Thursday, January 21, 2010

Will They, Can They Change?

If you are a teabagging conservative, it seems obvious that the Democrats must change. The American people have taken a look at the Obama agenda and have decided that they don't want any part of it.

So, obviously, the Democrats will change, right?

Maybe not. Maybe they can't change. Maybe they are welded to their high-taxing, high-spending administrative state, and nothing can change them short of political Armageddon. For, as Daniel Henninger reminds us, the Democratic Party is nothing if not the political committee of the public sector as a whole.

It all started in 1962, according to Henninger.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy planted the seeds that grew the modern Democratic Party. That year, JFK signed executive order 10988 allowing the unionization of the federal work force.

That political act set up the current public sector in which public employee unions feed money to Democratic politicians in return for favors.

They broke the public's bank. More than that, they entrenched a system of taking money from members' dues and spending it on political campaigns. Over time, this transformed the Democratic Party into a public-sector dependency.

If you've wondered why public sector employees earn something like 40 percent more than private sector employees, now you know.

On this political model it makes complete sense for the Democrats to propose a vast increase in the administrative supervision of health care. It will create more public sector jobs up and down the food chain, from academicians serving on comparative effectiveness committees to nurse's aides doing hospital donkey work.

Yes, you say, but all this saddles the American people with swingeing taxes and suffocating regulation and, in the end, doesn't really deliver much health care. Why would anyone do that?

So? What's the problem? It increases the number of public sector workers, and the number of votes for Democrats. And anyway, it's too late for the Democrats to stop now.

The great fear, for any independent or Republican, is that Democrats will trim their sails enough to convince the American people that they have heard their message. Yes, the president will say. We get it. And ordinary people, who just want to get on with their lives, will keep their Democratic congressman, and vote to give President Obama a second term.

But the president and his administration probably won't get it. Maybe they can't. To understand why, read the comments responding to David Brooks's New York Times article on "The Great Leviathan," where he argues that President Obama must stop acting the Hobbesian absolute monarch, and be a proper American leader. Says Brooks:

If I were President Obama, I would spend the next year showing how government can serve a humble, helpful and supportive role to the central institutions of American life. Even in blue states like Massachusetts, voters want a government that is energetic but limited — a servant, not a leviathan.

But the top commenters will have none of it. Things are such a mess after Bush that top-down dirigisme is essential, they say. You are a nice chap, says one commenter, but "your expression of respect for the American people at present is not justified."

See the mindset here? The American people cannot be trusted; they must be directed to do the right thing. Not coincidentally, it will be New York Times readers that will do most of the directing.

Leadership, they say, is mostly about selecting good people. Government comes down to staffing. And we know that the people Obama has appointed to executive positions in the federal government think and act like the Brooks article commenters. Just as the old landed aristocracy believed in "blood" our educated progressive class believes in intelligence and rational administration. Every problem needs a rational administrative solution. Every hammer needs a nail.

So the bad news, that the Obamis probably won't do their "pivot," is also the good news. Democrats won't really change. Not until it is too late.

As Lenin said: you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. You won't get political change until the old regime hits the wall.

And maybe that's the best way to understand our liberal friends today. They are like the French aristocracy in the last years of the ancien regime. Even those that know that something is wrong just don't have a clue what to do about it.

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