The politics of flattery and the right tone
The United States has had more serious problems than the current debt crisis, but the obstacles to a solution make it appear much greater than it is. The solution is to stop the vicious cycle of spending without restraint. But what stands in the way are the Democrats’ policy of flattering their core constituencies and Republicans’ alleged failure to set the “right” tone.
The basic political fact that places limitations on our country’s fiscal prudence is the Democrats’ transfer of Chicago-style machine politics to the national level. Like the municipal party machines of old that were driven by the spoils of office and patronage, today’s Democrat party has fashioned a majority coalition of self-interested pressure groups that are indifferent, if not downright hostile, to the common good.
Public employee unions, funded by the forcible contributions of government employees, spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours turning out their supporters while Republicans rely largely on the citizens’ sense of civic duty. Despite Republican enthusiasm and a decline of enthusiasm among Democrats, the machine delivered the goods.
Thus, President Obama refuses to consider any real or palpable cuts in federal spending, refinements of entitlement programs, or limitations on taxation or borrowing because he prefers to flatter the recipients of federal largesse and slander our most productive citizens.
Asking anyone currently or potentially benefiting from the massive federal commitment to income redistribution of wealth to make sacrifices — for the sake of putting our fiscal house in order or enabling job creators to make the investments necessary to revitalizing trade and commerce and providing increased employment — is simply not under consideration.
Remember Sandra Fluke, the privileged student of the Georgetown law school who moralized about her alleged right to have her birth control pills paid for by other people? Or the Occupy Wall Street crowd that trashed our cities in a crusade against a non-existent ruling class of two percent? Or the misguided minority rebelling against nature and morality for the sake of same-sex marriage?
Why on earth are we making public policy turn on the personal preferences, ideological fixations and disordered lives of “low-information voters” who think government is all about them? It is a hard truth but Democrats’ flattery of the passions of these groups trumps the public good.
Republicans evidently have lost ground among certain powerful voting blocs because they have failed to show the “right tone” with them. For example, if Republicans are cool to the idea of granting citizenship to millions of illegal aliens then they are guilty of “insensitivity.” For another example, if they are concerned about the increasing number of people on food stamps, they are racist. For still another, if they believe that not only rich people but also not-so-rich people should pay their “fair share” of income taxes, they are tools of the wealthy.
Of course, Republicans need to “man up” when it comes to winning the votes of citizens that could not bring themselves to vote for them or chose to vote Democrat. Politics is not for snivelers. But let us not deceive ourselves about the low state into which our politics have fallen wherein we are enjoined to treat our fellow citizens like spoiled children who we must not keep from getting their way.
While a federal government divided between Democrats and Republicans struggles to reach some sort of compromise between their widely divergent policy commitments, many citizens are furious at their failure. However, this result could have been avoided had they voted for more Republicans who are actually determined to reduce the pattern of deficit spending rather than perpetuating it.
Politics is not merely a marketplace in which voters pick their favorites based on clever advertising. It requires the mature participation of full-fledged citizens who realize that it is ultimately their responsibility to take part and not merely carp from the sidelines. We, the people, are sovereign. What we don’t need are flatterers who prefer to ignore the country’s problems in their unprincipled pursuit of public office.
Our level of political literacy has reached a very low point. Fewer and fewer people understand that the Constitution established a government of limited powers and divided authority between separate branches. If they persist in believing that government exists to gratify all their desires, the price paid will be the loss of liberty and equality to a government hostile to the public good and ultimately unanswerable to the public will.