David Reynolds: Back to the center

Column by David Reynolds
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In order to better understand a subject its best to view it from a different angle. So we headed north, being careful to avoid our subject, the city we love to hate. Yes, your humble scribe traveled to New Jersey to get a better fix on Washington, D.C. Makes sense, right?

After meeting and greeting the elite movers and shakers at what they like to call “a world class university” – but one whose ivy towers lean to the left, we had a most pleasant surprise. We discovered that democracy is working! We discovered that the political pendulum may be swinging back to the center.

That’s correct, all that right-wing fly-over country between our two left coasts is being heard from once again. You no longer need to live near an to ocean to witness the political tide changing.

All of America knows that there is a problem in river city – that Washington is sinking in its own swamp of indebtedness.

Just think, what was said at a tea party on Lexington’s Hopkins Green was repeated two days later on an Ivy League campus. Wonders will never cease. The republic may become whole.

But don’t get too excited. Not everyone is happy about this shift to sanity. The insane “tax, spend and charge it” crowd still holds the reigns of power. The Equalitarian Democrats rule by engaging in an endless campaign. 2010 is a rerun of 2008.

Christina Romer, who chairs the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, was asked to address “Unemployment and Growth in the Wake of the Great Recession.” Instead she gave us a preview of the 2012 presidential campaign. She made two points: (1) whatever economic mess we are in is not the president’s fault; and (2) our current high unemployment will continue because it is cyclical. That is why we will spend trillions to correct structural unemployment.

Sorry, Mrs. Romer, not even on a college campus did anyone salute such specious reasoning. It is okay to intimidate a timid GOP, but your party of government knows better. A political speech is not economic analysis. Could the problem be that the Secret Service has made the White House so secure that it is impossible to leave a wake up call?

However, Mid-America is awake. And the White House is finally attempting to forge a link to real people. Why? Simple. As Adlai Stevenson found out, there are too few intellectuals to win elections. Thus this week’s “White House to Main Street” road show. We know the demeaning drill by now. Citizens of a great nation serve as backdrop for a White House produced evening news photo op. Check your local listings.

After the opening keynote address, what did others have to say? (We will dispense with the panel on foreign policy; it was conducted in diplo-speak and we failed to bring a translator. And we will dispense with Washington budget insider Alice Rivlin. Alice hasn’t said anything new in 50 years.)

Well, there was a session on the “broken branch,” the polarization of Congress. The assumption made is that government legislative bodies can be judged the same as car bodies coming off one of Government Motors assembly lines. Numbers count. But you and I know that this ain’t necessarily so. It all depends on the quality of those numbers.

A Republican and a Democratic Congressman spoke. It was difficult to tell Leonard Lance and Rush Holt apart. Republican Lance was worried about the national debt; Democrat Holt was worried about his next election. Both honest worries.

The big surprise of the day was the elephant in the room. Not a word was said about it. Here were speakers from the right and the left, from Joshua Bolten, former Bush 43 Chief of Staff and former budget director, to Jon Corzine, former everything else, U.S. Senator, NJ Governor and Goldman Sachs Chairman. Josh, Jon and others talked about government spending and how health care costs (i.e. Medicare/Medicaid) are a financial black hole. Yet not a syllable was said on behalf of President Obama’s landmark legislative accomplishment – one that was designed to control such costs!

Is someone afraid of the elephant?

Yes, my friends, both major political parties are feeling the whirlwinds of change. The force comes from the center.

What does this all mean? For the Dems, they may save themselves from a drowning on November 2. Like a good hanging, there is nothing like losing an election — especially three – to get a party’s attention. For the Repubs, they may be forced to do a little governing starting November 3. Suggestion: Try making government better, not just smaller. As for our ship of state, I am cautiously optimistic. It will not sink.

There you have it. A view from the academic political class – where tea leaves may be causing ivy plants to take a second look.

Oh, yes. At our local tea party buttons were passed out with a quote by Mr. Jefferson, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” As usual, that fellow Tom was on to something.

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