FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Erasing your identity
Moe Lane earlier discussed the remarkable hypocrisy of a march against voter ID in North Carolina requiring participants to bring their photo ID cards to the event. I’m not sure “hypocrisy” is quite the right word, although it has been widely used in connection with this story. The charge of hypocrisy would imply the North Carolina activists (well, actually, they bused in manpower from across the country) were holding others to a standard they refuse to meet themselves. This is sort of the opposite, isn’t it?
Or it would be, if the anti-voter-ID movement was honest. It’s not. The people manipulating these protests are interested in banking activist energy they can divert to other causes. As the North Carolina story demonstrates, everyone involved understands that it’s perfectly reasonable to ask American citizens to bring proper identification to a major event; they did it without a second thought, even though they normally insist the people they were inviting to join their march can’t get such IDs without an outrageous level of effort and expense, morally equivalent to a racist poll tax.
So we get an endless, tedious dramatic production in which left-wing operatives, up to and including the Attorney General of the United States, pretend racism is the only reason anyone would ask to see your ID at a polling place. (Good luck trying to get within a mile of Eric Holder without presenting such identification.) They know this is ridiculous. They don’t believe what they’re saying. They just love saying it, because it gives them a chance to rally political support against a hateful straw-man enemy.
I used to joke that voting booths are the only place our titanic world-beating ultra-government is actively opposed to identifying its citizens, but that’s not really true. A lot of the welfare state runs on a very loose, almost informal basis. The system is easily gamed. Its champions can be counted on to resist every serious effort to use Information Age technology to crack down on fraud. A recent effort to require Social Security numbers from the recipients of Earned Income Credit checks – i.e. welfare issued through the tax system – went nowhere, after being denounced as a monstrous exercise in stone-hearted contempt from all the usual quarters.
You know how food stamps were long ago replaced by an ersatz “debit card?” I suppose the scare quotes are unnecessary – it actually is a debit card. You can slip the thing into ATM machines and get cash. The government could be monitoring every single transaction made with these cards and accumulating statistics for how they’re used… but they actively refuse to do so. We get one story of fraud and abuse after the next, but the statists respond only with promises to crack down on such mischief in the future. They never actually do it, of course, but they love being able to make that promise every election cycle.
We have an enormous welfare state that now reaches its tentacles well into the middle class. One of the big stories about ObamaCare is how people are being shoved into Medicaid, which was supposed to provide medical services for the indigent. ObamaCare greatly expanded Medicaid, and it’s probably going to expand even further in the future, as more of the states that resisted the expansion buckle to political pressure. You may rest assured that while the decision to resist Medicaid is viewed as a temporary setback by Big Government, the decision to accept it will be immutable – a decision that can never, ever be reversed, no matter how many elections are won by those who regret it.
So Medicaid gets bigger, growing from a poverty program into the latest middle-class entitlement, pumping up a deficit that will soon curdle into tax increases on the dwindling percentage of the population that carries the burden of government. We’re in the midst of watching Democrats openly celebrate that decline, as they frantically try to spin the latest job-kill projections for ObamaCare as a wonderful opportunity for people to escape the shackles of work and achieve self-actualization at someone else’s expense. How is a smaller workforce surrounded by a growing population supposed to pay for all this, to say nothing of the entitlement tsunami from the Baby Boom generation retiring? Dont’ ask. Just enjoy your newfound “freedom from work,” and think not about the people for whom “job lock” is nothing compared to the “tax lock” holding the chains around their necks.
What all of this amounts to is a deliberate effort to erase the identity of citizens. The super-State grows less interested in the identity of anyone it’s not planning to tax and regulate into a shivering heap. Citizenship itself is steadily devalued by efforts to make it either irrelevant or freely available to anyone who crosses the border – which is functionally the same thing, because citizenship without a carefully defined roster of benefits and duties is meaningless.
Our relationship to both work and reward defines us as citizens. Even left-wing political rhetoric tips its cap to these relationships. Democrats never openly state their objective is to create lifetime dependents who rest in the social safety net from cradle to grave, do they? Of course not. They speak of residency in the welfare state as a temporary affair, with check-out times at 11 A.M. on a day that never actually comes. They speak the language of giving people a leg up and helping them find opportunity. None of the constituencies they pander to would ever dream of turning that safety net into a hammock – perish the thought! Until almost literally the day before yesterday, it was an ironclad article of Obamanomic faith that benefits do not discourage people from work – no matter how many taxpayer goodies they receive, their desire to return to the workforce as soon as possible was not even slightly diminished, and how dare any heartless Republican suggest otherwise!
This rhetoric implicitly accepts the concept of citizen duties. No one is supposed to be taking from society without giving. Those duties help to define the identity of an American citizen, an identity it is rhetorically assumed everyone wants to share – from the hard-working taxpayer, to the struggling low-income workers fighting to lift their families out of poverty, to the revenue-targeted “millionaire” who makes enough money to have no personal need for the benefits of compassionate government, to the illegal alien who can’t wait to come out of the shadows and work his posterior off for the greater good of the American economy.
Ignore the rhetoric and focus on the reality: our identity as citizens is being erased. Entire sectors of the population have been classified as fundamentally helpless, adult children from whom little can be expected, outside of voting for the most benevolent rulers available. A lot of the people in these groups resent the hell out of this patronizing, suffocating liberalism; they yearn to be treated with more respect, which means they long to be challenged, and given a fair chance to answer the challenge. They want to assume the duties of citizenship liberals have pronounced them unfit for.
Alas, the Republican Party generally doesn’t know how to engage them on that level. There is a largely bipartisan consensus that citizenship no longer means as much as it did 30 or 50 years ago. There is the State, its clients, and its enemies, not a mighty communion of citizens competing and cooperating voluntarily, asking much of each other and respecting the full measure of individual dignity. You’re certainly not respecting someone’s dignity by telling him he can’t make it across the finish line of life without forcing other people to carry him. Burying people under a maze of laws that not even the most well-meaning citizen can understand or obey, and treating them as presumptive criminals because they refuse to comply with political agendas, is also disrespectful.
And once individuality is no longer respected, it’s easy to erase identity altogether. The Ruling Class sees a faceless mass of voting muscle when it looks upon the bulk of its crude subjects. Faceless masses don’t need valid identification paperwork.