Political Hay

This Is Where I Came In

By 10.30.08

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Long ago when I came to Washington to change the world, I ran smack into a brick wall. That wall was called the election of 1964 and if you weren't there, let me tell you about it. A very liberal Democrat -- Lyndon Johnson -- was elected president in a landslide (61 percent!) and backed up by two very Democrat houses of Congress. In the Senate Democrats ruled 68 to 32 and in the House they outnumbered Republicans 295 to 140. That was the make up of the famous 89th Congress -- where I worked and saw first hand what super-majorities can do. That Congress is known for civil rights legislation, but they did a great deal more. For example, they produced the utopian Great Society featuring the audacious War on Poverty. Conservatives were too few to stop the government-knows-best steamroller, so America spent $5 trillion and did not end poverty. Instead we eroded social and family bonds; created a chronically dependent class of Americans; and built a huge welfare-poverty industry to go with it. And it wasn't until 1996 that Republicans were able to do anything about it.

In the 1960s and beyond, the federal government got involved in every kind of social engineering legislation they could think of. To wit: public education (now run by unions for unions) -- medical care (Medicare and Medicaid, the precursors of socialized medicine) -- the Endangered Species Act (land use killer), the arts and humanities, television and radio and more. Then, as now, the media acted as the Democrats' cheering section. No presidential candidate was more criticized than the GOP's '64 candidate, the libertarian, small government, individual freedom Barry Goldwater. In the end, lots more government and government dependents were created, and socialism gained ground as federal policy.

Are we about to do that again? Democrat majorities in the House and Senate and a president who has declared of himself: "I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Wow. This time we're even taking on the oceans and the planet.

Democrats attach themselves to the legacy of Thomas Jefferson but they sure don't attach to his warning: "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned -- this is the sum of good government." With liberal Democrats in charge, the American vision of limited government and individual self-responsibility dissolves into collectivism and victimhood for all. The other guys -- the successful entrepreneurs and job makers -- will be required to turn over their earnings to the re-distributors and their utopian causes -- which never work and never end. For me, this is déjà-vu-all-over-again. Government largess is still easier to sell than self-responsibility, so some people will never learn. I hope we are not there again.

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About the Author

Manon McKinnon is a writer living in Falls Church, Virginia.