In a time of ideological upheaval and the threat from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Americans face acute perils to their lives, livelihoods, traditions, inheritance from earlier generations of Americans and obligations to future generations. Historically, American leaders would have been able to prevent or avoid the problems the country now confronts. America has had difficulties in the past, and American leaders resolved those difficulties, however painful and challenging.
Americans today are not receiving the leadership they need or deserve from the Biden administration. An apt analogy is the New York Mets disastrous 1962 season when the team went 40 wins against 120 losses, still the worst record in baseball, their manager, the great Casey Stengel said: “the Mets have shown me more ways to lose than I even knew existed.” Similarly, Biden is showing Americans new ways to lose. Now Americans increasingly feel that the country is becoming the equivalent of the 1962 Mets.
At this time of considerable menace, Americans have a right to expect the following standards from their leaders. Here is short list of what the American people should expect and demand from American leaders.
First, Americans should expect leaders who love the political ideology, principles, and culture of the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution and want to sustain that culture for their progeny. Americans want leaders who love America, the people and the land and want to preserve the political health and well-being of the American people and the natural beauty of the land.
Second, they should expect loyalty from their leaders—loyalty to the American people and to its political principles. Americans should expect that their leaders share the interests of the American people and provide a commonwealth for them. This requires what would have been self-evident in times past: American leaders must place the interests of the American people first. American leaders should understand and protect the American people from their domestic cultural, economic, and social concerns as well as the malign actions and intentions of foreign adversaries, most threatening that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), that undermine their health through the poison of narcotics like fentanyl or of TikTok and other poisons of the mind of scores of millions of Americans.
Third, Americans should expect actual leadership through the honest identification of problems and answers to them. American leaders should provide positive solutions to illegal immigration inflation, the health and well-being of all Americans, most particularly America’s working and middle classes, those who perished or whose lives were disrupted by the forgotten opioid epidemic, by Covid, by the weakening of American civil society and communities, and by the willful lack of enforcement of America’s immigration laws. Leadership also means devising a solution to protect Americans and American interests from the PRC and the other threats that endanger American lives and prosperity.
Fourth, Americans should expect that their leaders are invested in America’s future. They do not saddle future generations with debt or reduced opportunity, robbed of their birthright and ability to enjoy the American Dream, they should not seek to separate the American people from their history and culture, and they do not provide succor to America’s enemies who will rob America’s of their future, liberty, and birthright. American leaders should ensure that future Americans have greater opportunities than Americans have at present or in the past.
Fifth, it is painful to state what would have been unthinkable to previous generations of American leaders: American leaders and their families should not profit directly or indirectly from investments in the enemy of the American people, the PRC. The fact that American leaders do profit is evidence of a far more significant problem than venality but of how far our leaders have fallen. It shows just how bad they are, and what a profound problem Americans have, and how the only way to correct this is by holding leaders accountable.
Additionally, that American leadership permits the PRC’s presence on American financial markets is beyond scandal and reaches deep into treachery. Investment that could be going to strengthen America’s development of 6G and beyond technology or artificial intelligence, bioscience, education, manufacturing, ship building, or infrastructure improvement, is instead going to the CCP, providing a brighter future for totalitarian rule in the PRC, and strengthening the PRC military by creating a more formidable enemy for the American people. What will those who invest in the PRC receive, more lucre, another house, at the cost of their children’s, and all American’s birthright. The 400 business leaders at their mid-November meeting with Xi Jinping in San Francisco should have been investing in American communities rather than trying to profit from trade with the PRC and by saving a few bucks by producing in the PRC, and aiding America’s enemy by investing in it.
Sixth, Americans should expect that American leaders do not generate strategic vulnerabilities for the United States and the American people by manufacturing of strategic goods like antibiotics, medicines, medical equipment, and personal protective equipment in the PRC. Or by selling American soil to the Chinese regime’s investors. Or by allowing PRC entities to purchase oil from the American Strategic Petroleum reserve. Or by permitting China to siphon off technology from U.S. firms in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
In the Cold War, American firms would not tolerate American businesses investing in the Soviet Union. Known as Lenin’s favorite capitalist, businessman Armand Hammer was widely excoriated for his Occidental Petroleum’s and other business interests in the Soviet Union. Americans should expect of American firms that they act like American firms and support the American people and American interests. Lamentably, the actions of the 400 business leaders at their dinner with Xi was outrageous. It will not age well. They will rue the day they were there. Each of these “Americans” should account publicly for why he or she attended that dinner with the Communist dictator and provided such a rapturous welcome for him.
Any pretension to be universal or global in outlook or interest will be shattered by Beijing should it be successful in creating the world it wants. In the Sino-American struggle, business and cultural leaders will support either the Chinese regime or the U.S. Which side are you on should be asked of every corporate leader, venture capitalist, and Hollywood star on American soil.
Seventh, Americans should discuss how their leaders failed them so badly, and how they can find better ones. Where will the American people find men and women who inspire Americans, understand their difficulties, and provide answers to present and future problems that do not involve transforming America into a socialist, neo-totalitarian state, or an owned subsidiary of the PRC. Beyond a handful of prominent individuals, where are American leaders who will strengthen the country rather than weakening it. Leaders who will provide answers in accord with American political culture and practices, offer support for them, and seek to strengthen them. Leaders who do not profit from trade with America’s enemy or permit the enemy to use American investment and resources to become a greater threat while denying that investment to Americans to strengthen America.
In the wake of the June 1953 uprising against the tyranny of the East German government and Soviet occupation, Bertolt Brecht wrote his poem “The Solution.” In it, Brecht wondered—given that the East German government stated that the people had forfeit the confidence of the government—if it would not be easier for the government to dissolve the people and elect another. The hatred that the East German government had for its people is echoed in Biden’s insouciance and cool contempt for the people of East Palestine Ohio.
As a thought experiment, what if Americans could fire their leaders—if they could replace their political, economic, technological, media and cultural leaders as easily as immigrants now cross the southern border. What if decades ago American leaders had perceived the nature of the PRC and had worked to combat it rather than welcoming it into the West’s economic, political, and technological ecosystems. What if Hollywood made films about the Muslim genocide in China, oppression in Tibet, a Chinese official who denounced the racism and sexism of the Chinese regime, or a heroic Rosa Parks figure, who starts a civil rights movement in China.
At this critical time, Americans need leaders who understand and value America and the American people, and who appreciate the threat from the PRC, and what must be accomplished to defeat that threat. Americans should expect their leaders have the interests of the American people foremost in their minds. For decades, leaders have failed the American people. They no longer have the luxury to do so. Cursed with the leadership they have; the American people have been extraordinarily resilient. But this cannot continue.
Fortunately, Americans have a history of standing up under similar trying times. May we never forget the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in 1863, who invoking the Declaration of Independence reminded every American that we are government of the people, by the people and for the people. The American people deserve and need to have far better leadership to face the challenges of the 21st century—the responsibility falls upon the American people to get it done.
James Fanell is a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bradley A. Thayer is a Founding Member of the Committee on Present Danger China and the coauthor with Lianchao Han of Understanding the China Threat.