Friday, May 4, 2012

Rasmussen Misses Point on 50-50 Elections

Pundits often excoriate politicians as self-serving hacks that betray the noble American people.  Here's pollster Scott Rasmussen writing about the lack of decisive elections recently.
As voters, however, Americans experience a government that is unresponsive and catering to the interests and whims of politicians...

Nothing will be resolved until the political class catches up to the American people. That will require a major change in the way government and politics work.
Er, no, Scott.  The reason we are in this mess is that the American people can't make up their mind.  They can't decide whether to vote for an intensification of the welfare state of the last century or whether to cut government down a bit and take more responsibility for their lives.

And the symbol of this uncertainty is the white working class that has shuttled between the Republican and Democratic parties for the last couple of decades.  Do they want to stay with the grand old entitlements that FDR and LBJ designed for them?  Or do they go with the social conservative patriotism of Reagan and Bush?  It's a tough call, because the white working class hasn't quite adapted to the free-enterprise world; it still hankers for the safety of living in a close village community under the patronage-distributing lord of the manor or the urban village's precinct captain.

The point is that there are two elites competing for the votes of the American people.  There is the Progressive elite and its big-government agenda that started with Theodore Roosevelt.  Its ideal is the Life of Julia so ably described by the Obama campaign.  On the progressive view the great milestones in your life are the wonderful government programs that help you in education, in health, and in retirement.

Then there is the conservative movement that argues a small-government agenda.  Big government is the "road to serfdom" and sooner or later it will run out of other peoples' money.  In addition to that, conservatives argue, big government corrodes society, turning everyone into a dependent whose social thinking doesn't go beyond voting for the politician that offers the most free stuff.

Back in 1990 conservatives thought that they had won the overall argument about big government, and the Clintonian liberals were certainly modest about their arguments for big government, at least they were after the failure of HillaryCare.  They were the new, non-partisan Democrats that hated the divisive conservatives of the Christian Right.  Then they got into power and went pedal-to-the-metal to implement their big-government agenda before an election could stop them.

Rasmussen is right to complain about the "trench warfare" of today's politics.  But the politicians are the wrong people to blame.  The politicians are merely putting themselves at the head of the various interests battling for the soul of America.

The state of Wisconsin shows us what is at stake.  Government employees have dealt themselves a pretty cushy situation with wages and benefits well above the norm in the private sector.  Some politicians want to reform that imbalance.  Others want to defend the government employees.  The result is the political donnybrook we have seen in Madison, Wisconsin over the past year and a half.

Eventually the American people must decide what they want.  And they will.  Look for two or three really decisive elections in the next few years.  Maybe the first one will be this November.

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