Invoking the memory of the recently martyred John F. Kennedy, LBJ twisted enough arms to push through Congress a new wave of redistributionist initiatives, most of which had previously been dismissed as liberal pipe dreams.
Ancient history? The monstrous bills for these counterproductive vote-buying schemes now start to fall due.
Just take Medicare. Please.
From the defeat of 1964, however, came the seeds of eventual victory for those who preached the gospel of fiscal sanity under a smaller, constitutionally limited central government.
By 1980, Ronald Reagan had won election on a vow to close both the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. Fourteen years later, the Republican tide rose even higher, with the GOP capturing the congressional majority for the first time in 40 years, based on the budget-cutting, property-rights-restoring pledges of the “Contract With America.”
Finally, the excuse that the big-spending Democratic dinosaurs were “tying their hands” was gone. The ground seemed prepared for a counter-revolution.
At which point, with apologies to Al Smith ... the GOP appears to have promptly “caught the Democrats in skinny-dipping and stolen their clothes.”
Having survived their long march across the desert, the Republican survivors of 1964 must have felt like Moses coming down from the mountain, only to find their newly elected standard-bearers dancing drunkenly around a golden calf.
“We’ve seen the enemy, and he is us,” Tom Rath, a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire, told The Associated Press last week.
Rath was one of a number of party activists attending a two-day Republican National Committee meeting who warned that Republican voters are frustrated by congressional spending and thinly disguised bribe-taking, that an “enthusiasm deficit” could cost the party control of Congress in November.
“Senior party officials inside and outside the White House fear the Washington scandals may hurt GOP turnout if average Republican voters believe Congress’ spending habits are partly the result of corruption,” The AP reports.
Nice of them to notice.
But to show real results -- to truly reverse course from the headlong rush to bankruptcy and bureaucratic oppression -- a much broader definition of “corruption” must be adopted.
Of course it’s “corrupt” to slip in some specific allocation or set-aside as a last-minute “earmark” to benefit the client of a lobbyist who’s provided the lawmaker with all kinds of personal perks.
But it is just as corrupt for a lawmaker to buy votes by violating his or her sacred oath to “protect and defend” a Constitution which grants the federal government only limited powers, no matter how “popular” such a betrayal may seem.
Regardless of whether an acquiescent Supreme Court has stood silent, or danced the Dance of the Seven Loopholes, each delegate has a personal responsibility to say, “You know, ‘protecting’ defenseless critters sounds all very nice, and I suppose we can allocate more tax moneys to buy wildlife sanctuaries from willing sellers. But short of offering to buy the site, I can’t find anywhere in this Constitution where we’re authorized to stop a property owner in California from building a hospital because some ‘threatened’ weed or bug lives on his vacant lot.”
The federal government is granted no authority to meddle in medical or drug regulation, nor in local schooling, nor in extending charity to the poor -- all matters reserved to the states or to the people. If Washington hadn’t found justification for any such programs or offices between 1787 and 1912, a heavy burden of proof should lie on those who claim to have discovered some new grant of constitutional legitimacy.
Let the GOP majority start to run each new proposal -- and renewed funding for many an old one -- through this filter, and there would be no need for President Bush to act like Lyndon Johnson, urging Congress to authorize more deficit spending by increasing the $1.8 trillion debt limit, as he is expected to do within the next few weeks, in a further reminder of how the Republicans continue to drown Washington in red ink.
Is there not a single twig of the “New Deal” or “Great Society” which they can find the courage to trim, after 40 years of costly failure? Then what good are they?
Republican voters want their leaders to use control of Congress and the White House to implement a conservative agenda, RNC members warn.
“There is frustration when people see internal struggles here in Washington and they don’t see us get anything done on immigration and don’t see us get anything done on the deficit,” says DeMarus Carlson, an RNC member from Nebraska.
The GOP has perhaps six months to consult the ghosts of Barry Goldwater, Karl Hess, and Robert Taft, to pray for a thunderbolt on the road to Damascus, to be born again in the gospels of freedom and frugality.
But they will not do so. They only spout the rhetoric of “shutting down the levers of power” when it’s convenient. In real life, these slightly more starch-collared Republicrats love running the toy train of state tyranny to reward their friends, and lord it over the teeming masses.
They’ll enact a few cosmetic “reforms,” and “party on,” and look around like drunks awakening in a strange bedroom when the other gang administers them a good whomping, one of these Novembers.
Le plus qui change ...