A distinguished columnist, editor and foreign correspondent, Wes Pruden has been a leading voice of conservative thought for more than three decades.
Winning the war against 'civility'
If only the peasants would sit up and pay attention, the liberal nannies could straighten out "the mess" in Washington overnight.
The nannies, Democrats almost to the man (and woman), are frustrated that the system is working the way it was designed to work -- with arguments (some of them angry), querulous debates and contentious disputation, leading at last to a fragile but workable consensus.
This frightens liberals who have controlled the national debate for lo, these many decades. Some of them prescribe a cure called "civility," which, accurately translated, means "sit down, shut up, and eat your spinach."
A little less debate and a little more acquiescence would, for current example, resolve the debate over extension of the payroll tax cut, set to expire with the year. President Obama is trying to sound enthusiastic about the payroll tax cut extension, making all manner of noise about how he's looking out for "the little people" while the Republicans are only interested in the good fortunes of tycoons who light their illegal Cuban cigars with thousand-dollar bills. But what the president is really enthusiastic about is getting congressional approval of $1 trillion (or maybe more, we're only talking multiples of zeroes) in new federal spending.
The partisan passion could be softened with "civility," followed by a vote approving a continuation of his profligate ways. It's not really rocket science. It's so simple you might think even a cave man (i.e., a Republican) could master it.
Naturally the liberals -- or "progressives," as the people who stunk up the word "liberal" now want to be called -- find others to blame for the parlous condition of the body politic. The monthly Bulletin of the reliably liberal American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) blames air conditioning, cable-TV and Thomas Jefferson. Tamara Lytle, writing in the current issue, makes the case that this array of bad phenomena is responsible for the polarization of the electorate, the "permanent campaign," "citizen shortcomings," the "dysfunctional design" of government by the Founding Fathers, and the rule of the "special interests."
So frustrated are the people, she argues, "that the tea party and the Occupy Wall Street movements have sprung up from opposite ends of the political spectrum to voice public anger at the federal government." If "the system" worked like it once did, and the way it ought to, there would be no public anger because the nannies would have had their way with the spinach. Alas, now a handful of newspapers, cable-TV networks and Internet blogs have given voice to the peasants who once had to tug their forelocks and say "yessir, boss," and no sass or back talk. Such were the "civil" times.
"The system is broken," mourns David Gergen, the director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard (naturally). "You'd have to be blind not to see dysfunction in government. And if you're blind, you'd hear it." Actually, blind people are perfectly capable of "seeing" dysfunction, too, and many do. They see dysfunction with a clarity that escapes Mr. Gergen, blinded as he is by politically correct eyesight. Even the blind see that the cure for dysfunction is fewer laws, not more; fewer regulations written by unelected bureaucrats, not more; smaller government, not larger; and more trust in the wisdom of the people, not less. Where you stand always depends on where you're sitting.
The rap on air conditioning, one of the great blessings of the 20th century, is that it enabled the growth of cities in the sunny precincts. Before air conditioning tamed ferocious summers, cities like Atlanta, Miami, Jacksonville, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix were small towns asleep in the sun, where nothing moved in June, July and August. Now they're powerhouse cities, redoubts of Republican voters, and of course this is bad. As air conditioning spread, many retirees moved south with their conservative politics, making the South even "more . . . Republican and tilting parts of the urban Midwest and Northeast more Democratic," writes Miss Lytle of the AARP. She might have observed, but didn't, that this further increased the obstructionist strength of the liberals in the Northeast unable to "grow" with the times.
Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Father to whom we all owe the most, arouses liberal ire because he argued against usurping the rights of the states that created the federal union. Like certain of his fellows, Jefferson distrusted the federal government because he knew it would grow too large, become disconnected from the people, and be heir to the arrogance, insolence and prideful haughtiness that is the lot of the unrestrained homo erectus. It's being deprived of this arrogance, insolence and prideful haughtiness that makes the liberal nanny's teeth itch.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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