The American Pulse Is Feeble, But There Is a Way to Revive It

3 ½ min

In the leading article for the October issue of Chronicles Magazine, John Derbyshire suggests three outcomes for the November election: The Democrats win, the Republicans win, or the country descends into chaos. Sadly, more individuals seem to be entertaining thoughts of the latter.

Those negative thoughts aren’t without merit. As Derbyshire explains, two election wins post-WWII (John F. Kennedy’s in 1960 and George W. Bush’s in 2000) have been close calls and could easily have devolved into a national crisis. Thankfully, they didn’t, but this year could be different.

Derbyshire notes that the individuals in these former chaotic contests had “gentlemanly restraint.” Today’s candidates may still have that, belonging to the older generation, but they live in a country that has long since abandoned said restraint: “The old codes are dead,” writes Derbyshire, and “gentlemanly restraint is now scorned as ‘toxic masculinity.’”

Many who watched the first debate of the 2020 election cycle were appalled at the behavior of both the candidates and the moderator. Instead of the decorum and civility which once graced such spectacles, the candidates presented a shouting match, alternately glaring or throwing insults at each other. America was appalled, but they shouldn’t have been, for as a colleague of mine noted, the type of “debate” we witnessed is simply how today’s Americans debate – by getting into shouting matches and arguing with one another.

Again, “the old codes are dead.” We’ve smashed the patriarchy, but we’ve also ushered in chaos, a chaos which could be on full display come November 4.

The pulse of America is faint and fading. Is there any way at this late hour to breathe life back into American society, restoring its social order?

There is one way. Russell Kirk outlines that path in his book, The Roots of American Order. According to Kirk, the roots of the American social order we have long enjoyed are founded upon America’s moral order. If there is no moral order grounding the roots, then our tree of social order will inevitably fall:

It was America’s moral order, then, that sustained America’s social order. Even though class, family, and community were enfeebled west of the Alleghenies; even though the institutional Church might be reduced to circuit-riding preachers there; even though the common man of the West seemed interested chiefly in his own material aggrandizement—still he read his Bible, accepted as good the political framework which he inherited from the Atlantic seaboard and from Britain, and took for granted a moral order that was his custom and his habit. That is why the American frontiersmen and backwoodsmen and entrepreneurs of the vast newly-opened country were not men ‘in a state of nature.’ And that is why the American democracy was not a democracy of degradation. ‘For the Americans,’ Tocqueville found, ‘the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of one without the other….'

So let’s assess our country’s moral pulse by these characteristics Kirk names. Are Americans reading their Bibles? Nearly half of Americans are “disengaged” from Scripture, the American Bible Society found in 2019.

Do Americans look at the political framework this country was founded upon as good? Considering recent repeated attacks on the authors, thinkers, values, and ideas of Western Civilization, and the routine dismissal of America’s founders as racist bigots, it would seem the answer is no.

In terms of a general moral order, it’s hard to say that any such thing exists given how ethics and principles once accepted without question – the biological sex of an individual, for example – are now fluid and subject to individuals’ whims.

Given these trends, perhaps it’s not difficult to see why American has become a “democracy of degradation.”

If we want to rescue our nation and stand strong as a culture, then we can’t simply count on elections to bail us out of our miserable state. We each must get our own houses in order, looking to the values and morals that made this country great in the first place, and aligning our modern lives with them. But if we have no interest in doing so, then we can kiss the American social order that we once knew and loved goodbye forever.


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Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.

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Rowana F
This is a fine article, but it only underscores why the society of the USA is falling to pieces. It isn't enough for a whole lot of individual people and families to return to the moral code, ethics, and principles on which this nation and our Constitution were founded. Society itself has to return to agreement with these things. No society can ever be united and function in reasonably good harmony when the basic underlying foundations of society are a shredded, conflicting mess where people cannot agree even in general terms about what is good, normal, healthy, virtuous, admirable, etc. It really is true what the Founders said: The system of government they set up can only survive when the population holds Christian values (not necessarily beliefs, I suppose, but the values) and holds itself to the corresponding moral code. If the population becomes too corrupted and immoral, especially if the prevailing social mores and laws go along with the immorality, that population and its government are in terrible peril of failing.


Very true - and I believe social media has a lot to do with the disintegration of civil society. Too much bad (or wrong, or inaccurate or downright false) information disseminated broadly and instantly to a generation of youth who have not been taught HOW to think but WHAT to think - and NEVER put down the device that feeds them this information. I have had a theory for many, many decades that the whole family ethic began to erode when we allowed stores to be open on Sundays. This one thing was the product of family life that was already changing (both parents working) and helped feed that descent into chaos.


Nice article and agree with both commenters. I remember well the stores closed on Sunday and regarding this day as a family day, Sunday drive etc. I've also thought that the introduction of the TV screen into homes, and the eventual explosion and multiplication of that primitive, early screen into billions of flashing, squawking progeny colors and influences everything in our culture today.


"We’ve smashed the patriarchy"--seriously? Forget sex for a's a hierarchy of control, need to know basis. You're totally wrong. We've moved into an active Police State (censorship, cancel culture, governor-mayor control gone wild) where you are not allowed to defend yourself, family, friends or property--even though those laws still exist. The "new normal" judicial system is SOME people get to do anything they want (loot, arson, assault, murder) and the police are not allowed to do their jobs! The above has been accomplished by Marxist-Socialist-Communist infiltrators who are on TV, in the US Govt as we breath. "Leftists" are totally onboard with the above--until it's THEIR house that's under attack (then they call 911). This has been and continues to be a war on the MIND and what's left is dazed and confused--and YES, you are correct...there is NO morality left (with a few exceptions but they're censored out). Excuses galore reign for nothing can be done about the above--the people of the 1970s and older would have dealt with the perps months ago. Both male and female humans have the masculine trait (it's psychological) and this is HEROIC. But today's human is the "feminized" creature which means in psychological terms: not heroic, submissive, coward. (again this is not about sex). The human mind requires understanding and NOTHING about this is taught. Why? Because then people would become heroic, a Sherlock Holmes (the original one). But you couldn't take over a country loaded with heroes, could you?


Any society that actually promotes unnatural acts, and promotes them as being part of a beneficial part of humanity, is doomed to destroy itself. Evil is making the natural, unnatural, and the unnatural, natural.