the foundation of the American Republic, but they are also necessary for a society to be free. In his Farewell Address of September 1796, George Washington stated that religion was not only the source of morality, but it was also “a necessary spring of popular government.” John Adams who succeeded Washington as the second president, said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is inadequate to the government of any other.” 

There should be little doubt that America’s present rapid decline, which has been quickening, is the consequence of a moral crisis. When God is driven out of the culture bad things happen.

We can recognize that this is true because when societal norms radically depart from those that have been respected for hundreds and thousands of years and when that transpires with unprecedented speed, something is happening that is beyond a rational explanation. Evil spiritual forces are at work and in ascendance. 

Most people hoped that once the whirlwind of radical change that deprived people of their freedom during the so-called Covid-19 pandemic passed, that relative normalcy would return. That has not happened because when God is driven out of the culture and the public square there is an infilling from ungodly and evil forces. And these forces and influence are manifest in people and are now showing up everywhere in the private sector, in education, the culture and throughout government. 

There is a way back for America, but it is not easy. The story of the prodigal son, the best-known parable in the Bible, offers insight. America is very much like the prodigal son because we have not only engaged in and allowed immoral behavior to proliferate, squandered our inheritance, but have also betrayed our present and future progeny by running up an inordinate debt–$34 trillion and growing. 

The turning point for America could be similar to that of the prodigal son, whose inheritance ran out from reckless indulgence, which reduced him to living with pigs. His way back started with acknowledging what he had done, repenting of his sin before his father and then expressing gratitude for blessings of his family heritage. 

It’s not easy for elites in the public and private sector in America—who live in luxury and are removed from majority of the people—to acknowledge their failures and wayward priorities. But that awareness can be driven by the people, who can more easily recognize that acknowledging failure and the need for God are the keys and cornerstone to spiritual revival, which will in turn open the way for America’s recovery and renewal. 

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.