I can’t help but chuckle when thinking back to the so-called “existential” issues that defined our politics at the turn of the millennium.

It was a time when Republicans and Democrats fought tooth and nail over marginal tax rates, the morality of the federal estate tax, term limits, tort reform, and even a balanced budget (yes, you read that right).  Members of both parties believed these issues would surely define our politics for decades to come. But they were wrong.

Note that not only were these issues of real significance, but it was a time when both right and left recognized (and operated within) cultural guardrails.  Fringe Members–and their ideas–were accordingly relegated to the margins of day-to-day debate. Simply put, the parties engaged “between the 20s” (football term), nowhere near the red zones (football term) that frame today’s progressive era.

Those more innocent days now seem quaint…and oh so long ago.

To wit: Then, college professors would dare not celebrate the wholesale rape and slaughter of Jews by a notorious terror group.

Then, speech codes and language guides would have been anathema to free-speech liberals on campus.

Then, no politician of either party would countenance a national administration openly and notoriously advocating for–and actively engaged in-the facilitating of unlimited illegal migration across an open border.

Then, women’s intercollegiate athletic teams were populated by women…and only women.

Then, no teacher in their right mind would seek to convince a seven-year-old that he or she was not…either a he or she.

Then, no state would have legalized simple theft along the lines of a $900 “steal-free” safe harbor, or a cashless bail process that dumps violent offenders back on the street, fast.

Then, a homeowner could leave his home for an extended period without worrying that an illegal migrant squatter might break into the place–live openly on the premises – and then utilize the legal system to resist the owner’s attempt to remove him.

Then, it would have been impossible to contemplate the specter of the chosen presidential candidate of the out-of-power party being subjected to a Stalinesque show trial wherein the prosecutor–judge-jury–venue–and media were stacked against him, and where 98% of the general public is (still) unable to articulate the alleged “crime-a-week” after the jury returned a guilty verdict.

Then, anyone advocating for an identity politics paradigm that sentenced babies to either “oppressor” or “oppressed” social status would have been laughed off the public stage.

Then, it would have been political suicide to disparage the uniqueness and authenticity of the great American experiment as a mere racist, colonialist enterprise.

Then is, of course, prologue.  We live in the present, where profound change is still possible. And, so, those old guardrails of sanity and sovereignty–of pluralism and comity–of sobriety and common sense–remain within our grasp…very much along the lines of old Ben Franklin’s famous description of what the framers had created: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The next opportunity to keep it–and revive those old sensibilities—is Nov. 5, 2024.  Make a note of it.

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