Listening to the rhetoric in the present political cycle, there seems to be a missing word.
It is not "angst" or "frustration," neither "equality" nor "jobs" or even the latest buzzword, "establishment."
All these words are thrown around in the present debate. Being true politicians, candidates pepper their speeches with them, while promising everything to maximize voter benefits and placate their concerns. The word "anti-establishment" is now all the rage, even among those who actually benefited from being part of it.
The race is like an electoral supermarket, where voters can find all these words and promises, but it seems to do little to satisfy their agitated mood.
One aisle offers lower taxes (for most) or higher taxes (on others), free healthcare, free college, and jobs of every size and shape. Down another aisle, one can find less bureaucracy, fewer government programs, or increased military spending. There are special displays for classic socialism or socialism lite. Everything can be found save the missing word, so necessary to fix our nation's problems at its very core.
Two factors help explain voter discontent and the need for this missing word in the present debates.
The first is an internal factor: America's institutions are crumbling. They no longer provide the solutions they once did. High on the list are government institutions that burden society with the weight of their cost and the rigidity of their regulations. To this can also be added declining schools, communities and churches.
Behind these crumbling institutions are the ruins of broken lives and relationships. One can also see the effects of hurried and stressful lives lived in what might be called the frenetic intemperance of the times where everyone must have everything instantly and effortlessly. And when one is not given everything, there are resentful cries of "unfairness" and "injustice" against a broken "establishment."
That is why there are desperate calls for replacements or solutions that harken back to better times. Behind the anti-establishment angst is a desire for a quick fix to reconstruct the old establishment the way it used to be before it went awry, or to try new alternatives that offer an easy way out. Anything, that is, save one based on the key missing word, which no one dares to mention.
There is a second factor behind the discontent. This one is external. The old world order is breaking down. America is threatened by Islamic terrorism, global economic downturns, and disastrous foreign policy decisions. The world is a mess. People feel the uncertainty and insecurity of new world disorder.
Both factors are causing an immense anxiety that nothing in the electoral supermarket of benefits, free stuff and jobs can assuage. What is needed, and needed now, is the missing word lacking amid so much rhetoric. That word is sacrifice.
The crisis that the nation now faces is so huge that it will not be resolved without a spirit of sacrifice on the part of all Americans. Candidates need to have the courage to make this call that so contradicts a frenetically intemperate world. Such a call also presupposes higher ideals and causes that inspire people to selfless action.
Some might object that a call to sacrifice is political suicide in today's climate. The supermarket is the safer course. But the nation's history testifies to the contrary.
Whenever the call to sacrifice sounds, Americans rise to the occasion with great valor, Americans have always responded with touching dedication and generous hearts as they defend other and aid nations in distress. The sacrifices of American soldiers hold a special place in the hearts of most Americans who are deeply moved by their devoted service and selflessness, especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and did not return.
Sacrifice. A noble word. And one missing in the debates. It's not the only word needed, but it is a good start.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.