Note From the Publisher

Ending the Ratchet Racket

By From the November 2010 issue

Send to Kindle

As this is written, in early October, poll numbers indicate that the left will suffer a stunning defeat on Election Day. Whether either house of Congress is wrested from the liberals is of less concern than the fact that the American people will have made it clear that they have had enough.

The Obama-Pelosi-Reid crowd, despite their own claims to the contrary, must have room-temperature IQs. They had been winning, after all, on almost all fronts for years. Consider the drip-drip-drip erosion of freedom, the increase in the size of government, the decline of the culture and the triumph of liberalism in almost every American institution since the election of FDR in 1932, and it is no secret that liberalism has made enormous strides. The ratchet effect, as I like to call it--moving things to the left a little at a time, knowing there'll be no slipping back--is enormously effective. But after the 2008 election the left thought it had a mandate and demanded too much, too fast. "Comprehensive" change, as Obama likes to call it, was more than the American people had bargained for.

Obama and his cronies have awakened millions of people into realizing that big government and the accompanying growth of debt, regulation, and, ultimately, taxes does not suit their view of the world, and they are now rebelling. The great question is what will the newly elected do about it?

We have been here before--liberal spending sprees followed by conservative victories. But then comes the disappointment: a temporary reprieve, followed by Republicans co-opted by Washington, and the ratchet effect continues. Nixon, elected in 1968 after LBJ and liberals in Congress gave us the excesses of the Great Society, promised a return to conservative government, but by the time his and his replacement's administration left office in 1977 things had become worse; the man who told us that we were "all Keynesians now" had expanded the size of government, the welfare state, and regulation, with a jump in federal spending from $178 to $371 billion (paltry by today's standards). Jimmy Carter did his best to continue to expand Johnson-Nixon progressivism ad infinitum, resulting in disgust by the voters and the Reagan Revolution, which did institute a changed mind-set for the country, stabilized a disastrous economy, and won the Cold War.

By 1994, after only two years of Bill Clinton's campaign for socialized health care, gays in the military, and a general left-wing agenda, Republicans took control of both houses of Congress, which they kept, with the exception of one two-year term for the Senate, for the next 12 years. But during that time, which included much of the George W. Bush presidency, federal spending grew by 50 percent, the federal debt increased from $4.7 to $8.5 trillion, and the march toward a welfare state continued.

It is often said that the next two years may be the last chance conservatives have to reclaim what they love about America, but that is too pessimistic. Politics is a changing business, and nobody, no matter how smart they think they are, can predict what will happen in the future. Nevertheless, the resurgence of right-thinking in the Congress, the state houses, and the legislatures that will likely transpire in the coming election will provide a rare opportunity to undo some of the damage the lefties have done, and set a more conservative course for the country.

But the real test will be whether the politicians will take advantage of that opportunity and stick to their guns, or whether they will fall into the same trap as most of their predecessors.

So conservatives, Tea Partiers, and all Americans angry about the current state of affairs will have a job to do after November: hold the politicians' feet to the fire.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Alfred S. Regnery is a former publisher of The American Spectator. He is the former president and publisher of Regnery Publishing, Inc., which produced twenty-two New York Times bestsellers during his tenure. Regnery also served in the Justice Department during the Reagan Administration, worked on the U.S. Senate staff, and has been in private law practice.  He currently serves on several corporate and non-profit boards, and is the Chairman of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute .