Welcome to the end of America’s long experiment in republican self-rule, where a century of post-New Deal experimentation has determined that the ultimate model of government is anasocracy: rule by lame duck.
Anasocracy has the forms of representative democracy, but not the substance. Oh, the Little People get to run around thinking they participate in major elections to determine the future course of the nation, but the Ruling Class merely shrugs and laughs off even the most crystal-clear messages sent by voters. If an election doesn’t go their way, the anasocrats will question its very legitimacy, using language that would have had America’s founders reaching for their muskets: not enough people voted to get our attention, the people who did vote were too old and white, those who didn’t vote are more important than those who did, and we hold too many pesky elections anyway.
Worst of all, with the election out of the way, the defeated losers have a few months to run wild and do whatever they please, completely insulated from the ire of voters. Politicians of both parties know they will never be further away from the next election, and some of them are toast anyway. A period of time that should be a congressional coda, reserved for tidying up a few loose ends, becomes the most intense exercise of power in the entire congressional cycle.
With this in mind, the anasocrats are willfully derelict in their duties throughout the year, putting off the contentious business of charting the nation’s fiscal course until the absolute last possible moment. Once they realized they could get away with doing this, year after year, they developed a keen appreciation for the atmosphere of calendar-induced panic that comes with the snows of December. Freed of virtually all legal restrictions on their conduct, required to do absolutely nothing with the force of law, the anasocrats were free to rig the calendar so their power would be discharged in one incandescent burst, at a moment of zero accountability.
In those desperate cromnibus hours, responsibility becomes a sin. You’re not allowed to ask tough questions about what Congress is doing, object to elements of the trillion-dollar shopping spree it’s voting on, or stage a robust debate about major spending priorities. It is forbidden to ask why those who lost the previous election should have anything to say about next year’s spending, while those who won are marginalized throughout their first year in office. Is a more perfect example of arrogant irresponsibility imaginable? A year’s worth of Big Government boondoggles, authorized by people who won’t even be around to face the music when they fail!
And God help anyone who tries to slam the brakes on this wild ride through anti-democratic excess! The people who deliberately avoided doing their duty for an entire year to create a trillion-dollar spending crisis have big holiday fun scheduled for the day after the last-minute panic vote. They were going to scribble a quick signature on the trillion-dollar check and head off to parties and family fun for weeks on end, while those of their subjects who can still find a job are working their buns off to scrape together a little extra Christmas money. Few of them pause to say, “You know, my colleagues and I created this fiscal crisis by failing to do our jobs for months on end, so it’s only fair for us to clear our calendars for the last few weeks of the year and make sure this emergency spending bill gets done right.”
Take a stand on any of the issues that brought voters trudging to the polls in November, and you might disrupt the elegant holiday plans of the anasocracy. Rest assured they will exact revenge for any such inconvenience. Angry lame ducks are among the most fearsome creatures in nature. They strike from behind, favoring ankles or knees, and they can be quite bipartisan in their fury. You might even find irate Republicans uncritically repeating talking points from the Democrat Majority Leader they asked the American people to dislodge, as if they knew nothing about his parliamentary methods, even though they just spent a long election season claiming to be outraged by them.
For generations now, politicians have been working to squirrel power away in bureaucratic holes where voters cannot reach it. It’s amazing how everything the Ruling Class does, in a supposedly free republic, instantly puts down billion-dollar agency roots and becomes irreversible. Much of congressional power has long since been delegated to bureaucrats we never get to vote against. Heck, it’s nearly impossible to fire them, even when they’re caught at the most flagrant abuses. Everything happens automatically, with a crushing force of law that citizens are helpless to resist, or even vote against… but the Ruling Class floats easily above that very same tide of law, ignoring every restraint on their power, every statutory duty they find inconvenient. Big Government programs are, first and foremost, designed to accumulate dependent constituencies and become invulnerable to reform. Far more effort gets put into achieving that state of perpetual lame-duckness than attending to whatever problem the legislation was supposed to solve. Never mind if the program was a hideous mistake sold with deliberate fraud – it’s here to stay, forever. People who are no longer accountable to you have shaped the course of your life. That’s the spirit of lame-duck December distilled into legislative ink and spilled across millions of pages of regulations.
Is it any surprise the end stage of such giddy arrogance is a system deliberately structured to shunt power into a magical post-election Olympus, from which people who have utterly lost the consent of the government enjoy a final, glorious opportunity to impose their will?
Since none of this can be described as “budgeting” with a straight face, it’s no surprise that outlays far exceed revenues, even as tax demands far outstrip anything a lawful government could extract from a healthy economy. When the debt load becomes intolerable, there will come a mighty crash of thunder, rolling across op-ed pages and Sunday roundtables, and SHAZAM! – the lame ducks will transform into deficit hawks, dissent will be denounced as greed, and you taxpaying chumps will find out just how heavily the burden of law rests upon your shoulders. Anasocracy is all about setting the Ruling Class free, at the expense of their subjects. Remember that the next time some Big Government apologist tells you nothing a democracy does can be considered tyrannical, because the people can vote their oppressors out of office.