About Restoring America

America is going wrong. That is the stark but necessary starting point for this editorial. Many people know it to be true; they can feel our politics and culture turning ever more sour, taste the bitter reality of national decline.

But fewer people acknowledge it, for it is difficult to say such a terrible thing so bluntly. Politicians prefer to attack or promote specific policies and voice narrow grievances but tend to avoid the electoral poison of general gloom. They mostly keep away from the idea conveyed by the word “malaise,” with which Jimmy Carter succinctly captured America’s weakening spirit and dwindling capacity during his hapless presidency.

But a sense that the country is out of whack and needs to be restored is now widespread. One hears it wherever one goes, at least among those who love America. They worry about its trajectory and lament the pass to which it has come.

Who can put his hand on his heart and declare that we are thriving? We are richer than ever, living on borrowed money, but no one can say plausibly that we’ve never had it so good. The nation is uncomfortable, not at peace with itself. It is bitterly divided, and without unity, there is no common purpose. The uplifting assumption that we are all on the same team has become impossible to sustain. America’s various parts instead work against each other. Pew Research found in March that 60% of the public thought the United States would become a less important country over the next 30 years, and 65% said it would be more politically divided.

Sayings become cliches usually because they contain wisdom worth repeating. It is so with the biblical warning that a house divided against itself cannot stand. This is part of why America is faltering. It is riven with ideological conflict about the nature of the nation itself. A substantial minority of America’s citizens reject their country in principle and repudiate it in practice. They scoff at its founding ideals, regarding them as hypocritical, unsuited to modern circumstances, or both. They insist that our history is one of irredeemable oppression. The same people often refuse to subscribe to our traditional ideals irrespective of whether they are tarnished. They reject the self-evident truth that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are everybody’s God-given or natural rights, for they do not trust free people to govern themselves as they think fit.

Why is that? It is because free people do not choose extreme egalitarianism. Therefore, today’s radicals work always and everywhere to increase central control, obliging people to live not as they wish but as they are told. Within the desire to limit freedom is a dichotomy, for the problem is not only a march toward oppressive “equity” but also the growth of a triumphant elitism.

We are in the middle of a cultural revolution that is marginalizing ordinary people from decision-making. The moral relativism of the recent past slashed and burned the traditional values of our culture, producing the tabula rasa on which tyrannical revolutionaries always seem to build their utopias. Now, that building has begun, and they have replaced their moral relativism with arrogant moral certainty. That is why they are so intolerant. People who disagree with them are not to be listened to but silenced. The central aim of the new revolution, antithetical to our core founding idea, is to reduce freedom and concentrate power in the hands of like-minded politicians in Washington. To do this, they camouflage their ideology in the guise of public good. This do-gooding is inflicting terrible damage.

It is time to stop it. Indeed, it is long past time. But one must start somewhere, and now is better than later. And although it is necessary to stop inflicting damage on our polity and culture, applying the brakes is not enough. We must go further and reverse the process, restore what has been lost, reclaim and embrace what has been abandoned. Thorough and effective restoration is painstaking work, but it is worth it.

Because America embodies universal truths, restoring it, like restoring great art, would refresh and renew something valuable not only to the citizens of this country but to everyone around the world. America and its founding ideals are scarred with the depredations of hostile ideologies and encrusted with the dust of long neglect. But this nation can again be a shining city on a hill — a repository of high ideals and a cause of hope for all the people of the Earth.

It is in this spirit that the Washington Examiner has launched a campaign, “Restoring America,” that will draw attention in news reporting, commentary, and video to debate over the direction of the country. In our magazine and on our website, we commit ourselves to covering topics, restating principles, affirming beliefs, and raising concerns and dangers that together amount to a checklist for action.

This campaign will not be brief. We plan to sustain it month after month in the hope that the Washington Examiner can do its part in the necessary task of returning America to robust good health. If our campaign strikes a chord with you, we hope you will visit the new “Restoring America” section that we have launched on the Washington Examiner website and join us in continuous discussion and advocacy on these matters vital to our future.

So, what is it that must be restored? Everyone will have their own view, but here is how we arrived at what we believe most people could support. We asked ourselves what qualities America embodied when it was most admired around the world, and what made its citizens most proud to declare that they were American. Critics will claim this exposes the campaign as backward-looking and reactionary, but it is nothing of the sort. For a society to evolve and yet be stable and tolerant, it must always be engaged in a negotiation between past and future, respecting the wisdom of the former while not snuffing out the hopes of the latter.

Thus, a campaign that respects what our founders bequeathed us seeks what is necessary for America to thrive for generations to come. The fact that our founding values enabled America to achieve stunning success for more than two centuries is a testament to their efficacy and universality. They worked. That is perhaps the strongest argument for defending them and handing them unharmed to our children and to American children yet unborn.

Americans used to be recognized the world over for their patriotism and a sense they shared that whatever their background, they were united by being American. E pluribus unum — out of many, one — was not merely a noble aspiration but a concrete fact. It found expression (to the envy and sometimes also to the mockery of foreigners) in Americans’ desire to fly the flag whenever and wherever opportunity arose.

Americans were also more likely than people of other developed nations to practice a religious faith, believe in personal freedom, and be self-reliant rather than look to government to fix their problems. A corollary was that Americans were notably optimistic, blessed and driven by a can-do spirit rooted in courage and strength.

Everybody had a stake in the country. Americans genuinely believed in equality, not elitism, even when they did not practice it perfectly. They have always been notably more charitable than most other peoples, giving time and money voluntarily rather than delegating compassion and responsibility to a central power. They have believed and lived by the understanding that decisions are best made closest to the people whom those decisions affect.

Closest of all are parents and family members; Americans have traditionally regarded the family rightly as the most important social unit of all. Finally, Americans long stood out for their expressed desire for fairness and justice. They believe that all people should get their just deserts and be able to get ahead if they make an effort and live by the rules.

Thus, the Washington Examiner arrived at six broad categories of values and vital reporting and commentary that will guide Restoring America. Now, let’s add detail to each:


We will campaign for children to be taught to love and respect America. This does not mean whitewashing history or evading the truth that slavery is a grievous stain on our past. But it does mean schoolchildren should not be propagandized, as they are now, to believe that ours is a fundamentally bad country, worse than others, and beyond redemption. Last year, Gallup found that U.S. national pride had fallen to a record low.

This should not be, for America is great and good, and children should grow up understanding this. Our nation’s determination to live up to its ideals meant that it fought a terrible civil war to stay united and end slavery. That is to its credit, not its shame. Just as children should learn unbiased history, they should also be taught other essential knowledge, which many schools fail spectacularly to do, such as reading, writing, science, genuine civics, and math, to prepare them to live successful lives.

Teaching children to respect the flag and those who have made sacrifices for it is part of a wider national goal of fostering a shared American culture based on dignity and respect for all. Part of that shared culture should be that English is taught as the nation’s core (but not its only) language.

National unity requires proportionality in government, which means that although minorities should be protected, policies should be approved of by the majority, not narrow ones that most Americans don’t want. They should not be calculated to appeal to special castes favored by political ideology, for that is a form of governance that divides us, setting group against group in bitter competition.

Division is the aim of today’s radicals, and it should be rejected. Critical race theory is a prime example of this blight, as are the equally tendentious teachings of intersectionality. They are unfalsifiable ideological assertions that, under the dishonest banner of equity, intentionally foster mutual antipathy and distrust, especially between races. The charge of “racism” is hurled at political opponents as a way of stanching debate. It is a vile weaponization of race that should be rejected explicitly wherever it occurs.

Racism is wrong, but, equally, it is not the explanation for every wrong. Demands for reparations for slavery have grown ever louder, but they should be rejected without embarrassment. They would be nothing less than a form of collective punishment imposed on people who had nothing to do with slavery, to benefit people who were not slaves.

Finally, patriotism and unity require that we actually have a country. A defining feature of a nation-state is that it is surrounded by a border. True democracy demands that Americans be allowed to decide who may be admitted and live in their country with them. This is a moral imperative. If there is no border, then the democracy and country are not real. The federal government has an absolute duty to regain control of the nation’s borders, to adopt a coherent immigration policy that reflects the will of the citizens who elected it to represent them, and to stop illegal immigration.


We will advocate individual responsibility, which is life-affirming, and battle against collectivism and dependency, which encourage a debilitating helplessness and a belief that any imperfections in our lives are someone else’s fault that government should fix. Government handouts should be only for real need. Affirmative action in both the private and public sectors must end. Instead of encouraging a victim mindset, we need to foster a culture that rewards merit and success.

That requires government to get out of the way. Appropriately limited government means taxes being raised and monies spent for real infrastructure — roads, bridges, broadband access — but not for controversial political programs and social engineering. People with new ideas must be allowed sufficient space to flourish, so red tape (which hobbles innovation and wealth creation) must be cut. Intrusive regulation is the latest deceptive strategy of socialism, intended to give government ever more powerful tools with which to micromanage businesses while shirking the risks and costs of ownership. In a well-ordered free society, risk and reward go together. Inextricably linked with this is the protection of property rights, and the avoidance of confiscatory taxes and stifling restrictions on land use.

Beyond the economic sphere, freedom means championing the First Amendment — indeed all of the Bill of Rights — rejecting speech codes, and tolerating differences of opinion. Cancel culture must be repudiated everywhere. Tech censorship must be resisted. Monopolies must not be allowed to impose their worldview on the public.

Freedom of conscience, religion, and association must be protected. Today’s revolutionaries are pushing faith ever further into retreat. There is an active effort to drive religion out of the public square, to secularize America. They are succeeding. Some religions, Islam, for example, are for the moment tolerated by today’s radicals because it is not a religion generally associated with America and its history. Christians, by contrast, form America’s oldest and largest faith group. Naturally, therefore, they are anathema to our revolutionaries, who seek to oppress those who practice Christianity, and to excoriate its doctrines at every opportunity. This is deliberate, vicious persecution and it must be rejected.


We will campaign for American global leadership to be maintained and strengthened; the world is better for it. Standing up for American interests and ideals usually coincides with standing up for what is right. U.S. leadership cannot exist only in theory but must be exercised in practice, which requires Washington to use national strength and moral suasion confidently at the United Nations, NATO, the World Health Organization, and every other multilateral organization.

The world’s bad actors, China, Russia, Middle East dictatorships, and others, have for decades worked to undermine the interests of America and its allies. The federal government, which is ever more assertive at home, is ever weaker abroad, allowing erosion of America’s authority rather than deploying its economic and diplomatic power. The shameful rout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is the latest example of declining U.S. potency and exposed its superpower status to justified mockery. America must maintain the most powerful armed forces in the world.

There has been a steady decline in U.S. military spending since it stood at 9.4% of gross domestic product in 1967. President Joe Biden’s latest budget would cut it to 3.1% despite the massive challenge posed by China’s buildup. Our military has one purpose only, which is to win wars or deter them with the potency of its weapons, training, and tactics. A strong military is also a nonpolitical military. Thus, the U.S. armed forces must cease being used for social experimentation, and the Pentagon must stop inculcating men and women in uniform with corrosive dogma that sows division and self-doubt.

American strength and leadership must resist China’s totalitarian effort to displace the U.S. as the preeminent superpower. Washington needs to adopt Ronald Reagan’s Cold War strategy, which was “to win it.” Part of doing that is dealing with rogue states and bad actors decisively while avoiding entanglements not in America’s interests.

The national security establishment has for decades warned that our rapidly deepening debt, $30 trillion and counting, is a danger that militates against our global power. The restoration of America’s strength requires balanced, fiscally responsible policies that grow the economy and encourage wealth creation. This must be matched by policies that nurture private saving and job creation. Business and entrepreneurship should be celebrated, not denigrated or plundered for political purposes.

Courage, traditionally a characteristic of America and its people, is needed now as much as or more than ever. The silent majority must be helped to stand firm and speak its mind. It will, as Benjamin Franklin noted, take a vigilant citizenry to keep the republic in which we are blessed to live. Ordinary Americans have the sense to know what is good for them; they must insist on it and no longer shrug off what seems to be “just politics.” This means rejecting bullying on race, class, and gender, the three horsemen of the woke apocalypse. It means rejecting what President George W. Bush called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” It means treating all people as genuinely equal in their worth in our society, and in their obligations to it.


The 2016 election, and particularly Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that those who wouldn’t vote for her were “deplorables,” drew attention to the lamentable fact that America has become increasingly stratified, with some people elevated and deferred to improperly, while others are denigrated or ignored. This is not what America is supposed to be. It was founded on the belief that ordinary adults should have an equal say about how they are governed and by whom.

The Left wants power put into the hands of supposed experts, by which it means credentialled people who share its views. Its claim to “believe in science,” in contrast to opponents who reject it, is a flimsy falsehood. Those on the Left are at least as likely to reject empirical evidence as anyone else is when it does not fit their favored narrative. Examples are legion, but their climate alarmism, fear of genetically modified foods, abortion extremism, and pretzel contortions on gender all spring to mind, as does their refusal to accept empirical data abundant in the dismal science of economics.

Then, of course, there is the fact that the experts were repeatedly both certain and wrong in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They told us to close schools and wipe surfaces obsessively; the first was damaging, the second merely useless. Both were wrong. Yet somehow, ordinary people are still expected to trust the experts and cease their valid questioning.

Behind the effort to shift power to an expert elite is dislike of ordinary people deciding freely to live as they please. The adulation and respect afforded to Hollywood, perhaps the most left-liberal community of all, and the lionizing of entertainers as though they were especially qualified by celebrity to pronounce on policy matters, is a baneful symptom of this phenomenon.

Real equality, as opposed to elitism, trusts ordinary citizens. It takes advice from experts but insists that elected representatives are the proper people to balance competing needs and make policy choices. Equality does not delegate democratic authority to experts, removing it from those whom voters have chosen to do that job. This must remain a country that rejects princes or potentates. It must be a country of laws. Equality before the law should be the only enforced equality.

True equality also means respecting life, supporting the most vulnerable among us, including those unborn and those in decline at the end of their lives. Americans are consistently more likely to say that abortion should be legal only in certain circumstances than to say it should be legal in all circumstances. In other words, they reject the mantra that it is simply a matter of a woman’s choice. The inegalitarian assertion that vulnerable people have less claim to society’s protection amounts to the tyrannical idea that might makes right.


The American family has never been weaker. The percentage of the population living in married households has never been lower. While most people still want to get married, they are being forced to wait longer than ever, shrinking the window for couples to make the next generation. With marriage in decline, our birth rate has fallen precipitously. We are not having enough children to sustain ourselves as a people. A nation that doesn’t reproduce itself is a dying nation.

The Washington Examiner will fight widespread efforts to undermine families . There is an active effort by today’s cultural revolutionaries to dismantle the traditional family. Black Lives Matter, a Marxist organization embraced by gentry liberals (and, extraordinarily, by their churches), says the traditional family is a racist institution. Until it became politically expedient to hide this agenda item, BLM proudly displayed it on the organization’s website. The traditional family, in which mothers and fathers raise children, is the most effective social, cultural, educational, and healthcare institution of all. The Washington Examiner will support policies that foster family formation and parental authority, which promote freedom and resist central control.

Beyond the family, it is important that decisions be left as often as possible to authorities that are closest to the people governed by them. As few responsibilities as possible should be delegated by local and voluntary bodies to the upper reaches of government. That means charities, community groups, churches, towns, counties, and states should shoulder most responsibilities, as the Constitution either prescribes or implies. Efforts by the federal government to arrogate states’ rights should be fought back.


Increasingly, people are condemned based on accusations alone, often without evidence or the right of reply. This is especially so on university campuses and on social media, but it is fast overwhelming workplaces, too. Fairness and justice demand due process.

They also demand appropriate law enforcement, which requires supporting police forces in principle and in practice with proper funding and training. The Washington Examiner will expose lies intended to erode support for the police. It will oppose sanctuary cities, promote order and public safety, and reject vandalism and all forms of violence as illegitimate political weapons.

It will demand respect for the rule of law and that political and civic authorities foster and demonstrate high standards of public behavior. It will call out dishonest and hypocritical news coverage.

Finally, the electoral foundation of our democracy must also be fair. This means protecting election integrity with voter ID.


This long list is far from comprehensive, which shows that much work needs to be done. America has been and can again be the apotheosis of civilized liberal democracy, but powerful and determined antagonists have pushed its finest values to the sidelines. The country has become almost unrecognizable to many of its own citizens. Appalling as our position has become, and alarming as our trajectory continues to be, the response of those who love this nation should not be to sink into dismayed resignation. The grim landscape of our politics and culture is not an invitation to hopelessness and apathy but is, rather, a call to action. It is a call not to violence but quite the reverse — a call for steady strength, resolution, and courage among ordinary people to demand that decades of despoilation cease, and that America return to the path that brought it so swiftly to global preeminence. A bright future of continued success is there for the taking. But it requires the decent, moderate, tolerant, outgoing, and well-meaning people who make up the majority of America’s 333 million inhabitants to realize that they are in charge and, knowing this, to stand up and take it.

— Hugo Gurdon, Editor-in-chief