Will the Grownups Please Stand up?
Had the conservatives made their focus our debt crisis rather than the ill-advised attempt to defund Obama care, they might well have struck a blow for mature leadership.
It is rather interesting to watch the fallout from the recent government shutdown.
All across the liberal watchtower there is a great deal of excitement over how irresponsible conservative members of the House of Representatives were. Even “establishment” Republicans have expressed their dismay at the way the situation was managed, given that – in the media at least – the clear winner is the Democrats.
Let us concede this much: realism is supposed to be a hallmark of conservatism and there was a quixotic dimension to the Ted Cruz orchestrated drama, Mr. Cruz apparently having already forgotten the lessons of the Newt Gingrich shutdown during the Clinton era. Even the Wall Street Journal editorialists, generally reliable as intelligent conservatives, found the approach delusional and self-defeating.
From a short-term tactical standpoint, yes, it was a misguided effort that was doomed from the start. What it did do, however, is get people’s attention. Had the conservatives made their focus our debt crisis rather than the ill-advised attempt to defund Obama care, they might well have struck a blow for mature leadership.
Fareed Zakaria, a thoughtful liberal, suggests that this drama is likely to replay again soon. “The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives make its peace with today’s America.”
Which America might that be? Might that be the America – led by the President – that threatens to burden our children with unspeakable debt for the next century? Might it be the America in which children born into single parent homes is spiraling? (An American Community Survey found that 36 percent of the 4.1 million women who gave birth in the U.S. in 2011 were unmarried, up from 31 percent in 2005.) Or might it be the America in which poor public education robs so many young people of their hopes and dreams? Is that the America to which we are to make our peace?
Zakaria, author of The Post-American World, writes that things aren’t all that bad. I suppose that is true if you believe in a post-American world. Remember, Zakaria tells us, we rolled back communism, spread capitalism and lifted our citizens to unprecedented levels of wealth, education and achievement – and we did it with a welfare state and with large debt. So what’s the problem?
For starters, he fails to acknowledge is that it was precisely conservatism – led by the likes of Buckley, Reagan and Friedman – who helped shape the strategies, policies and economics that enabled America, against the wishes of the new left and the 1960s-1980s liberal establishment, to win the Cold War and – for a time – the war of ideas.
By tempering the demands of the voracious state, conservatives managed to navigate America into a position of prosperity and optimism for the past 30 years. Even President Clinton was largely viewed as a post-liberal president. (“The era of big government is over,” he famously said in 1996.)
How things change, and quickly. First, 9/11 and a economic crisis that led President Bush to over spend. Then Obama, who tripled down on the Bush debt. Mr. Zakaria apparently cannot digest the implications of a federal deficit that – based on current trends – will approach historic World War II highs within a generation, most of that debt, by the way, held by China.
It is not about being pessimistic, but rather about being realistic. Children love to get what they want – and then always ask for more. Adults know that giving into such demands does not breed a healthy, responsible child, but more likely a dysfunctional spoiled child.
That is the irony of the latest crisis. Politicians and media alike are lining up to blame the conservatives in the House for asking America and the President to grow up and face the realities of our economic situation – that this huge debt is not merely economically dangerous, it is theft on a massive scale; that Obama care, by almost all accounts, is a disaster in the making; that a Congress and an Executive Office that will not abide by the laws it forces on others is not worthy of holding office in a great republic.
Yes, the timing and tactics of those house members were flawed and immature, perhaps. But at the very least those who pile debt upon debt and wreck the private sector of our nation have little room to call others petulant or childish. Maybe the adults we need these days, Mr. Zakaria notwithstanding, are those willing to say no.
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