We're almost three years into a crippling economic slump. Economic inequality is skyrocketing. Democrats are trying their hardest to blame the Tea Party for the recent debt crisis. Yet voters are not moving towards the Democrats or toward big government in any significant numbers. Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg recently asked voters why, and his conclusion was quite enlightening. According to Greenberg, voters simply do not trust the government to carry out its policies fairly. This distrust in government translates to distrust of big-government progressives and of Democrats in general.
The voters' take on TARP, for instance, was that "government works for the irresponsible, not the responsible." "Average citizens," they said, "don't get money for free." Overall, the Americans in Greenberg's survey see a government made up of politicians that work only for themselves, Wall Street lobbyists, campaign donors, and special interest groups. The American people are ignored. The 2009 stimulus, the lack of seriousness about controlling the borders, the attempted cap-and-trade legislation, and the number of Obama cabinet members with ties to Goldman Sachs are all seen as indicators of how much Washington is controlled by special interest lobbyists and campaign money.
Greenberg goes on to suggest several ways that Democrats can "detoxify" government and renew voters' faith in progressivism. But is detoxifying government really possible? Hasn't Greenberg just pointed out the fundamental problem with big government? If we had a government of angels, I'd be a progressive too. The problem is, we don't. We have a government made up of people--all of them flawed, inherently corruptible, and inherently self-interested at least to some degree. We've all heard the saying, "Power corrupts." It is simply not realistic to expect that people, when given the power of a seat in Congress, will consistently put the interests of the people ahead of themselves and their campaign donors. I'd love for someone to think of a counterexample--a government that consistently did the right thing for its people, decade after decade.
But most of the time, at least, government doesn't work that way. As government gets bigger, those who benefit are mostly a well-connected few. That certainly happened under the big-government crony capitalists of the Bush administration and it's happening now. And Americans seem to be figuring that out.