Bread and Circuses (or Gas and Mortgages)
Commentary by Aslan, 11.11.2008
"For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death..."
Heinlein, Robert. To Sail Beyond The Sunset. Page 227
"I never thought this day would ever happen. I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know. If I help him (Obama), he’s gonna help me."
Peggy Joseph, Sarasota, Florida (video link - click image)
Conservative conventional wisdom has long been that liberals seek political power by wooing voters with government largess. Class envy is the foundation of this strategy, for once it is established that those who possess wealth in America do so unjustly (ultimately at the expense of the downtrodden), then it becomes acceptable to confiscate this wealth and use it to finance "bread and circuses."
The rhetoric of the Obama campaign threatened to take bread and circuses to a new level, promising a dazzling variety of government handouts, which in the mind of Peggy Joseph included gas and mortgages. One election strategy in support of this redistribution approach is to expand the voter rolls with those citizens most likely to embrace bread and circuses. Thus, ACORN sought rulings to approve voter registrations for the homeless who indentify a park bench as their residence and the Democrat party embraced open borders that would bring economically desperate immigrants into the fold.
Yet, despite Obama’s election, the conservative nightmare of plebs voting themselves gas and mortgages did not come to pass. "Despite widespread predictions of record turnout in this year’s presidential election, roughly the same portion of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 as in 2004." (Politico, That Huge Voter Turnout? Didn't Happen.) How, then, was Barack Obama elected? Astonishingly enough, those who supply bread and circuses to the plebs provided the critical votes that secured victory for the Democrat candidate.
Graphically, the elimination of the Republican advantage amongst higher income voters is stunning:
Either "the productive members of the body politic" are masochists or they missed Joe the Plumber’s conversation with the President-elect in Toledo, Ohio. In the end, it seems likely that their irrational hatred of President Bush compelled them to gamble that Barack Obama is not in the bread and circus business in any significant way (see The Platform of Republican Failure).
This is good news for Republicans…if they can find their soul. If Obama had won because his creative voter registration efforts had swelled the numbers of voting plebs to a critical mass, then one could speculate that a point of no return had been reached and that the state had begun to bleed out. But Obama won because of the productive members of the body politic, not in spite of them. While conservatives consider these new Obama voters foolish, they are not fools. If Obama begins to bleed them, their new loyalty will vanish as quickly as their money.
Like a faithful spouse, the Republicans have a unique opportunity: to await the inevitable flight of the productive members of the body politic from the hard left on display in Washington these next two years. Although the Democrats and Obama claim to be chary of following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton in 1992, a leadership comprised of Obama, Biden, Pelosi and Reid will be unable to push away from the public trough, in part because they erroneously believe this election has validated liberal governance (ironically, this election was all about rejecting Republican liberal governance.)
Congressional Republicans, however, must isolate themselves from Congressional Democrats and all their socialist legislative activities. They cannot give Democrats any cover for their socialist policy. Claims of excess partisanship can be laughed off with good cheer because the Democrats do not require the cooperation of the Republicans to achieve their legislative agenda. As demonstrated during the first vote for the $700,000,000,000 bailout bill, a unified and principled minority can make effective statements that the electorate hears and appreciates.
Whether the productive members of the body politic who voted for Obama did so for amorphous "Change" or because he wasn’t George W. Bush, these political customers, because of their fundamental opposition to socialism, are uniquely susceptible to buyer’s remorse. It is time for Congressional Republicans to find their conservative bearings and to stand against the liberal tide. If they do this, the arrogance of this band of Democrats in Washington will gift-wrap the 2010 Congressional election.
Copyright © 2008 Dan Hallagan. All Rights Reserved.