Monday, May 14, 2012

FedGov: boldly going where we never dreamed it would go

In Vanity Fair, Todd Purdum--husband of former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers (whom I actually miss)--has penned a piece wherein he argues that the Democrats and Republicans have more or less reversed roles:
In recent decades the Republican Party has become something it really has not been since the Civil War: a radical insurgency bent on upending the prevailing practices of the national government seemingly at any cost. For most of its history the Republican Party was something else entirely: a steward of the status quo. It was the Democrats who were historically on the barricades in the fight for radical change. But the Democrats these days have turned into the stewards—beleaguered defenders of the government and country we have evolved into. The two great national parties have, in some fundamental sense, switched roles during the past 50 years. This inversion—the Big Flip—isn’t neat or exact, but it’s a substantial reality and it’s substantially complete.
In making this claim, Purdum reveals--once again--just how much the typical journalist or political pundit is trapped in a bubble, ignorant of reality, and uncompromisingly certain of the "rightness" of their deeply flawed views.

First, the most obvious lie of the piece: Democrats as defenders of the status quo. Is a trillion dollar stimulus bill "status quo"? Is a government takeover of the healthcare sector "status quo"? No, of course not. So what the Democrats--some of them, anyway--are actually defending is their assumed authority to "fix" the nation because of their assumed superiority. Thomas Sowell addressed this issue way back in 1996 with his The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. And what he noted then is just as true now: liberals and progressives believe they are special, believe their insights are special, and believe they can--via government policy--fix all perceived problems, be they great or small.

What has happened across the last several decades is that Republicans have compromised, have gone along with such policy measures in half-steps. The result is a Federal Government that exercises far more control than at any time in the past, far more control than it was ever supposed to have, according to the Constitution and the Framers.

Thus, it is true that there is a reactionary element in the Republican Party. But this is not a sudden development. It has been growing, slowly but surely, right alongside the growth of government authority, at Federal, State, and local levels. Purdum says:
Republicans decided that the enterprise they had been stewarding all these years—that is, life in the United States—was no longer agreeable, or even acceptable, but instead required radical remaking.
And completely misses the point. The "radical remaking" has already occurred, via slow and steady machinations. And such machinations are exactly how freedom is lost, how--ultimately--liberty dies, often "with thunderous applause." The current movements on the Right--typified by the Tea Party--are attempts at unmaking these radical changes.

Within such movements, there are certainly radical elements, but the typical conservative, the typical Tea Party supporter is mostly interested in halting the growth of government power and authority over everyday aspects of life, in halting what is perceived as the intentional growth of a dependent underclass.

Purdum sells the Democrats as exactly what they are not, quoting Mann and Ornstein's recent book:
The Democrats … have become the more status-quo oriented, centrist protectors of government, willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits in order to maintain the government’s central commitments.
Such attempts to paint the Democrat Party as moderate are laughable. Trim benefits? On what planet? At best, some Democrats have--on occasion--agreed to slow the rate of growth of some programs. But trimming them? Please.

And that's the penultimate point: policy that "does good" is sacrosanct. It cannot be scaled back and serves only as a model for even more programs. The more noble the goals, the more it should be expanded, as a matter of course.

There is ample evidence to demonstrate just how warped Purdum's views are. Consider, for instance, SCHIP or CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program). Created in 1997--with bipartisan support, contrary to Purdum's claims--it grew steadily. Attempts to expand it even more by the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2007 were vetoed by President Bush. But President Obama successfully expanded its scope in 2009. Attempts to "trim" the program by Republicans since then have failed. Clearly, this all contradicts the claims of Mann and Ornstein being touted by Purdum. And just as clearly, it demonstrates that Democrats--by and large--want to expand government, not just maintain it.

It is an interesting, if perverted and silly delusion, however. And the fact that it has become standard fare for so many should give us pause.

Cheers, all.

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