Last week’s exit polls were off by so much that throwing a dart while blindfolded might have more accurately predicted the results of Gov. Walker’s Wisconsin race. However, now that it is over, along with similar votes in San Jose and San Diego, CA that introduced balance into public sector union strong-arming, I would like to step back and take a broader perspective.
To the best of my knowledge, citizenship is no longer taught in schools. The concept of good citizenship is easy to pervert, for example by suggesting that a good citizen turns in his neighbor for driving in the carpool lane with fewer than the required number of passengers. Doing so makes one a snitch and government stoolie, not a good citizen. Being a good citizen means learning, understanding and upholding the principles upon which the society is built, even –and here is the important point –when they do not benefit the individual doing so.
My husband and I have a friend who attended university in a liberal center of the country, populated by many students. When rent control was on the ballot, he would have saved substantial sums on housing if that type of legislation passed. Nonetheless, he understood that rent control usurps private property rights and eventually destroys communities. It helps a few (frequently not those who are touted as the beneficiaries) at the expense of harming society in general along with mocking the foundational values of the country. For these reasons, he voted against the law, while the majority of his classmates looked only at how much more cash they would have available, and voted for it. His admirable vote was that of a good citizen.
When it became clear that the electorate in Wisconsin supported Gov. Walker, I was relieved. That vote is a bright spot in a rather dismal picture. The retention of a competent governor and a message to union bosses is certainly a good step. If the vote was the result of the majority understanding the fundamental principles involved rather than simply expressing frustration with a poor economy, the cause for optimism would be far greater.
I don’t claim vast historical knowledge. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Americans respond so emotionally to injustice that they often alleviate one difficulty while germinating another. Was it unacceptable that early presidents and retired civil servants lived in poverty during our country’s younger days? Yes. Are current presidential and congressional pensions and perks (with Congress voting for its own benefits) stratospheric and unjust to the citizenry? Yes.
Did some (not all) businesses take unconscionable advantage of those seeking employment? Yes. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and subsistence wages at some companies were real. Has the power that was granted to unions in response to those horrors ceased being the solution and become a hindrance to economic progress? Yes.
Are there serious flaws in the American health care system? Yes. Will Obamacare solve the problems ensuring a first-rate medical system available to all? Not a chance.
The examples of well-intentioned legislation transforming into predatory, monstrous and destructive malignancies that damage both individuals and society, are plentiful. Last week’s resounding votes suggest that now is the time for education. With increasing numbers acknowledging the failure of liberal policies, people are open to understanding core truths about how successful societies operate. If all that happens next November is that Republicans are elected, America will probably be better off in the short-term, but a unique opportunity will have been squandered. One way we will know how transformational the next few months are is by seeing whether the candidates’ abilities extend beyond being elected. Can they take advantage of a rare moment in time and dramatically and convincingly articulate a vision of truth that runs counter to the direction this country has followed, for which both political parties and shortsighted citizens share the blame? Are Mr. Romney and other office-seekers worthy of representing my rent-control-opposed friend? Let us keep them accountable as well as pray that they are.