by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s fair to say Americans, especially the pre-revolution colonists, have always had a healthy skepticism of government. What’s frightening is some days we seem dangerously close to losing the unique quality that separates this country from every other.
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York posted last week in his Daily Memo some interesting data that tells us a lot about Americans’ attitudes about their government. He tracked a long-term Fox News survey in which respondents are asked which message they would send the government if they had the chance: “lend me a hand” or “leave me alone.”
Over the course of the last decade, only in August 2020 did a majority (57%) say it would ask for government help. In that same poll, 36% said “leave me alone.”
This year, however, the numbers were flipped – 47% said “leave me alone” while 44% still wanted aid.
In some years, the results showed a strong distrust of government. For instance, in 2014, 59% wanted to be free of the state while a mere 32% wished for help. In February 2016, the beginning of the last year of the Obama era, the numbers were 54-39 in favor of the “leave me alone” group.
But what is truly striking are the results from the last two surveys. After a large majority of Americans wanted the government to step in last year, no doubt due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a fairly significant shift back this year to a yearning for independence.
Why? There can be no doubt Americans were lent a hand in 2020 and 2021, and they got it good and hard, to borrow a portion of one of American journalist Henry Louis Mencken’s more famous comments. Politicians panicked, petty tyrants exercised unearned authority, and this country suffered in ways few could have ever imagined.