Democrats and Better Government Reflect the People's Will
James Hall - From the Left
I can almost see my colleague James foaming at the mouth as he regurgitates the tired litany of mythologies, half-truths,
and misapprehensions about Democrats and the role of government in our nation, and would gladly loan him my hanky to wipe
the foam from his jaws. Just as people of the 18th and 19th centuries bemoaned the end of the Middle Ages and loss of kings
and chivalry, James and his compatriots mourn a perceived loss of buckskinned individualism and hard frontier values. But
the idealistic and ideological picture that James draws of American individualism never really existed in history any more
than the divine right of kings or the idealistic picture of knights in golden armor coming to the rescue of fair maidens.
In reality the rugged individualism and individual freedom that James touts played but a small role in the history
of our nation. More often pioneers, settlers, and colonists acted together in groups and communities to survive, together
they built forts, houses and barns and churches, fought their enemies, and regulated their civil affairs. Every township had
its elected selectmen, every colony its compulsory militia, its legislature and governor. After they fought collectively for
their freedom, Americans abandoned the weak Articles of Confederation for a stronger, more effective central government, ensuring
our survival among powerful empires and nation-states. The concept of government is every bit a part of the warp and woof
of the American psyche as individualism.
Americans do respond with dislike to autocratic government or dishonest
government or inefficient government--history is replete with examples. But replace government with anarchy? Never. Throughout
our history the trend has moved away from anarchy to effective government oversight by and for the people of our nation, making
America the preeminent power in the world today.
Individual freedom plays an important role in our culture, as
reflected in our Bill of Rights, but it does not play the sole role or even the primary role. Our founding fathers knew that
collective action was necessary for our survival as a nation and a people. This truth is revealed in core documents like the
Declaration of Independence, which referred to Americans as "one people," not a collection of individuals, and which
enshrined the principle that governments are instituted to secure the rights of individuals, deriving their powers from the
consent of the governed. The Preamble to the US Constitution, which established by the consent of the "people,"
not individuals, and created the "more perfect union" that is our government, makes it clear that our freedoms are
preserved only through government that has the consent of the governed.
The Democratic Party is the oldest political
party in the nation, with roots going back to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. It has long represented the interests of
average and poor Americans against the interests of the wealthy and corporate interests, and developed policies to support
its position representing ordinary, hardworking Americans. Democrats are primarily responsible for America's social safety
net protecting the very young and old, and for programs raising the poor out of poverty. The Democratic Party has successfully
grown government to fulfill these needs, and does so without apologies to any who would deny help to the poor and destitute
of our land.
You have only to look at the policies of the two major parties to see how enamored Americans have
become of a strong representative government. In the past decade, government grew by 8% during a Democratic president and
Congress. Under a Democratic president and Republican Congress, it grew at a 6% rate. A Republican president and Congress
is trying to protect a 4% growth rate, but will likely settle for at least 5% growth. That's a continued growth of government
even under the Republican Party, supposedly the more conservative, government-distrusting party of the two.
look closely at a few of the Republican Party's campaign platform promises in the past election: it vowed to increase government's
role by establishing a prescription drug benefit for seniors, create an HMO bill of rights that actually preempts state laws,
expand the military, increase aid to public schools, build a huge $100 billion missile shield over the whole country, and
add a privatization program for Social Security that would have the federal government investing heavily in the stock market.
All this from "the party of less government."
The reality is that almost every American believes in government
and wants government to do something for him or her. Liberals want government to create equality under the law; social conservatives
want government to legislate morality; corporations want sweetheart deals and tax breaks. Americans generally want better
public schools, better highways, Social Security, a strong national defense, laws against pollution, and government-funded
research and development to make better medicines and safer consumer products.
The hard reality for libertarians
of James' stripe is that today's Americans want more government, not less. And that's a lucky thing for us. If all Americans
decided to build the Libertarian Paradise that James desires, disbanding our standing army and navy, reducing and crippling
the controls that maintain our economy, it wouldn't take long for a powerful nation state to knock us off. We'd quickly lose
our research and development edge, our technology edge, our economic edge and go the way of the dinosaurs.
Americans won't let that happen. Americans like things just the way they are, thank you, and won't consider anything but incremental
changes to today's government-provided services. Democrats made this possible, and even our Republican opponents understand
this and won't seriously rock the boat. Government works the way it was intended to by the founders, and the rugged individualist
and buckskin crowd have only their mythology of the "good old days" over which to fantasize. Sorry, guys, that's
just the way it is.
In the end, with conservative/libertarian elitists, it always comes down to this: too many of "them" are getting
the vote. I'm sure they'd love to go back to the days when only property-owning white males were allowed to vote or run for
office. The rest of us are only worthy to live and work, not vote, in their morally weak universe. Sorry James, but we Democratic
"deviants" won't put up with your baloney any more.
No, truth isn't determined by numbers, nor by its supposed
existence in a falsified past "golden age." We live in the here and now, and libertarians have to live with the
cold hard fact that in our Republic more government is the norm, not the exception. Last night (as I write this) we heard
the President from the "Party of Less Government" announce new federal funding and involvement for stem cell research.
He did so because the people of this country want and expect government to take the role in financing and regulating important
scientific breakthroughs, the kind that make our country strong and the leader of the world.
James can hide behind
his sneer and claim to be the sole purveyor of Truth with a capital "T." But so does the harmless street bum at
the corner who will tell anyone who'll listen that Space Aliens are watching over us. No, James, in the words of a bygone
campaign, "Where's the Beef?" If libertarians reflect the Truth and we Democrats don't, then why do their words
fall on unconvinced ears? Why do today's Americans, liberal and conservative alike, expect more out of their government,
James Hall, From the Left