What Does "Ungovernable" Really Mean?

As the Obama agenda crashes up against the rocks of the last tattered vestiges of the American sense of life, the left is frantically scrambling to point figures and lay blame. As usual, the "party of the people" shows its ultimate scorn for "the people," as aptly summarized today by Peter Wehner in the WSJ. He writes of three ways the left is now characterizing the American people and the ways in which they are "ungovernable":
  1. According to Joe Klein of Time, "the American people are too stupid to govern. . . .Klein, who, in criticizing public opposition to the president's stimulus package on Jan. 25, referred to us as a "nation of dodos."
  2. The Republicans are obstructionist just for the sake of it, bordering on nihilistic (hello pot? It's the kettle. You're black.) "Newsweek's Michael Cohen summed up this view when he wrote, 'Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain.'"
  3. The filibuster is broken. "The third iteration of the America-is-ungovernable view is represented by the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who calls the Senate 'ominously dysfunctional' and insists that the way it works is 'no longer consistent with a functioning government.'"
The playground bully has encountered some unforeseen opposition, and now is furiously petulant that his plans for domination are being thwarted. What the left is upset about is not that Americans are ungovernable or that the separation of powers makes it impossible to govern. The left is incensed that the American people seem unruleable.

Note the difference. The left desires an active governance by which their will is imposed regardless of the rights or wishes of the people. They want to rule. When they don't get their way, their true colors come out as they call names, ridicule, bully, pout, whine, and generally make fools of themselves. And while the target of their bile is most often the Republican establishment, that isn't what is making them so furious. They are so flabbergasted that a few crazy "teabaggers" could wield so much influence that they are becoming unhinged.

Wehner posits that Obama's troubles show both a failure of the left, and the strength of the right. He thinks that the right actually has something constructive to offer, and that the issue is that Obama is simply a weak president and is too liberal.

The trouble is, both sides are wrong in all of this. As I mentioned at the start, it is the American sense of life, as tired and worn as it is, that is standing in the way of the left, and very few truly understand why that is, including the Tea Partiers. And this is a crucial, and very unfortunate point.

Despite the American sense of life, that visceral respect for freedom and individual rights and a mistrust of government, the past 100 years have shown that we are all too willing to be not only governed, but also ruled. Majorities of voters routinely clamor for more programs, more handouts, more regulations. We docilely accept outrage after outrage as if it's the proper way of things. The left had a reasonable expectation that we would accept their rule, or at the very least show so little opposition that it wouldn't matter. Perhaps that is part of the reason they are so flummoxed now.

Whatever the causes of the current flare up in pro-individualism and anti-government sentiment -- and there are many -- it is just a sentiment for most, without fundamental principles to ground it. People sense "something" is wrong, but they can only look to received wisdom -- the Bible, the Constitution, etc. -- and say "see? We're moving away from our roots!" The minute a populist Republican starts placating them, they'll go back to being eminently governable.

The best this situation can do right now is buy us more time. The longer the government is in gridlock, the better chance we have to promote reason, egoism, laissez-faire capitalism, objective law, individual rights, and all the other ideas that will bring this society back from the brink of what John Edwards really meant by his "Two Americas" shtick: the rulers and the ruled.


Brian Fritts said...

I think you hit a key point when you mentioned the separation of powers in your post. The war against the separation of powers became even more blatant after the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case.

One of the scariest parts of the State of the Union Address was Obama's phrase "with all due respect to the separation of powers . . .". Basically, we set the agenda, and let the Constitution be damned.

Anonymous said...

This piece really hammers it home. This whole blog is damn good. (Hat tips.)