The president's jobs speech is now scheduled, and the republic won't perish from its checkered history. But a dangerous precedent of presidential weakness and inconsequence has been set. Few living Americans have experience with a society in which respect for authority has collapsed; we are ill-equipped today to recognize the warning signs. Instead, we are far more apt to assume—falsely—that order and civic security are the natural, unguarded state of things.
We can profit, however, from taking this event seriously. Merely electing a different president will not restore the foundation of civic authority. The people must regain an appreciation of its significance and our own role in preserving its integrity. We must be unembarrassed to make ourselves serious and thoughtful about this. The life we cherish depends on it.