“As the 2008 campaign gets under way, it is critical for Americans — and especially for conservatives — to understand what this campaign is — and is not – about,” writes Jeffrey Lord in the American Spectator.
In October 1964, “the polls were dismal. And they were accurate. Just over 38% of the American people were getting ready to vote for the first modern conservative to be nominated for president, Arizona’s Senator Barry Goldwater. Nonetheless, a fledgling conservative, actor Ronald Reagan, boldly committed to do a television commercial supporting Goldwater. The commercial was a version of a speech he had begun delivering around the country as he toured General Electric plants in his role as GE spokesman. The name of the talk was “A Time for Choosing,” and it aired the evening of October 27th, forty-three years ago this month. Eventually, the speech made Reagan president.”
“To say that Barry Goldwater and the conservative cause got 38% of the vote is another way of saying that Lyndon B. Johnson got 61% of the vote for the liberal cause. He campaigned explicitly on expanding the New Deal, the vast extension of government that was the brainchild of his political hero and role model, Franklin D. Roosevelt. LBJ crisscrossed America that fall of 1964 promising Americans a “Great Society” in which the government would declare war on poverty, spend billions on health care and education and housing and more, more, more. All of this combined with a promise not to send American boys to fight in Asia.”
This campaign is not about Hillary Clinton, the only candidate in the race for whom a prosecutor once drew up a draft indictment; nor is it about Rudy, Fred, Mitt, John, John and Obama. What the 2008 campaign is really about is the next phase in what has become an almost century old argument on the role of government in American life. “And conservatism, from the moment Ronald Reagan’s image faded from the television screen that crisp October night, has been winning the argument. Contrary to appearances in 1964, it won then and it continues to win today. Why?”
Lord says the 2008 election will be no different than any other election in how the Mainstream Media tries to portray it. The media will present it to the American public as contest of personalities, and on the surface, it will be. There will be much talk about the first woman president, the glamorous John Edwards, the first African-American president, and the wives and spouses of all – just as they always have.
“But all of this fluff masks the very central fact that the idea of more government running things in American life has been tried — and found to be an abysmal failure,” says Lord. Roosevelt and Johnson won the day in their election victories, but America lost. Their liberal ideas were tried, and in the short run, Americans liked what they saw. But as in everything else, reality inevitably stepped into view and illuminated what happens when government runs things in the fashion of FDR, LBJ, and Hillary Clinton. Slowly, with that 38% of the American people in 1964 getting it first, the country began to understand what actually happens when liberalism “wins.”
Lord gives a very short list of the government programs inspired by liberalism that animated Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society – and their status today.
- Social Security — Reagan horrified liberals on the night he gave that televised speech for Goldwater by pointing out that Social Security, as run by the government, was “$298 billion in the hole.” The 2007 Social Security Trustees Report says the program, is, to use Reagan’s term, now “in the hole” in net present value terms for $6.8 trillion dollars more in benefits than it will receive in taxes. Projection? Massive annual deficits will begin running in just ten years.
- Medicare — The 2007 report from the Trustees of this program states that there is a “Medicare funding warning,” attached to this LBJ signature program and that “fund assets are projected to be exhausted” in a mere twelve years. Fraud is so extensive in the program that Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt recently asked Congress for $1.3 billion just to try and keep pace with the amount of corruption in the program.
- Medicaid — Estimates of fraud and waste in this program, according to the Heritage Foundation, run between $15-$25 billion annually.
- Education — The Detroit public school system, as pungently noted by Newt Gingrich, is a prime example of the problems that result from the bureaucratic mind-set so favored by liberalism. Run solely by liberals using every last tool of the liberal philosophical playbook, the Detroit system, as reported by the Gates Foundation, manages to graduate only one-fourth of its freshmen on time, with Education Week magazine saying the system manages to graduate 22% of its students. Some version of this problem has crippled big city school systems around the country, all of them using the liberal big-government, big-bureaucracy model. Here in my own state of Pennsylvania the Philadelphia school system was in such dire straits in 2001 (a deficit of $200 million) it prompted a takeover by the state.
- Housing — In 1949, as part of Truman’s Fair Deal, the federal government launched urban renewal as a policy of the federal government. It proved to be a disaster, dislocating tens of thousands of small businesses and destroying neighborhoods. Public housing projects became nothing more than human dumping grounds crawling with, as one report had it, “drug-dealing predators.” Notorious projects like Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, the New Brunswick Homes and the Christopher Columbus Homes in New Jersey, and the Ellen Wilson project in the District of Columbia were so bad they finally had to be destroyed. As a young aide to then-HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, I toured the Wilson project, stunned at what my colleagues and I saw. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, outrageous. And just to show the problem was philosophical and not simply of American origin, then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher faced the same problem with “council flats” — and persuaded Parliament to finally sell them.
There are of course many other examples of liberalism’s failure; a very prominent one being the city of New Orleans. With all the finger pointing by the mainstream media at “Big Government” failure (read George Bush), the obvious never occurred to them: “what in God’s name were all those poor people doing there living as they did before Katrina even got up steam? They were there, and had been so for decades, mired in a cesspool of bad education, crime and housing — because, drum roll, the liberal philosophy was running the show from start to finish.”
This is the heart of the debate to come in 2008, Lord says. Liberals know it and conservatives know it.
Hillary Clinton abandoned her “Goldwater Girl” roots for the liberalism of Lyndon Johnson and re-made herself into a spokeswoman for a philosophy that hit its high water mark in 1964 with Goldwater’s “defeat” – and has been declining ever since. Hillary’s answer, as well as every other Democrat answer, to every major issue is the same as it was when LBJ took office and has been for the five decades since; tax more and let the government do it.
Clinton’s answer to the energy crisis? Take the profits from private sector oil companies and give them to the government. Clinton’s answer on health care? Take the one section of the health care economy that works and re-make it in the image of Medicare and Medicaid. No word on how much she believes her program should set aside for the inevitable epidemic of fraud and corruption that will accompany her health care program. Clinton on the capital gains tax? Raise it. What does Clinton want to do with personal income tax? Raise it.
On November 3, 1964, Barry Goldwater was buried at the polls while Johnson and his ideas of liberalism reigned supreme. The New York Times applauded the victory, the three major television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC cheered the win and the Congress was embarrassingly lopsided in Johnson’s favor. The liberal elite dismissed Goldwater and Reagan as bit-players in an ushered in with liberal enlightenment with the liberal elite in charge.
And they got it wrong. Very, very wrong.
Instead of withering away as the liberal elites assumed they would, Goldwater and Reagan went on to lead a stunningly successful movement of ideas. Not only did they produce election victories, they led the massive assault on what seemed to be the unquestioned wisdom of the ages. They unshackled the American economy by reducing taxes opening trade barriers. Together with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, they brought about the destruction of Soviet communism and ended the Cold War.
The 2008 election stakes are clear. Democrats and liberals are not fighting for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, or even John Edwards. They are in a fight for their lives. They are in a fight for a way of life that has become indefensible. Beginning with their contempt and disparagement of the military, they have become the epitome of pacifism abroad and failure at home.
Whatever happens in 2008, conservatism is here to stay, will continue to grow, and liberalism will keep unraveling.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” Gerald Ford