asks whether President Obama in saying things like, "T
he single most important jobs program we can put in place is a growing economy," is speaking out of the desperation born of having to come to grips with the possibility that the New Deal template that has dominated Democratic politics since the 30s is . . . uh, well . . . no good. Barone does not suggest that there has been a "fundamental transformation" in the President's outlook on the world. Rather, what he seems to suggest is that the operational usefulness of these policies has finally reached what may be an undeniable breaking point. In other words, "The Obama Democrats' attempt to freeze their political benefactors in place is proving unsustainable."
This could be a useful for jumping off point for an important public conversation that reminds people about the differences between constitutionalism and progressivism. Barone notes in passing that,
FDR, like his cousin Theodore, was an affluent heir who had contempt for
men who built businesses and made money. They were "economic royalists"
and "malefactors of great wealth" -- sentiments echoed by Barack Obama
Do sentiments like this echo with the majority of Americans today? Barone points to the amazing resonance of the Joe the Plumber incident to suggest that they do not. Folks like TR, FDR and, even, Barack Obama are not representative of the average American experience that encompasses actual contact and familiarity with the character of America's small businessmen. These are not economic royalists. They are just hard-working Joes trying to make a buck. And what is wrong with that? Americans do not need government intervention to protect us from hucksters . . . for all that ever does is put the hucksters in charge of the government!
But when your foundational belief is the inherent creepiness of business and money making, then your every instinct is going to push you in the direction of quelling what you perceive to be the potential evils of this activity. Your object will not be to free up and grow the economy; it will be to restrict and control it so as to set up artificial barriers that will, you believe, protect the innocent from the ill-effects of chance. You will put your faith in the power of government (a.k.a., the wise) to manage growth in "healthy" ways. And then, instead of encouraging the real growth that is necessary to maintain the governmental structure you've created, you end up working diligently to maintain the status quo
This earns you political cronies of a certain type; the kind who don't like competition mainly because they can't or don't want to be bothered to compete. So even as you begin your political life thinking that you're working to protect the little guy from the tentacles of "economic royalists," over time you will discover that the entrenched interests you've fought so diligently to protect become exactly the kind of octopus you thought you were fighting against. You have created a monster and it is now about to eat you.
I thought that there was some delicious irony in the fact that Jerry Brown will now have to lie in the messy bed he and the California Democrats made. Could it be that the Democrat Party, as a national proposition, is now on the verge of the same dilemma on this larger stage? Is the New Deal finally up against itself and about to discover that there never was anything "new" in this stale, old form of elitist cronyism? And will freedom--in all of its messy glory--finally reassert itself in the firm understanding that we cannot really protect ourselves from its potential downside if we mean to keep that freedom and, therefore, the possibility of better days ahead.