WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A DEMOCRAT
By George McGovern
Blue Rider Press, $22.95, 256 pages
After reading this fascinating book by former U.S. Sen. George McGovern, I can quickly answer the riddle of what it means to be a Democrat: holding a passionate belief in the ability of government to solve any problem, particularly if the answers come from Washington, D.C. In other words, no government is too big. In fact, no government is big enough.
After a roll call of all the federal programs created by Democrats over the years, Mr. McGovern is just warming up and proceeds to detail the necessity of stronger government intervention in all aspects of our lives.
Writes Mr. McGovern, "It means putting government to work to help the people who need it. It means using all available tools to provide good health care and education, job opportunities, safe neighborhoods, a healthy environment, a promising future."
Mr. McGovern continues in the same paragraph to promise government solutions to the plight of "people who have been kept down, Native Americans, African Americans, women, immigrants, the homeless, the mentally ill, seniors, vulnerable children, veterans, and making sure all people are treated with respect and dignity."
In short, there is no limit to the role of government. He never uses the word "balance" to account for the need for each individual to take at least some responsibility for his own life. He never demonstrates an understanding or appreciation for who pays for these ever-expanding federal programs.
Remember the old joke about the IRS agent knocking on a citizen's door with the greeting, "Hello. I'm from the federal government, and I'm here to help you." Mr. McGovern doesn't think this is a joke. He believes it. His obliviousness to the threat to our liberties from a government of the size and power he describes is sobering and scary.
The threat and fear of tyranny created the idea of America. The authors of the Constitution realized that the power of a central government strong enough to protect our nation from outside threats had to be balanced with clear states' rights and even clearer individual rights in order to maintain liberty, economic health and national welfare.
It has been a constant struggle over the course of our nation's history to achieve the proper, healthy balance between individual liberty and national purpose. There is no such struggle found in Mr. McGovern's view of a Democrat. With a federal government already spending 25.2 percent of our gross domestic product, funding seems to be no problem in purposing centralized solutions for immigration (Mr. McGovern's best chapter in my opinion), food and hunger, education, jobs, energy, the environment, foreign policy, universal health care, and alcohol and drug addiction.
As a Methodist boy myself, I appreciate Mr. McGovern's views on the number of challenges facing America and the world at large and on our need to address them, but having the central government as the best (and only) source of correction and solution seems last century to me.
The world is different today compared to just 20 years ago. It is smaller, faster and more open. A young man with a cellphone in Cairo helps direct a revolution against the tanks and machine guns of the dictator. The greatest U.S. businessman, Steve Jobs, reinvents himself over and over again as part of his marketing strategy. The world is different, but Mr. McGovern's view of the Democratic Party is not how it is different, but rather that it promises to do more of the same: centralize and dictate.
It is why I chose to leave the Democratic Party 20 years ago. Its answers looked backward rather than forward. On education, its solution to a failing public school system was more centralization in Washington and more funding without accountability. How has that worked out? On jobs, its solution was a more complex tax code with corporate loopholes. Can you smell corruption? On medicine, it was to listen to lobbyists for insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and tort lawyers. How has that driven down the cost of health care?
George McGovern is a fine man and has served his country with honor and integrity. His defense and justification of the Democrats is unsustainable, however.
I would recommend the Democratic Party adopt the 4 "Fs" for success in the 21st century:
1) Fast: Speed wins. McDonald's is the most profitable restaurant on earth. Who is the chef? They are in the fast business, not the food business.
2) Focused: What can we be the best in history, the best on earth? Do that, be that.
3) Flexible: Keep modifying the game plan. Bring it up to date constantly. Stay in touch with where the world is heading.
4) Friendly: Build a team. Smile! Unfortunately, the biggest problem facing a country headed in the wrong direction (as is America) is institutional corruption. This has become a place where a big check stands first in line while the average small businesswoman stands last. This is corruption and is bringing America down. Washington is the capital of corruption.
I am sad to say that both parties are guilty of institutional corruption. And neither party has the courage to address it. I wish George McGovern had. His integrity and wisdom would be worth a long, close listen.
Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is currently a Republican candidate for president of the United States.