In any form of government, elite class will speak loudest
Before we go out, my wife Sandi invariably cautions me, “now, Honey, don’t talk about religion or politics.”
It’s one of those warnings that she hopes will keep me inbounds, but which she knows will present little barrier to my appetite for discussing either, or both.
Politics – and perhaps religion, as well – should command our passion and interest as much, if not more so, than whether the Phillies will win more than they lose this year, or whether a new coach can get the Eagles in the playoffs in the fall.
Politics has been a part of my life forever. My dad, a tenant farmer, was a Democrat precinct committeeman in rural Illinois, where I carried the petitions in 1960 through our hometown Hume (400 people, where my grandad was mayor) for the Kerr-Mills Bill, which became the foundation for Medicare. I passed out literature and put up signs for JFK-LBJ, and, in 1964, I put out signs again for LBJ.
In 1966, even before I was able to vote for the first time in 1968 – for Hubert Humphrey, I was elected vice president of the Campus Democrats at the University of Illinois.
It was, I guess, the 1972 election, when I voted for Richard Nixon, where principle – that is, a focus on a variety of reasonably objective standards and expectations – elevated itself for me over party in creating a preference for a candidate. I’ve kept that lifelong Democrat registration, but I’ve been an independent voter ever since, as well, as my party moved farther and farther left of me.
America at heart is a democracy, but it’s a representative democracy, which means it’s a republic. Our views are (supposedly) aggregated and represented by someone elected to speak and vote for us. That occurs in the nominating process, as well as in legislative bodies.
And democracies, like every form of government, never have treated everyone the same, in terms of the “voices” that are heard in governing. Hasn’t happened. Never will happen.
Elites always will have greater voice. Elites come in the form of donors (wealthy or everyday), party leaders, party activists, the news media, editorialists, lobbyists, neighbors, friends, business interests, labor interests, political interests, clients of government, etc. No, it seems antithetical to acknowledge, but not all voices are the same.
Elites, too, because they tend to transcend individual elections and the issues du jour, also have some resilience. Critics often would label such governments with semi-permanent and resilient patronage “oligarchies,” but I don’t think that’s fair criticism.
Populism has been the Achilles’ heel of such governments as ours. In answering voters’ WIIFM question (what’s in it for me?), politicians expand the role of government beyond the reasons it was created – to provide for us collectively what we could not provide for ourselves individually through the market; e.g., defense, statecraft, infrastructure, public education, courts – to take from some and give to others, yes, confiscate and redistribute.
For the wealthy, and big corporations, it would seem to be “payback time,” as populists in both parties, Sen. Bernie Sanders on the D side and Donald Trump on the R side, seem in ascendancy.
Corporate welfare is not good, and no good excuse exists for it, or for the unconscionable sins of Wall Street and even Main Street that undermine public confidence in business. That government too often looks the other way reminds us of the hypocrisy of politics, and politicians.
But tearing down and dismantling a quasi-free market system because it allows some people to succeed on merit, if they work hard enough and are lucky enough, and some others to fail on merit, whether for lack of talent or abundance of indolence, is tearing down a system that has put America at the forefront of the nations of the globe, allowing us as citizens to, more than most, become the masters of our own destiny. (No, the playing field never will be 100 percent level, or fair; some will always start farther ahead than others, but no excuse exists for systematically denying opportunity!)
Communism for nearly a half-century was the sworn enemy of America, from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall and crumbling of the Soviet Union. More than 10 million of us put on uniforms during the Vietnam-era to fight against it, and likely well over 20 million of us swore with our lives to “protect and defend” during that half century.
Today, rebranded with a less pejorative name and refreshed with a grandfatherly spokesman, it presents itself again, this time asking, not threatening, citizens – and the 50 states that govern them – to relinquish more rights and privileges to a strong central government in exchange for “goodies.”
When you see me, if my wife’s not around, ask me how I really feel!