Monthly Archives: October 1994

Motherhood, Apple Pie, and Gridlock

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Politicians love to bamboozle us with memorable words and phrases. They seem to believe that we are unable to understand and retain logical ideas and arguments, so they communicate with us using buzzwords that trigger our “hot buttons.” Copyright 1994 by David W. NeuendorfTake a term like “soft on crime.” This can be used by any politician to attack any other politician, because it can be interpreted in many different ways. Or how about those perennial favorites, “entitlement,” “pork barrel,” and “special interests?”

My personal favorite is a word that got off to a bad start describing an irritating traffic phenomenon: “gridlock.” Imagine a city laid out in a grid of rectangular blocks, with a traffic light at each corner, and no special provision for left turns. Throw in some rush hour traffic and one or two fender benders. What do you have? Gridlock. Applied to the Federal government, gridlock is the difficulty of getting the President and both Houses of Congress to agree on proposed laws.

Right now, gridlock is being blamed for the failure of Hillary Clinton’s Health Monstrosity, an “ethics” bill that would have regulated the free speech of members of grass-roots “lobbying” organizations, and other parts of the President’s legislative program. In years past, gridlock was fingered as the culprit behind delays in ratifying some dangerous United Nations-promoted treaties, and passage of gun-control laws. It has been responsible for slowing down the wholesale adoption of the extreme environmentalists’ agenda, and countless other pet projects of Liberals.

Since gridlock has been such a stumbling block for the socialization of America, it is a popular target for political ranting. All kinds of plans have been put forth in order to remove gridlock from our political process. President Clinton predictably preaches that electing a more Democratic Congress would do the job. Others would like to eliminate the Senate’s power to kill a bill by filibuster. Every now and then, some frustrated tyrant even proposes scrapping our Constitution in favor of a parliamentary government, as a way to grease the skids for government-expanding legislation.

I think our friend gridlock has gotten a bum rap. If you think about it, gridlock is the natural result of those “checks and balances” we all learned about in government class. Our Founding Fathers wisely built into their new government, through the Constitution, certain roadblocks for the adoption of new legislation. For a bill to become law, the President and both Houses of Congress must all be in agreement during the same year. If a controversial bill makes it this far, chances are that it will be challenged in Federal Court to make sure that it doesn’t violate the Constitution. Enough bad bills do make it past these hurdles anyway. Imagine the situation if we removed some of the obstacles.

Thomas Jefferson is noted for his many wise admonitions about government. Perhaps the most famous of all: “That government is best that governs least.” The checks and balances of our US Constitution have helped to put that advice into practice, by creating gridlock when someone tries to expand the role of government. Whenever I give thanks for God’s gifts to our nation, I especially remember that uniquely American blessing: gridlock.

A Common Sense Political Spectrum

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The political spectrum we all learned about in school is making less sense all the time. You remember: the one that has Communism at the left extreme, Nazism at the right, and the rest of us in between. It never seemed reasonable to me even when I was first exposed to it as a boy. After all, what is the real difference between Communists and Nazis, no matter how much they appear to hate each other?

Lately things have become even more confusing. With the breakup of the Soviet empire, we’re seeing old-line Communists referred to as “right-wing” or “Conservative.” As a life-long Conservative activist, I have been called a lot of things; but I never expected to be lumped together with those who want to reimpose Communism on Eastern Europe. The political scientists and journalists who use this terminology must think they are making perfect sense. I think they’re crazy.

Back when I took physics, my teachers explained that a spectrum is a scale measuring continuous variation in some property, like the wavelength of light. What property did the political spectrum ever measure? In what way are the beliefs and practices of international socialists (Communists) and national socialists (Nazis) so different that they should be on opposite ends of a spectrum? How are American Conservative beliefs similar to those of the old-line Communists in Russia? Let’s face it: this spectrum measures nothing, and the terms “right” and “left” derived from it are meaningless. If we are going to use such terms, we had better find a real meaning for them. We need a sensible political spectrum.

There is a version of the political spectrum that many Conservatives have been using without confusion for some years. The spectrum measures how much control a person believes governments should have over society. Near the extreme left end are those who believe in total government: Communists, Nazis, fascists, and other totalitarian socialists. At the extreme right end are those who believe in no government: anarchists. Inside these “fringe” positions we find the Liberals, Conservatives and Libertarians, along with variations of these. Notice that this puts Conservatives near the center, between the big-government policies of the Liberals and the minuscule-government ideas of the Libertarians. Could Conservatives get used to being called “moderates?”

Perhaps even more startling is the place for the Liberal philosophy on this common-sense spectrum. The socialists on the extreme left are broken into several factions, based on their views of private property. Rightmost in this left-wing grouping are the fascists, who give lip service to the idea of private property, but insist that the actions of individuals and industries be totally regulated by government. Those who favor stringent but somewhat less than total regulation by government are today called Liberals. Could Liberals get used to being thought of as just to the right of fascists?

The anarchists on the extreme right are not, by definition, in control of any governments. They work solely for the destruction of existing governments. When they prevail, they leave behind them a power vacuum that is inevitably filled by a totalitarian (left-wing) system of some kind. In fact, leftist revolutionaries routinely make use of terrorists, including anarchists, to bring this about.

Our Founding Fathers believed in providing for as much individual freedom as the people could handle. They wrangled some over how much responsibility the average person was ready for, but they were all striving for the best balance between personal liberty and government power. In other words, they were seeking the best position on the political spectrum for their new government. I think they came pretty close to the ideal balance when they created our Constitution. The whole point of the Conservative movement is to conserve that balance, and to restore it when it has been damaged. We should think twice before we scrap what the Founding Fathers have done and move to the right or left from their position. That is why I am proud to be called a Conservative.