A recent Gallup poll shows that American’s trust in two thirds of the federal government – executive and legislative – is at or near all-time lows. This represents a challenge and an opportunity for our country and has significant implications for the election coming up in several weeks.
Both Parties Have Risks and Opportunities
While both parties and their partisans can point to these poll results as an example of why their party deserves more power, the fact remains that both parties are to blame and both parties have an historic opportunity.
Democrats can point to the Republican controlled House of Representatives as the reason why the approval rating for Congress is at 28%. By doing so, they ignore the facts that their party was in control when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, that they have controlled the Congress for much of the last 100 years, and that they currently control the Senate. The Democrats – party of big government and big labor – have every reason to be wary of this public sentiment.
Since the 1970s, however, the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the radical Third Left and is no longer the party of “the little guy”. Moderates and those who truly care about the less fortunate have been purged from the party of FDR, Truman, JFK and Clinton as the party has moved ever more to the Left.
Republicans can point to the Democratic controlled Senate and Executive branches as the reason why so many Americans distrust their government and with good reason. The elections of 2008 and 2012 enabled the radical progressive agenda of Barack Obama and the Third Left to move forward by ill-advised laws enacted while in a temporary majority situation, abuses of the executive order power and illegal changes to enacted laws by the executive branch. The Republicans are the bulwark holding back the rising tide of the Left’s radical agenda, and their control of the House is fortunate.
Yet the GOP has risks that need to be overcome. The false “War on Women” that the Democrats play so well is due to the Republican Party as a whole being against abortion. There is a tension between the legitimate concerns over when life begins and using abortion (which some people view as murder) as birth control and the principle that each human being should be able to make choices regarding their health and reproductive decisions including whether or not to bear a child.
The argument has evolved to where one side is portrayed as being “against women” while the other side seems to want to have taxpayer or employer funded birth control and abortion on demand up until the minute the child is born. I think reasonable restrictions on late term abortion are appropriate and requiring practitioners and facilities to meet the same standards as other medical practices is a protection for women, not a “war”. I’d like to see the women of the GOP embrace a compromise of this nature and all male politicians of both parties recuse themselves from further discussion of women’s health and reproductive choices.
The second risk and opportunity the GOP has is in the area of LGBT issues and same-sex marriage. While the concept of marriage has traditionally been defined as between a man and a woman, that is not a compelling basis for the State to have a say in whether or not a same-sex couple should enjoy the same rights and privileges of a traditional male/female couple. Government should grant marriage licenses to any couple that wants to have a union of that nature. People of religion can work it out in the context of their church membership and attendance in accordance with the principle of free association.
If the GOP were to stop its opposition to gay marriage and support abortion rights, it would be an historic opportunity for them to reclaim the mantle of Lincoln, who freed the slaves; and of Susan B. Anthony, one of the leaders in the fight for women’s suffrage. Abortion and gay rights are the two most potent weapons in the Democratic arsenal. They must be disarmed.
People want to be free and they want equal treatment for all. The GOP needs to do a better job of explaining why free markets are better than government activism, and become the party of inclusion for all.
Big Concentrations of Power Make Americans Nervous
Americans are becoming ever more distrustful of large concentrations of political and economic power, whether they are governments, big business, billionaires or unions, especially public sector unions.
Governments, when they are tyrannical or despotic in nature, have an unfortunate tendency to kill off large numbers of their citizens, as humanity tragically learned in the 20th century. While a lack of government (anarchy) is even worse (but not by much), it is clear that governments which are insulated from accountability and change can wreak great evil on innocent human lives.
Big businesses in several industries have earned the distrust of large numbers of people. People critical of health care costs have a tendency to blame the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Climate change alarmists and environmentalists deplore oil and gas, mining and other companies that impact the environment. Large utilities and other companies with actual or near monopolies are roundly hated by people who don’t have a choice in whom to do business with.
America’s wealthiest citizens are increasingly becoming more activist, using their fortunes to fund advocacy groups, donate to politicians and parties that they then have disproportionate control over; to donate and set up advocacy groups to promote causes they believe in whether they be anthropogenic climate change (Tom Steyer), gun control (Michael Bloomberg) or the overall progressive agenda (George Soros). It is well known that a group of very wealthy individuals were able to turn Colorado from red to blue through their activism, and presumably this happens all the time throughout the country.
Unions, especially public sector unions, are also to blame. While unions may have been helpful in the early days of the industrial revolution to advocate for workers and blunt the rough edges of unbridled capitalism, they have morphed into overly powerful organizations whose sole purpose is to provide their members with unbridled job security (even when job performance does not warrant it), overly generous benefits and pensions, and the mindset that working with management to advance the best interests of the business is “giving in” to “corporate fat cats”.
Public sector unions are even worse. Employees of local, state and the federal government, teachers, and other civil employees have no business forming unions and endangering the public through strikes, slowdowns, or other work stoppages. They are often highly compensated for the positions they hold, with above market wages and extremely generous benefits and pensions. As union members, they are insulated from the consequences of poor job performance, abusing the public, criminal activities and other actions that would cause a non-union employee in private industry to be fired on the spot. And when a public sector union employee is fired, there is often legal action taken to reinstate the person, at a significant cost to the taxpayers.
Unions are the largest donors to politicians, and they donate overwhelmingly to Democrats.
Republicans have traditionally been associated with “big business” and to this day the myth persists that the GOP is the party of “rich” and of “big business”. While this may have been true to some extent in the past, it is certainly not true today. Big business donates to both parties, and the wealthy seem to be disproportionately supporting the progressive agenda.
This Poll Is Bad News For Candidates Who Support Big, Activist Government
Another thing this poll makes clear is that candidates for public office such as Andrew Romanoff (D CAND – CO6) who support big, activist government are at a significant disadvantage. In an age when people are accustomed to accomplishing their financial, shopping, local government and other tasks online quickly and easily from the convenience of wherever they happen to be; when people expect and are able to customize their experiences to suit their unique personalities and tastes it is unreasonable to expect them to embrace large, monolithic “one-size fits all” government solutions. And since government has the power of law and the legal monopoly on violence, the heavy hand of government is a burden on us all.
Big government is exemplified by the Post Office, which loses money and provides mediocre service, if it were a private business it would go bankrupt. Capitalism is exemplified by Apple, which provides excellent products that people never knew they needed until they have one, and Amazon, which allows a person to shop, order, and pay for a product in a few minutes.
Progressives like Romanoff, Colorado Senator Mark Udall and just about anybody else with a “D” after their name are firm believers in the power of activist government as the solution to all problems and issues facing society. Despite clear proof that free-market capitalism works better at providing superior products and services to willing customers every time, they want the IRS managing healthcare, the Post Office delivering mail, and Amtrak providing transportation.
The Democratic Party seeks power at any cost and will sacrifice any principle, person, group, agenda, or constitutional provision to achieve that goal. To the extent they may once have been the populist party looking out for the “little guy” they are now the party of big government and overweening control. History seems to have forgotten that the Democratic Party was the party of southern slave owners, that they opposed civil rights and blocked women’s suffrage for many years. When it became politically expedient, they reversed themselves, and are now supported by minorities and women.
The Republican Party seems to think that it is a compelling interest of the State to dictate a person’s reproductive and marriage choices, and is so busy fighting losing battles over abortion and gay rights that the ship of state is steaming full speed ahead into the iceberg while they quibble over shuffleboard on the promenade deck. The $17.7 trillion debt that our government has racked up is a real threat to our country’s long-term survival and a horrible legacy to leave to future generations.
Both Parties Need to Adapt to 21st Century Realities
The Democrats need to give up on their dream of disarming law-abiding American citizens and their vision of big government and control of the government to further the progressive agenda. This agenda, as Barry Rubin has documented in his book Silent Revolution, is nothing more than now discredited Marxist/Leninist socialism dressed up for late 20th century America. If the Democrats are to ever regain credibility with the vast middle of America, they need to jettison the progressive element and return to their liberal roots. America is better thanks to the liberal contributions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. America is in danger due to the progressive movement which has hijacked the party.
The Republicans need to give up on the fight to limit same-sex marriage and non-late term abortions. The Democrats have been allowed to frame the debate such that a reasonable objection to taxpayer funding of birth control and abortion is now a full-fledged “War on Women”. The GOP needs to recognize that the demographics of America are changing, as the population is younger, more racially diverse, more open to alternate lifestyles and more tolerant of differences. The GOP should promote the message of freedom, and get better at explaining WHY they are against progressive/Democrat ideas and why their alternative ideas are superior. For example, people who are knowledgeable about economics realize that raising the minimum wage will reduce the pool of minimum wage jobs available, putting people at the bottom of the economic ladder out of entry-level jobs, and Republicans need to do a better job of explaining this.
Just recently I saw a Wall Street Journal editorial entitled “Republican War on Poverty” and I read it as “Republican War on the Poor”. Of course, the article was about how the Republicans have ideas and proposed programs to help the poor, but people are so conditioned by the mass media to see “bad things” about the Republicans that even I interpreted this headline incorrectly at first.
I would love to see the Republican Party return to its roots and become again the party of forward thinking freedom lovers that they once were. The party that was formed to abolish slavery and gave women the vote needs to move into the 21st century as the party of inclusion, of freedom, of responsible governance and leaders of a restoration of the American Dream.
By Richard D. Turnquist
September 21, 2014