May 14, 2010

Republican Governance Mistakes

Back in 1994 the GOP came to power with a lot of enthusiasm, hope and a will to create change after decades of Democrat rule in the legislative branch of government.

With that Democrat hegemony of power, that at times extended to the executive branch as well, a number of traits were sure to develop regardless of the level of sincerity of Democrats to serve the nation. After decades a sense of entitlement develops. There becomes a sense that the government really is a single party government and the opposition is mere window dressing or a prop or a place to wrangle some votes during internal party legislative power struggles.

The party in power often starts to cut corners. Full hearings and committee rules just slow things down. Deals can be made in back rooms just because it saves time. It might seem harmless but it does skirt democracy.

Come election time, that sense of entitlement causes the ruling party to dole out some meager trinkets to voters in the form of pork projects or new entitlements that won't mean anything negatively to national debt for 30 years (more or LESS).

These things combine to distance the governance from the people and that only reinforces the whole problem of elitism and the sense of entitlement. Obviously the ruling class knows best. Not the opposition, not the people. It leads to corruption as well because that sort of thing doesn't really matter if you were meant to rule. It's a very slippery slope from shortcuts to kickbacks and corruption.

But I started out with a title Republican Governance Mistakes and talking about 1994. Why talk about prior Democrat misdeeds? Because the GOP, so long out of power, needed a model to build their governance on. If back room deals were the way to get things done in Washington, and the GOP wanted to get things done, they had to play the game as it was structured. At least they assumed so. That was their biggest mistake. They didn't clean up things. They didn't change the rules. They became them. Admittedly they were not as bad as Democrats but then again they didn't have as much time to get there.

Republicans were well on their way to becoming everything they disparaged in the Democrats including the idea of throwing the populace trinkets. Never mind that their ideals and ideas were better because they didn't abide by them. So, just like the Democrats before them, they got what they deserved. The boot.
So what have we learned? Hopefully Republicans have learned the following formula.

Principle > Politics

If you follow your principles and they are sound, the politics will largely take care of itself. But equally important there is a lesson for the country. Distilled down to its core it is this -

Government is not to be trusted.

That's not a call for anarchy or insurgency. It's a call to wake up. The same government that feels health care needs regulation, that the banking industry needs regulation, that the energy industry needs more regulation is IN NEED OF MORE REGULATION.

No. Not regulation. Constraint. The government needs to put constraints on itself. It needs to make sure it plays by a standard unchanging set of rules that restrict how intrusive government can be in its governance.
Barack Obama, prior to becoming President ruminated on the Constitution as a bill of negative rights. He complained that it outlined the rights the government could not infringe on rather than what the government must or could do for people. His view is that the government must continually do more. It is anathema to good governance though because the government has unfettered power if it chooses to be that way. That's called dictatorship.

GOP missteps can be corrected if they have learned these lessons and can operationalize them, and live by them, after November when they take back Congress.

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