Conventional wisdom holds that the two major political parties have been co-opted by extremes (well, at least the Republicans). That so-called moderate elements have been driven out of the debate by the increasing polarization of special interests.
Conventional wisdom is wrong.
Special interests, to be sure, have rarely been more powerful — but their effect has been to homogenize the parties, not to exaggerate ideological differences. On so many fronts, voters are presented with echoes, not choices.
While Republicans and Democrats have been desperately trying to distinguish President Obama’s policies in the “war on terror” from that of his predecessor, the NSA spying scandal is only the latest instance of a clear continuity between administrations. Despite the partisan rhetoric, there has been no fundamental change in the centralized power of the Patriot Act, the zeal for nation-building and certainly the willingness for unilateral military strikes using unmanned aerial drones.
Now comes the bipartisan decision to engage Bashar Assad in Syria, with Bill Clinton, John McCain, Dick Cheney et al. giving Obama all the cover he needs to get America involved in yet another foreign civil war of dubious American interest. In fact, our support for the Syrian rebels will likely translate into giving aid and comfort to the militant Sunni Al-Nusra Front, all in the name of preventing Shiite Iran from dominating the region.
So the West will dominate the region. How’s that been working out?
The foreign-policy establishment also has been circling the wagons over the NSA spying scandal. Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed the administration by saying, “I hope we follow Mr. Snowden [the leaker] to the ends of the earth.” The president followed up with: “The unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk.”
Well … OK, that last quote was actually George W. Bush reacting when leaks initially revealed the NSA was tracking domestic phone calls in 2006, yet it illustrates how Obama has channeled his predecessor when responding to those who question his “wartime” authority.
The only thing more obvious than Democrats and Republicans playing between the 40-yard lines is the nauseating specter of political cross-dressing amid a sea of red vs. blue faux partisanship. Listen to what each side says today, then reverse the roles depending on which party controls the White House.
Yes, there may be a few policy differences here and there — Obamacare comes to mind, though both sides support its costliest provision, pre-existing coverage, but only in degree as to how fast the entitlement state can bankrupt the nation. When Clinton, as president, first proposed a prescription drug benefit for seniors, the GOP appropriately balked (Medicare’s unfunded liability just rose to $43 trillion, according to the latest trustee report); when Bush did the same, congressional Republicans were falling over one another to get to Medicare Part D’s signing ceremony.
The Senate’s $940 billion farm bill is another fine example of the sort of “bipartisanship” lauded by so many pundits. So expect the usual kudos for über-liberal Tom Harkin and so-called spending hawk Charles Grassley as they parade arm-in-arm through the Farm Belt in support of this orgy of pork.
Senate leaders even managed to shelve an amendment that would have capped crop insurance premium subsidies to $50,000 per farmer — though it had no effect on 96 percent of farmers and would have saved $3.4 billion over 10 years. Further proof that the only thing considered “extreme” in politics these days is cutting spending?
Finally, there’s a reason they call the immigration “reform” bill working its way through Congress a product of the “Gang of Eight.” The bipartisan concoction jettisons border security while adjusting the immigration status of 11 million illegals without their having to leave the country as under current law.
The Heritage Foundation estimates this “pathway to citizenship” will eventually cost the taxpayer $6.3 trillion by granting access to 80 means-tested welfare programs heretofore off-limits for anyone entering the country who is likely to become a “public charge.”
And so it goes.
Jason Lewis is a nationally syndicated talk-show host based in Minneapolis-St. Paul and is the author of “Power Divided is Power Checked: The Argument for States’ Rights” from Bascom Hill Publishing. He can be heard locally from 5 to 8 p.m. on NewsTalk Radio, 1130-AM, and at jasonlewisshow.com.