Sunday, October 31, 2010
All the Trains Run Through Washington D.C.
As the day of decision draws near, euphoria is sweeping across the ranks of those who have fought so hard to get to this day. There was a time when in the shadow of Obama's victory such a day seemed impossible. When it felt like the left had irreversibly placed its brand on America and that we had been force marched on a road leading down into Socialism. Now it seems as if there might be a way out, but that way out may also be deceptive. It is important to remember that while the Democrats are a major source of the problem, they are only taking advantage of a broken system. They are hyenas sniffing around a dying animals, vultures circling above a struggling figure trying to reach the next dune over. The left's takeover of the Democratic party has accelerated the process, but it did not begin the process.
The story of the breakdown of America is not that of one party of evil malefactors smirking and rubbing their hands, while their saintly opposite numbers stand in their path and cry, "Please, have you no shame". That is the narrative that both parties are comfortable with, but it is not the one that tells the story. The Democrats do have the worst of it, because their enthusiastic embrace of machine politics, of character assassination and even treason has made them by far the worst of the two parties. Their fusion of greed and ideology has helped lead to everything from a giant welfare state, to social instability, street riots and socialism. But they could not have done it alone.
And in the next two years, that is an ugly fact that we will begin to rediscover all over again, around the same time Republicans rediscover the joys of bipartisanship, particularly when there's fine pork to be had on the table. An administration without a strong congressional majority tends to be spend more, not less, that is because pork is the price of bipartisanship. When the Democrats took Congress in 2006, the Bush Administration's spending plans rose up. Because the price of bipartisanship is everyone getting a slice of the pie. And a party on the way up, is a party whose politicians are more enthusiastic about getting their share of the pie.
And that's the core of the problem. Not the pork alone, or the nanny state ideology of socialism or any of it. It's all of it together and it's the system that makes it happen.
After each crisis, we rebuilt America as a country with a stronger central government and more power and money running through it. The Soviet Union designed its rail system so that all the trains had to run through Moscow. No matter where the trains were meant to go, they had to go to Moscow first. We've built the same kind of government, where everything from education to finance to workplace safety to the brand of car you drive has to go through Washington D.C.
America has become a country with a million laws, a billion regulations and a trillion standards all of which define how we live. We have become puppets dangling on strings held in federal buildings, dancing to the tune of the latest study, the next survey, the best proposal from some think tank or agency or assorted collection of busybodies with six figure salaries dedicated to telling everyone what to do all the time. But this isn't just about the loss of freedom. It's about the loss of agency.
Countless Americans have become puppets, transformed into problems for some collection of mangy bureaucrats to solve. And some of them have embraced that role. We can see the disaster that has spawned in the black community, but it goes well beyond that. It's present among every demographic, every race, every gender and creed. It defines what life under socialism is really like. That sense of waiting in an endless line to be told what to do. And knowing that it's all futile, but going through the process anyway. It is what crafts the numbing sense of failure that rapidly explodes into violence when an entitlement is withdrawn. It leads to neighborhoods of dirty streets, easy stabbings and a general sense of neglect. Because everyone is waiting for nothing at all. Everyone is waiting for the trains to finish running through Washington D.C.
It didn't have to be this way, but it is. Because that is the real danger of government. Corporate monopolies come and go. A tyrant can choke on a lettuce leaf. A fanatical religion can sputter out. But a system keeps right on chugging along. Because systems are virtually unkillable, so long as there's money and power for everyone. A political elite that becomes entrenched can take down the entire system with it, because the system itself has become infected by their own ambitions and interests. The system becomes a tool of those ambitions and interests, so that anyone who takes power, becomes corrupted by it. And that is the greatest danger that we face today.
The political elite has rewritten the rules so that all the trains, all the money and power runs through their system, and in their way. It has devalued local rights, in favor of national powers. It has devalued individual rights, in favor of government rights. At every turn it has empowered government, while disempowering the people. And it has gone mostly unchecked, because even the few ideological battles that have been fought, have rarely been over whether there should be government powers over individual rights, but rather over who should be in control of deciding what rights there still are.
Most of what we have in the way of civil rights has meant the transfer of power from one branch of government to another. And typically that transfer has been one way. Some have benefited from that transfer in the short term, but in the long term, it has meant more power for fewer people. And the transfer has continued. Today unelected judges have more power to decide what rights people will have, than the people themselves. It has become an article of faith among the political elite, that the general public cannot be trusted with self-government. Instead that they must be taken care of, looked after like troublesome children to see that they don't fall and cut themselves every time they step outdoors.
Of course it behooves those who want unlimited power to treat the general public that way, to baby them and gaslight them, to dangle shiny objects and angry words, and then chuckle because they know that no matter how an election turns out, the trains will still keep going to the same place. And the trains are more than just power. They are filled with money. Virtually unlimited amounts of money. Not only a cut from commercial transactions, individual incomes and other forms of taxation, but the ability to borrow money in the name of the country. Money isn't just money, it's power. Often power at its most naked.
The ability to spend unlimited amounts of money translates easily into unlimited power. It becomes childishly easy to use that money to build power structures, NGO's, think tanks, unions, grass roots organizations, and all the rest, that turn democracy into a sham. To boil it down into one hand washing the other, passing money back and forth, between government and its support structures. And then anyone outside the system stops mattering at all. Becomes an annoying buzz that you beat down with union thugs, smear in the press, persecute and hound, fine and intimidate, until they go away. Because it isn't their country anymore, it's yours. And they're the ones driving, while you're sitting in the back.
Democratic elections do not create a better brand of leader necessarily, they are meant only to prevent them from becoming entrenched. That is why Washington D.C. has become a vile parody of the man it is named after, a man who represented a brand of leadership that was willing to abandon power, in order to prevent exactly that kind of entrenchment. To free America of kings and tyrants, of a small circle of ministers and appointees hoarding power endlessly for their own ends. But while America has no king, it has princes. The latest prince who flies around the world and around the country, to prance self-righteously in front of audiences is the worst, but not the last or the least of them.
The system is broken, because it has become a tool for corruption, and a tool of corruption. It is difficult and almost pointless to try and function within the system without becoming part of that corruption. Because once the system exists to spend money, anyone who tries to get into the system in order to not spend money, is not just fighting for reform, but to turn the whole thing completely around and put everyone out of a job. Imagine someone joining the army in order not to fight wars, or joining a company in order to lose money-- that's the task lying before someone trying to get elected to congress in order to not spend money.
That is how bad things have gotten. But they didn't get this bad overnight. It got there because we were overconfident, we thought that American greatness meant that we deserved a great government. It got there because monopolies frightened people badly enough that expanding government seemed like a necessary defense. It got there because every time we had a crisis, every time we went through a war, and every time we felt afraid, we turned to government. From wars through depressions through turbulent change, we turned to government. And government got big and powerful enough to turn on us. Instead of men riding government... governments began to ride men instead.
The ideology of the left has turned all that to its own purposes, merging political corruption into ideology, spending in order to bankrupt and regulating in order to control-- but it began to work with the existing corruption and the existing mechanisms of power. Some of the old time Democratic party machinery is baffled by the Obama Administration because they understand government as a vehicle for political corruption, while the Obama Administration is endangered their profits, in order to pursue ideological ends. These are the people who actually think that Hillary Clinton represented a non-ideological alternative. But while Obama represents a political extreme, it's only an extension of what already existed.
And that brings us to a Republican victory. The end of the road isn't here yet. We're a long way from it. Public dissatisfaction and worries over the economy have made it possible to seriously raise questions and elect candidates that would have been inconceivable several years back. It's an important first step, but not the last step by any stretch of the imagination. When the economy recovers, people will quickly forget. Politicians will quickly rediscover how much fun pork can be. Some will grumble, but go along. Because the sun is shining and that means everything must be all-right.
Since Wilson, the Republicans have tried to play the voice of reason, the moderates who accept and try to repackage the legislative radicalism of the Democrats, into a more reasonable package. They water it down, often they expand on it, but they don't really change it. If the Republicans actually repeal ObamaCare, then it will be an important moment when the tide turned. But I suspect they will not, because it's easier to rise to power on criticism of a Democratic program, than to dare to dispose of the program itself. It's easier to criticize, than to court controversy by bringing change. But it needs to change. Because the system is broken. Because we have routed all our trains through one place, and the trains go there, but they often don't come back.
Our challenge is to be more than a vehicle for one party's political return to power. To be more than tools, but to be changers. This is about more than tax cuts or even ObamaCare. It is about turning back the clock on government and restoring power to the people again. If we can do that, then we can start fixing a system that has been hijacked by an entrenched political elite for its own benefit. If we can't, then we will only be overseeing another phase of its collapse. By all means, go out and vote, but remember that voting is only the first step. The real work is just beginning.