This August, Congress goes home to reconnect with constituents and begin to make a closing argument before the 2014 elections. Members return to their districts after a year that has shown the extent to which our nation’s governing institutions have become detached from the demands of the people. Across the country, they will find that voters are tired of the status quo in Washington, eager for effective solutions to the problems they face, and skeptical of our political system’s ability to provide them.
Our times do not call for timid, poll-tested solutions. They call for a bold agenda that delivers opportunity for all but favoritism to none.
Conservatives are well-positioned to present this agenda. As conservatives, we believe in an America that is safe and secure; where family has the opportunity to flourish; where choices in education, health care, and other necessities are moved closer to home; where taxes are fair and flat; where all Americans have the opportunity to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them in pursuit of the American Dream; where government concentrates on its core functions, recognizes its limits, and treats everyone equally, showing favor to none.
Fifty years ago, Ronald Reagan gave his famous A Time for Choosing speech. While our times may be different, the choice Reagan perceived remains the central one. “This is the issue of this election, ” Reagan believed then as we do now: “whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
Today, those far-distant elites have more power than at any other point in our nation’s history. Bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services make too many health care decisions. Common Core opens the door for Washington to wield enormous power to impose its plans on education. Environmental radicals, out of touch with Americans’ need for reliable and affordable energy, want to make electricity and gasoline prices higher in service to their agenda.
However, the problem is not merely that government bureaucrats have misguided policy priorities. Entrenched interests have recognized that they can use these planners to line their pockets by passing regulations conducive to their unique business models and placing barriers in the way of insurgent competitors. Policymakers in government have embraced this dynamic, realizing that they can use private-sector allies to enact their progressive agenda.
In our nation’s Crony Capital, there are mutual benefits to this relationship. Government may be too powerful and burdensome for most Americans, but it works well for the special interests that are treated as a protected class in return for doing its bidding.