American’s Agree: We Cannot Trust the Government. Now what?
A recent Pew poll finds that 80% of Americans distrust the government. That would seem to be a revelation, but it should not be surprising. Those that interpret the Pew poll results as a rebuke of this administration alone are mistaken. The question political strategists on both sides are asking themselves today is: “how can this sentiment translate into a wining electoral strategy?” The key is to understand why this sentiment is perhaps the one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on.
Republicans, tend to be ideologically fearful of government expansion, so their mistrust of the Obama Administration is no shock. Democrats and young voters in the Bush years were told, endlessly, to hate and fear their government. Dissent was the most patriotic thing they could do in the face of the Bush Administration’s willful disregard for the American political tradition. It appears that sentiment cannot be turned off on a dime. Moderate and centrist Democrats, even those that skew wildly toward the radical Left, see the Washington Democrat’s defense of government power today to be disingenuous.
Americans across divergent political spectrums now share a central thesis: government expansion into your life is dangerous. American’s differ on the government’s central mission and we get lost in the particulars, but the executive summary of the American political contract begins starts with “government is scary.” The winning strategy to cement this 80% into a generation of legislative consensus is to translate this fear of government into a smart contraction of the Federal government’s influence over American lives.
Liberals have not had wildest dreams fulfilled by this administration. Left wingers see this government as just as ‘corporatist,’ Liberal code for not radically redistributionist, as the previous administration. They do not understand why we woefully ignore the perfect working model, 90 miles south of Florida. No Joke. Just take in a meeting at the West Village’s Brecht Forum. They will never be satisfied. Highlight and exploit this tendency and bring the Democrat’s margins even farther into the forefront. Their argument that this Administration does not go far enough will drive them further into the political wilderness.
Republican’s must embrace all forms of government contraction. There will always be a choice between two evils, and Bush-era Republicans were certainly the lesser of those, but Americans are now and will remain receptive to candor and intellectual consistency. Democrats, meanwhile, have dug themselves a pretty deep hole. They can, however, achieve some traction if they are able to successfully depict Republicans as just as willing to expand government influence as Democrats, but it takes the form of unwarranted wiretaps and the like. This debate will be constructive, but it can be easily won.
Democrats will try to foster the appearance of a contradiction in Republican’s embrace of a budget that keeps America’s military stronger than the next eight contenders combined. This too is a winning issue for the GOP. Americans like being the hegemonic super power. Force this issue and make it a centerpiece. If the election is a decision between defense spending and spending on social programs that are both inadequate and habit forming, American’s will chose defense.
The small government consensus can govern the policy of a generation. Both parties enjoy a large base that is now ideologically inclined to mistrust an active government. It is a sentiment imprinted on American’s DNA. One party is well positioned to own this sentiment now and, while sentiment cannot entirely substitute for policy, it can win elections.