Who Dares Stand For Government?
Republicans have systematically & strategically undermined people’s faith in government for decades. Who will restore that faith?
Most of my political writing is solution-oriented. This is not that.
This is the article I will keep referencing back to when I am making the case for solutions which show what government can and should be doing to make life better for the citizens it represents.
The Republican Party has been strategically and systematically undermining American’s faith in government for over two and a half decades now. The ideas which Reagan spawned in the early 80’s were re-birthed on steroids by Newt Gingrich in the mid-90’s. Since then, the party has been committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that Americans see government always as the problem, never a solution.
To be sure, even the best governments have flaws and can be wasteful and intrusive. However, they are also the only means by which we can collectively deal with issues we can are unable to manage individually.
Loss of faith in government has directly contributed to the slow-motion disaster that is unfolding before us now.
So where have the Democrats been? Why don’t people view their politics and policies as a counterpoint to the Republicans narrative?
The issue is that while Republicans have been making a clear case about the many ways government is lacking, and pushing that viewpoint at every opportunity, the Democrats narrative is far less clear. It certainly doesn’t make much of a compelling case for government.
Over the past twenty years, Democrats have mostly campaigned and governed in opposition to what Republicans are doing, essentially validating the antigovernment narrative by proxy. When they do advance their own agenda, it is usually narrowly focused, incremental, and in no way part of any larger pro-government narrative.
Making matters worse, Democrats are every bit as reliant & beholden to big-moneyed special interest donors as Republicans are. This means that even when Democrats enjoy ‘successes’, it often isn’t seen that way beyond the narrow corridors of Washington, or within the echo chamber of the D.C. media.
People see how big money donors and large corporations are treated, and they then contrast that with their own individual experiences with government, which are usually nowhere near so positive.
Whether it be an encounter with the police, a fine for fishing/hunting without a license, oppressive fees and regulations to start or run a business, or any other number of ways…government always seem to come down hard on regular folks, while the political donor class gets a free pass.
When government does do something good, it often passes unnoticed, and so the idea that we would be better off without it continues to gain traction.
This is why poll after poll shows fairly broad public support for policies which Democrats ostensibly support, yet it never seems to lead to anywhere near that same level of support for the party itself.
The one time the Democratic Party pieced together a pro-government narrative was during Obama’s 2008 campaign, inspiring millions and giving them Hope that things might actually start to Change for the better.
That hope was quickly dashed when Wall Street was made whole after the housing market crash (which they helped cause), while ordinary Americans were left to fend for themselves.
Any which might have remained mostly died during the fight to pass Obamacare, an enormous giveaway to the health care industry that cemented a broken system into place in order to provide the most low-hanging benefits to consumers and patients.
This gave rise to the Tea Party, with the disastrous (for Democrats) 2010 midterm soon to follow. Since then, the party and its supporters have been forced to defend this deeply flawed law, even as the cost of health care continues to skyrocket and many of the underlying problems persist.
Similarly, the failure to defend Americans against Wall Street gave rise to the Occupy movement.
Obama and Democrats sold people on the idea that government could make their lives better, and then failed to follow through, causing an entire generation of voters to become extremely disillusioned about the government’s ability to do anything positive for them. This has been one of the biggest failings of the Democratic Party, and far outweighs any good done during the Obama years.
People’s trust in government was so shaken, that we turned to a charlatan like Donald Trump in response…with predictable results. There were other reasons to be sure, but do not discount this as one of the major ones.
Now we stand at a crossroads. People have gotten a good look at an America where the government behaves as if it is powerless to do anything of value for those it represents. Many are rightfully horrified.
What is desperately needed is a party whose members aggressively & consistently lay out a vision for a government that works to improve the lives of its people. This vision must addresses how government is necessary to deal with those issues we cannot tackle individually, such as protecting the environment, ensuring huge corporations play by the rules, creating opportunity for all and providing a safety net for when misfortune befalls people through no fault of their own.
The best hope for this obviously lies with the Democrats, even despite their past failings, and there are some voices within the party beginning to make a case for what government can do.
However, if the party as a whole is unable to divorce itself from the politics of cronyism and continues to fail at offering a narrative that counters the antigovernment one being put forth by Republicans…people will soon look toward other options. Some already have.
In the short-term, at least, this would mostly benefit those undermining people’s faith in government and lead to even darker days ahead.
Let us hope we find enough new Democratic voices that are up to the task…though I am not wildly optimistic.
As I said, none of this is meant to provide a solution. I have multiple upcoming writings planned for the weeks & months to come. Taken together, those will provide the sort of narrative to which I am referring.
What this essay is meant to accomplish is to sound the alarm. It is a warning of what will happen if we do not begin to offer people a counter-narrative to the antigovernment rhetoric that has wormed its way deep into the American psyche.
Originally published at https://www.equalityofopportunity.com.