WASHINGTON -- Politics is all too often a punch-below-the-belt business, and the nastiness seems to worsen during election years. Republicans and Democrats accuse each other of heinous crimes and ulterior motives -- and that's when the cameras are rolling. They really get nasty when speaking "off the record."
Breaking this cycle of vicious partisanship and ideological conflict requires a magnanimous and unilateral gesture on someone's part. In the spirit of civil discourse, I would like to take that first step. As such, even though I work for the conservative Heritage Foundation, allow me to propose that Congress approve a new national holiday to demonstrate emotional support for my friends on the left.
We could call this new holiday "Jimmy Carter Day." Or "Make America Like France Day." But for now, let's keep things simple and call it "Be Nice to Liberals Day."
I propose this new holiday for two reasons. First, extending an olive branch can be the first step toward reconciliation and understanding. At the very least, it may lead to a more civil discussion in Washington. The second reason is that liberals need our sympathy in these trying times. Consider the trauma they've had to deal with in recent years:
• Tax cuts are helping the economy grow. Liberals unanimously opposed President Bush's tax cuts and claimed they wouldn't work. But now that the economy is enjoying its best performance in 20 years (it grew even faster when Reagan cut tax rates) and has generated one million new jobs, our left-leaning friends must feel awful foolish. A holiday might help ease their embarrassment.
• Welfare reform worked. Liberals adamantly rejected welfare reform. They said it was a mean-spirited attack on the poor and would cause more poverty. Yet welfare reform has been a big success, helping millions of people move from government dependence to gainful employment. As a result, nearly 3 million fewer children live in poverty. This is great news, but imagine how ridiculous our opponents must feel. A holiday would boost their self-esteem.
• Scrapping the ABM Treaty didn't cause an arms race. Liberals claimed that "Star Wars" was a bad idea and that a new arms race would be triggered if President Bush pulled out of the ABM treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. But we withdrew from the treaty to help protect America from terrorism and rogue nations, and the sky didn't fall. This must be frustrating for the left, especially since they were equally wrong about President Reagan's defense buildup and strong foreign policy. They said Reagan's policies would lead to an arms race, but instead they led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc. A holiday would be a reasonable consolation prize for our friends on the left.
• Socialist economies like France and Sweden are collapsing. Liberals frequently tout nations such as France and Sweden as role models, governments with a "social conscience." Yet these over-taxed countries are self-destructing. Unemployment in France is almost at double-digit levels and Sweden hasn't created a private-sector job in more than 30 years. Per capita income in these countries has declined relative to per capita income in the U.S. This must give those on the left nightmares. A "Be Nice To Liberals Day" might help them sleep better.
• Free-market policies are succeeding all around the world. Liberals used to argue that free-market policies such as tax reform and personal retirement accounts were crazy, untested concepts. But now Hong Kong, Russia, and Slovakia, among others, have growth-generating flat-tax systems. Other nations such as Ireland have doubled their economies with low tax rates. Meanwhile, Australia, Chile, England, and Hong Kong are but a few of the polities that have successfully introduced some form of personal retirement accounts. Imagine how awful this must be for liberals. A national holiday would be a kind gesture to compensate for all this "bad" news.
• Educational choice is slowly spreading across America. Liberals condemn school choice as a sinister plot to de-fund government schools. Allied with the teacher unions, they vigorously resist programs to give poor parents the ability to choose better schools for their children. Yet school choice is gradually gaining a foothold in places such as Milwaukee, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Florida, and Colorado. Worse, it's working. Student test scores are rising, and competition is forcing the government schools to improve. Surely a new holiday is the least we can do to ease their angst.
To some extent, this new holiday is akin to an existential group hug. And since feelings are the most important thing to liberals, the national holiday could be the beginning of a national healing. With any luck, this could put them on the path to recovery.