This is the second in a three part blog series. As an observer of American politics more than as an activist, I am commenting on what I see. The first blog was Stuck in the Middle of American Politics (A).
The Tea Party movement is an American political Insurgency movement. Generally insurgent groups have it easy – all they have to do is to attack in order to be perceived as successful. This is how insurgents throughout the world keep established governments off balance. All they have to do is attack, not create or protect or provide. But they don’t have the responsibility of governing. If or when they come to power, they can no longer just rely on an “anti-…” policy for when they come to power they are no longer the opposition but have become the establishment. A political party cannot govern simply by being against what is or what was, for they become what is. And the American tendency to see government as the problem will continue even if anti-big government folk come to power, for in shrinking the government they will be perceived by the rest of the country as Washington still at work but at the expense of the people. What the Tea Party has to show is not what they don’t like about what is (all politicians have long lists of what they oppose), but precisely what would they eliminate, what would they replace it with, exactly what the U. S. budget would look like with them in power and specifying what government programs would be terminated, in order to let the voters then decide if this is what they really envisioned by changing Washington. Voters, not just politicians, love their entitlements – they usually just oppose the entitlements of others. It is easier to be against the government than to be for the government. When the advocates of smaller government spell out the details of what would have to be cut to attain smaller government, I wonder whether even in their own ranks they would agree with what would be eliminated and what would replace what is. “Smaller government” is a popular idea right now, but when the federal government would shrink by 20%, many of these same folk (my prediction) would be complaining about the failure of government to get things done.
The problem with big government is it is addicting especially to politicians because they can use it to bring the bacon home to their districts. How many anti-big government advocates would get re-elected in districts which also suffered massive monetary cutbacks due to shrinking the federal government spending in their districts? My guess is many would fall to the next wave of anti-government reaction because they would then represent the government. We all hate big government spending – in districts other than our own. The American political principle is “me” – what do I get out of this? How do I personally benefit from this? The notion of the nation is left far behind. How can this be conceived of as patriotic? There needs to be some sense of civic duty and responsibility – not everything the government does is for “me” but it always should be serving the public interest.
Anti-government thinking seems to be a major viewpoint in American politics, shared by many Americans. Politicians have all played that “outsider” card so much, calling for change in every election, that American voters have been brain washed into thinking changing Washington can be accomplished by voting in candidates from the same two political parties who created the current situation and who already control everything anyway. Politicians at least believe that changing the political party in power is the key to change, but maybe what is needed is changing the parties themselves, or the two party system or changing the kind of people we elect to office.
What happens to a nation, and to a government, when all sides – conservatives and liberals want change and no one likes what is, when in fact it is these same political philosophies and parties which created what is?
The choice then really isn’t a clear difference between what is and what changes are proposed, but rather the choice becomes between two variations on what is. Thus despite our endlessly voting for change we tend to get more of the same, just a Democratic or Republican version of the same old same old. We have no sense at all of making a choice between what is and an alternative because all that is ever offered in increasingly polarized fashion are two variations on what is.
Additionally, I have to wonder whether the constant anti-Washington/government attitude is sustainable. We have a huge military sworn to defend the U.S., but what if they all, egged on by the ranting and railing of media political entertainers cum commentators, come to believe that in fact the government is the problem?
Outside our country, no doubt there are many enemies of America who share the same anti-Washington attitude that is cultivated here at home. The constant anti-establishment diet we are being fed does very little to encourage improving America but does a lot to nurture constant dissatisfaction with our homeland. We need some leaders to come forward to encourage us to make America a better place rather than simply tear down what is wrong with our country. President Reagan to me is the last president who successfully played both the government is the problem card along with the “there you go again” nay-saying America card against his political rivals.
Next: Stuck in the Middle of American Politics (C)