Here he comes walking down the road and we all know everything will be okay because he's here to fix it. The mythology of the West, personified more often in media than history, still inspires many today to think that is the way to get things done.
The concept of this rugged individual solving the problems for the rest of us seems to be one of the key illusions of our country-- and maybe a lot of mankind. Although it might seem aimed at only one way of thinking, it actually can influence two diametrically different viewpoints.
We need a hero to solve our problems as he leads us to a victory. Elect the right person and sit back to applaud (or throw stones depending).
Or it's us who are the heroes and government just gets in our way. In this thinking most (at least economic) laws or regulations only impede the many rugged individualists who will fix the economy through their independence.
Inside, most of us do know that people have to work together to get anything done. We recognize that even if there was a time where you could shoot your way out of problems, it's long since past (and likely never really existed). We also know Superman is fiction. But this mythology of the rugged individualist is still one that people buy into whether they translate that into almost no government or that superhero leader.
Here's the thing. The mythology didn't even work in the Old West. Most people, at least in the beginning, came West on wagon trains with leaders. Once they got out here, they built towns where they quickly made laws and set up governments. The alternative would be to see the bad apples in their midst take everything from everyone else. Working alone we are easy prey. Standing together, we are formidable.
Even a barn was most often built in a barn raising where cooperation got it done faster than rugged individualism. People traded labor for jobs done which is basically what taxation is intended to be today. (Unfortunately we are now paying 25% of our shared labor just to pay the interest on a debt that neither political party wants to take credit for increasing).
Sure, the West had heroic individuals like John Muir who traveled alone to explore; but when he wanted to preserve something like Yosemite, he had to get others to cooperate. You could get to the West by yourself, but when you got there, you had to set up societies and at that point, government became a factor. Government should not be seen as the bad guy but the tool of the people. When it fails in that, it's time to redo government, not throw it out totally.
In Wallace Stegner's The Sound of Mountain Water he says it well when he refers to the west as "the native home of hope."
"When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery."I believe it's what it still takes today. I also believe that expecting any hero to come riding into town and fixing it all, whatever party they originate from, is kidding ourselves and a damaging illusion.