“It Knows How to Campaign, But is Completely Incompetent at Governing”

June 12, 2012 07:38

True governance is impossible without alienating parts or all of your base. Can anyone describe the philosophy of governance of the modern Democrat Party without invoking the image of Santa Claus? Competing interest groups do not want governance, they want entitlements and privileges.


By Monty Pelerin


The titled quote was appropriately directed at the Obama Administration, yet it is a general problem for Democrats. Over the last eight decades Democrats acquired a voting bloc by targeting disparate groups for favored treatment. Their focus over this acquisition phase gradually shifted from that of governing to winning elections.

Today they have a motley collection of constituents with little in common other than the word “MORE.” Democrats bought loyalty by increasing dependency and increasingly rewarding it. The core of the party now consists of interest groups with dissimilar agendas. The groups are potentially antagonistic to one another as they compete for the same favors. They have one thing in common — “I Want More.”

A disparate constituency cannot be governed in the fashion envisioned by the Founding Fathers. True governance is impossible without alienating parts or all of your base. Can anyone describe the philosophy of governance of the modern Democrat Party without invoking the image of Santa Claus? Competing interest groups do not want governance, they want entitlements and privileges.

As a result Democrat strategy is forced to focus almost exclusively on winning elections rather than governance. Their strategy depends on an unending pot of money that can be doled out to their motley constituents. There is no way to govern when your survival depends on the plunder of the productive to buy the disparate votes of competing interest groups. These groups don’t care about governance; they want to be fed with ever-increasing plunder from the productive class.

This country nears its turning point, sometimes referred to as the Thatcher point. The money has all but run out as Lady Thatcher knew it would:

The trouble with Socialism is, sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.

For politicians and political scientists, this period should be a fascinating and perhaps painful. It represents the end of Welfare States around the world. The welfare state is the underlying cause of the European problems and is about to become one for America.

The running out of money also represents the end of politics as it has been practiced for the last half century. Both parties are guilty of buying votes, but only one is almost completely dependent upon such a strategy. Without a pot of money, the Democrats, devoid of a governing strategy, will also be without an election strategy.

This threat to the survival of the Democrat Party existed before anyone knew of one Barack Obama. Its strategy was not viable in the long-term and would have brought them down eventually. Obama’s ineptness only magnified the problem and turned it into a shorter-term problem. There is now $5 Trillion less money available for government than when he assumed office. That ensures a significant shortening in the death cycle of the Welfare State in the United States.

Richard Fernandez describes additional wounds imposed by Obama on the Democrat Party:

The real weakness of the Obama administration is that it is all spin and no substance. Initiative, honesty, and competence are not wanted at the White House. The Vanity Fair article describes President Obama’s boredom with details. “Obama’s energy secretary, Steven Chu, may have a Nobel Prize in physics, but that counted for little when he once tried to make a too elaborate visual presentation to the president. Obama said to him after the third slide, as one witness recalls, ‘O.K., I got it. I’m done, Steve. Turn it off.’”

The moral of the story is that you should never show the president anything longer than two slides. You will bore him. Why give him War and Peace if the Cliff’s Notes version is available? Or maybe the Classics Illustrated version? Supply that instead.  This is where the “57 states,” “corpse-man” and “Polish death camps” fiascoes come from: the group of miserable and doltish advisers that surround him.

When the media took Obama’s skill at campaigning as evidence of his ability to govern, it was like concluding that just because a person knew how to operate a bulldozer he could operate on a brain tumor. The skills did not necessarily transfer. Perhaps the root cause of the administration’s woes is that it knows how to campaign, but is completely incompetent at governing.

The Poseur-in-Chief is particularly incompetent. He gone from Savior to Albatross in terms of his impact on the Democrat Party. He should not be thought of as the one who destroyed it, yet  history will likely treat him as it treats Jimmy Carter or even Herbert Hoover.  His mismanagement, arrogance and ineptness deserve severe criticism. Yet the political strategy endemic to the Democrat Party is what ensured its likely coming destruction.

It was a strategy that was effective in the short-run but certain to fail in the long-run. It was based on the same nonsense that John Maynard Keynes justified his economic policies: “In the long run we are all dead.” Unfortunately for the Democrats, the long-run is upon us. Obama’s presence and excessive spending greatly truncated the time-line to the US’s Thatcher breaking point.

Money as the mother’s milk of politics is soon to be no more. That exposes the strategic error in politicians’ short-term focus. It emasculates Democrat interest-group politics. Soon Democrats will have to govern, if they can still remember how. Will they be able to get elected without Santa Claus politics?

Politics as we have known it for the last fifty years is about to end. The Republicans, spared in this discussion, are not better than Democrats, they are merely less bad. Both parties will have to clean up their acts. Republicans may have less difficulty doing so.

Help Make A Difference By Sharing These Articles On Facebook, Twitter And Elsewhere: