Thursday, December 09, 2010

Why There Is A Permanent Republican Majority

There's no forever in politics. So politically speaking, permanence is a relative term. But a generation or even a decade feels like forever.

By that measure, there is a permanent Republican majority in America and it extends into the future as far as the eye can see. Yes, I do realize there's a Democrat in the White House and the Democrats still will control the U.S. Senate in the new year. But can anyone look at Obama's tax-cut deal and fail to see that it's really the likes of Jon Kyl, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who are calling the shots?

Some 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan announced to the world that government is not the solution, it's the problem. Ever since, most everything that's come out of the mouths of Republicans has been a variation on that theme. And more often than not over the course of the last three decades, voters have elected Republicans to key offices. Every once in a while, they hand over the keys to a Democrat or two, but almost always it turns out to be a triangulated if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em Democrat like Bill Clinton, who of course announced to the world that the era of big government is over. More on that theme later.

A normal person hears talk of triangulation and has visions of being strangled by a geometry teacher. A Clinton or an Obama sees a lifeboat.

Liberalism as an ideology is shrinking. Even the word "liberal" has been turned into an expletive, as in "Conservatives say the way to end federal budget deficits is to cut taxes for the richest 2% of Americans, turn the social safety net into a single high wire, and engage in preemptive warfare instead of waiting for enemies to attack. No leading (expletive deleted) could be reached for comment."

Take a moment to look at Gallup's most recent polling on the most respected professions in America. What's interesting is that four of the top eight – military officers, grade school teachers, police officers and judges – are government employees. Also in the top 10 are nurses and doctors, quite a few of whom also are employed by the government.

Yet Americans hate the government and see it as the problem. That's because of how elected officials are regarded. Look again at Gallup's poll. Members of Congress and state office holders are at the bottom of the list, right there with lobbyists and car salesmen. Many of those who toil in government jobs are highly respected for their service, but we don't get to vote for soldiers or teachers or police officers. We vote for politicians who sometimes hire lobbyists to run their offices and frequently become lobbyists and cash in on K Street as soon as they leave office.

Most Americans clearly don't have much use for either of the major political parties, but the Republican Party becomes the default option because it is seen as the anti-government party. That is why the Republicans have been in the driver's seat for 30 years and will remain at the controls into the foreseeable future.

There is a way out for the Democrats, of course. They can do what the Republicans did 30 years ago and name the problem. And name the enemy who is the root of the problem.

In the late 1800s Rockefeller, Carnegie and Vanderbilt became household names. That wasn't an accident. They called 'em robber barons. These were the faces that still came to mind when FDR railed against the economic royalists at the height of the Great Depression. As he named the problem and named the enemy, he was even able to say out loud that paying taxes is a privilege, not a sacrifice. And most Americans revered him, making him the only four-term president this country has ever had or ever will have.

Does the name Edward Liddy ring a bell? How about Herbert Allison? John Koskinen? Frederick Henderson? Vikram Pandit? Kenneth Lewis? These are all modern-day CEOs who ran their companies into the ground and ran our economy off a cliff. They should be held accountable for the harm they've done to our country. We don't even know who the hell they are.

There is a reason the villains have not been named, not been held accountable. Look at Obama's donor list. Closer to home, it's the same story.

There is a road to redemption for the Democrats. But it is a road the party's establishment cannot imagine traveling.

1 comment:

Tom McCann said...

I thought the Enron story was a missed opportunity to tie criminal business acitvities to the politicians who aid and abet them. It wasn't a huge reach to tie the two together since George W. Bush was flying on Ken Lay's private jet during the campaign.

There was some coverage of the business story, but not a lot of coverage tying the business story to the political culture and corruption that supported it.