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The thing in the bathtub

My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.
-Grover Norquist

One of the things I don't do often enough is sit down and talk politics with windelina. The reason I say that is because in spite of the fact that we're both fairly partisan people, we do sometimes agree on some fundamental things...such as the Federal government being way too rich and powerful. I have to admit I was surprised, as we chatted over the quesadillas and burritos, to hear this sort of thing from her. Isn't the default DFL position that bigger government is better, and that the cradle-to-grave welfare states of Europe are the model we should be following? Isn't the default GOP position that we should be wedging dynamite under the cornerstones of the Energy, Education, and Transportation Departments after giving all the bureaucrats their pink slips so they can join the Amtrak and CPB employees in the private sector?

On the other hand, after the unrestrained gluttony practiced by our Congresscritters these last five years with no vetoes by W to stay their snouts, one can be forgiven for becoming confused...things are almost at a pass where I'm half hoping Tom DeLay gets convicted. No, I don't really think he's guilty of having violated some dumbass campaign finance regulation, but I do think he deserves some kind of payback for having sold the fiscal conservative wing of the GOP down the river in return for accepting the old New Deal model of political success: if you can't convince them to join you, bribe them with pork.
This is bad If for no other reason than that it satisfies the cynics who maintain there really isn't any difference between the Democrats and the Republicans after all, and I don't think that's a good thing.

I suspect windelina, like a lot of other Democrats, is waking up to something Republicans used to take as an article of faith: big government is inherently bad, because sooner or later it's going to be run by people who don't see things the way you do. When that day comes, they're liable to use all that gubmint power to put the screws to you, and the consquences of that sort of behavior can be seen as far back as the Roman Republic. So maybe we're seeing federalism finally getting its own Strange New Respect award, though in this case it's not the recipient but the awards committee shifting ideological ground. Sure, the Kos Kidz and O-Dub may still dream their feverish dreams about a Great Angry Leftist Revolution just around the corner, but I think most Democrats are a lot smarter than that.

I'm seeing the Porkbusters project as a promising sign in this regard. Bloggers from both ends of the political spectrum are piling onto this effort, and Jeff Jarvis thinks it might be the leading edge of an internet-based movement to hold Congress responsible for this kind of nonsense and pressure them into stopping it. Perhaps the movement needs a catchy slogan, something like "Don Young delenda est!" (Hey, it worked for Cato, right?)

I think a lot of the interparty/Red State-Blue State hostility has its roots more in the NYDCLA media culture and its obsessive focus on conflict than it does in reality...good heavens, if we all hated each other that much I daresay the shooting would have five years ago, but instead we manage to work together, put on anime & SF conventions together, and sometimes do lunch without heaving the salsa at each other in a fit of rage. Maybe, just maybe, we can finally all agree that Washington needs to be cut down to size so that we can concentrate on the more important things in St. Paul, Des Moines, Madison, Annapolis and Richmond. I think it would do a world of good for a lot of people.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
chebutykin
Oct. 3rd, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
I was pointed to something I thought was quite nifty, and I thought you might think it nifty as well:

http://daoureport.salon.com/

Yeah, it's based at liberal stronghold Salon.com, and you have to watch an ad to see the whole thing for free, but I admire the concept. Basically, it's a side-by-side tally of what both conservative and liberal blogs are saying on any given day. Very interesting to see both spins rolled up on the same page, without outside commentary either way.

I think I'll be checking on this puppy frequently from now on.
wombat_socho
Oct. 3rd, 2005 11:14 pm (UTC)
Salon's not completely off the reservation in my eyes - they used to run Camille Paglia's column, after all, and still publish stuff by Christopher Hitchens. This sounds pretty interesting, and something that nobody else has been doing, so props to them!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 4th, 2005 02:02 am (UTC)
Just off the top of my head... my personal theory is that neither party really knows what the heck it wants from the government in terms of the power it has.

I've heard repubs say they don't want "big government" only to support quite restrictive interventions if it's in the name of "safety" (and some of these are good legislations, but it's still government playing Big Brother in a big fat way). Things like arguing for Constitutional Amendments to legislate what marriage is is also sort of a "let's give all the power to the federal government" thing, yet the Repubs do it (I would think traditionally they would stick to fighting for that to be a state right and then lobby on their state level for what they want to be legisalted).

Likewise, demos argue for better across the board environmental protections (again, many of these are good--but intervening--others are too broad based and aren't effective); they want universal health care and give handouts to the poor. They want the government to be caretakers; in the worst light, they want it to be a big coddling nanny and not encourage people to stand up on their own. But they fear other kinds of legislation--they don't like much of the Patriot Act, which they feel infringe on a lot of freedom, etc. etc.

What repubs want is "safety" which the demos call "oppression;" what the demos want is "equal opportunity" and "health protection" which the repubs call "oppression of business" and "meddling." They all want the Feds to give them waht they want, and they all want the Feds to be responsible for it, and yet only when it ISN'T what they want do they call it "big government."

Not gonna argue on who's wrong or right here (I am unashamedly liberal but I don't necessarily agree with everything the democratic party says or does... specially since they've been a bunch of wishy washy losers lately). The point is both sides are inconsistent.

I have to say, there is something to the idea of emphasizing States' rights and the power states have. I mean, would New York and Wisconsin really want to be operated exactly the same way? They have different populaces, different economies, different cultures. It's hard to see where the line should be drawn.

And again, this is all off the top of my head. I hadn't been thinking of politics much lately.

DeathQuaker
wombat_socho
Oct. 4th, 2005 04:29 pm (UTC)
And again, this is all off the top of my head. I hadn't been thinking of politics much lately.

Who could blame you?

I think part of the problem is that both the Republicans and the Democrats are big parties, with a lot of groups contending for power within the party. I recall posting once that the two parties aren't so much affinity groups as noyaux, groups defined by the enemies they have in common. BTW, this is also a useful term for understanding the group dynamics of the Spanish Nationalists (Rebels) and Republicans (Loyalists), but let's not examine that analogy too closely. So while it certainly looks contradictory to have Republicans insisting on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the one hand while carping about big government on the other, you have to realize that very few Republicans are doing both. You also have Republicans who aren't so much interested in ideology as they are in gaining and using power, former speaker DeLay and King of Pork Don Young being two of them.

So there's inconsistency at the party level with the GOP because the libertarians want smaller government while some of the Christian Right want the Feds to make certain things & practices illegal. You also see this with the Democrats, whose union supporters quite often insist on laws and regulations detrimental to the urban blacks who make up a substantial part of the party's base.

We might not see so much of this contradictory behavior if we had a parliamentary system similar to Canada, Germany or Israel, since a lot of the more extreme positions would be staked out by smaller parties, some of which are only represented at the state level, but then again we'd probably see more unstable coalition governments and more power to the bureaucracy. Which is something I think none of us want to see.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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