A funny thing happened on the way to populist government. Populists expanded government power to defend ordinary people in their struggle against the country’s elite powerful interests only to create a government that’s become the primary elite oppressor of the people.
America has a long tradition of populist progressive movements embodied in the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and FDR promising to crack down on greedy industrialists and force them to pay their fair share. In Louisiana, populist Huey Long was so powerful that he continued to control state politics 30 years after his death in 1935. Long was the political ancestor of Edwin Edwards, and his political playbook is still referenced by politicians seeking to appeal to the people in their struggle against the elite.
The Founding Fathers deliberately designed a government of limited powers because they realized that a government powerful enough to instantly right any wrong was also powerful enough to instantly wrong every right. Being religious men, they heeded the advice of the Bible which counseled in Romans that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” They realized that the righteous man wielding unlimited power in the pursuit of good could very well be replaced by the evil tyrant with selfish motives.
The progressive movement founded to serve common people has ended up the very embodiment of the proverb decrying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Progressives sought to expand government power to improve the miserable lot of citizens who toiled under brutal conditions for low pay while robber barons enjoyed a life of luxury and ease. They railed against income disparity, unsafe working conditions, unsanitary food industry practices, illiteracy, and a host of other legitimate concerns. Government was promoted as the only solution to such misery, so corporate trusts were broken up under the Sherman Antitrust Act, labor unions were protected under the Norris-La Guardia Act, minority rights were redressed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and poverty was fought under Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
Each of these legislative successes, while redressing real grievances, has slowly chipped away at the power of the states and eroded the freedom of individuals this country was founded upon through expansion of federal power. Where resistance to the federal behemoth was encountered, financial inducements were offered to entice the unwilling to submit to the federal onslaught. Like a drug dealer, the federal government supplied cash with few strings until states became dependent, then introduced pernicious regulations the states were powerless to refuse.
Legitimate grievances were redressed and slowly gave way to an entitlement mentality spurred on by those who had figured out how to make a living off promoting the inequality of the groups they represented. As progress inched ever closer to the goal line, these professional grievance promoters merely moved the line further away with new claims of injustice until the struggle for equality blurred into the struggle for entitlement.
Ironically, along the way the political parties have morphed into their polar opposites as the Democrats who represented the interests of the common man became the party representing the interests of elitist government while the Republicans who represented the interests of corporate elites became the party fighting for individual rights against a collectivist federal government. Progressive Democrats continue to feel morally superior in the belief that they are helping the downtrodden when they are actually enslaving us all. Constantly hammered with accusations that they are heartless defenders of the rich against the poor, Republicans have lost their will to resist and become co-conspirators in the drive to destroy America in the name of fairness.
For too long, citizens have fallen for the promise of something for nothing that began as a way to redress legitimate wrongs, but slowly morphed into an entitlement mentality rooted in covetousness. It’s easy to be seduced by promises of immediate relief when oppression is all about and the consequences are so far down the road. The mantra became “it’s all about me.” Progressive politicians encouraged this covetous spirit to secure office and financed their promises on the backs of productive taxpayers with rates that creep ever upward. How much is enough? Always, it’s just a little more. In Philippians, Paul warned about this attitude when he said “Their destiny is their destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame. Their minds are set on worldly things.”
Not satisfied with the slow pace of their conquest and believing that they too were entitled, the progressives under Obama made a grab for total control. Americans have finally seen the horror of what has been wrought in the name of fairness as their liberties have been threatened like never before. A vibrant Tea Party movement has awakened our thirst for freedom and rejuvenated our power to resist the coercion and financial enticements of a federal government out of control. State leaders are fighting to regain the power their predecessors voluntarily gave up for so little.
We fear the collection of personal information promoted by marketers as a way to filter out unwanted advertising precisely because its dissemination into nefarious hands threatens our immediate financial security. The collection of this personal information grants the collector power over our life that is easily abused by the criminal who manages to secure its possession. In digital format, this information is easily susceptible of residing with both innocent and criminal elements simultaneously, thus further complicating knowledge of its whereabouts. We fear granting the power to collect and possess our personal information for the same reason we fear entrusting too much power to government. The consequences of either the information or the power falling into the wrong hands puts us at a grave disadvantage from which no remedy is easily obtained.
The fight has just begun and it promises to indeed be a long one. Progressive indoctrination has infected several generations, and progressives are entrenched in our government bureaucracies, our universities, and our media where they continue to exert influence. People don’t easily relinquish their core beliefs, even when presented with overwhelming evidence. The recent midterm election realignment and the defeat of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s massive last minute spending bill are encouraging signs. The establishment is betting that Americans are used to better and will not tolerate reductions that may threaten their way of life. However, Americans now see that continuing down the present path promises total destruction and are willing to change course to stave off that eventuality.