Reforms or Satan Sandwiches?

Posted on November 9, 2013


Reform sounds good, but the you know who is in the details.

In the battle of ideologies, the ground being fought over is the mind of the vast political middle, consisting paradoxically of mostly apolitical people.  The Art of War for conservatives must account for the premise that words have meaning.  Conservatives respect words, their content, their meaning, their etiology and their proper use.  At one time, liberals also respected the meaning of words, even if their place in a policy argument was indicative of a diverse outlook and a respectful disagreement between ideological opponents.  As the song says, “those days are gone forever, over a long time ago”.  Now, what we once dismissively categorized as ‘liberals’, presently fancy themselves as ‘progressives’.

This is an example of a substitution of nomenclature motivated by the perceived need to shake off what became a pejorative label, and  take possession of a word that has the advantages of its inherent quality. The sobriquet of ‘Liberal’, was poll tested to have a negative connotation –   tax and spend, lovers of bloated and intrusive government, less individual freedom, controls on businesses.  ‘Progressive’, on the other hand, according to the dictionary:  “favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, especially in political matters: a progressive mayor”; and – “making progress toward better conditions; employing or advocating more enlightened or liberal ideas, new or experimental methods, etc.: a progressive community.”

Why not, what an admirable and advantageous image upgrade?  It also serves as a firewall against the negative connotations of such labels as socialist and Marxist, does it not?  Although there was a short interval in which some liberals protested the re-branding of their ideologies as progressive and sought to argue distinctions between the two terms, the proponents of the progressive moniker  won the argument.

Normally, I  take exception at the use of such a word (progressive), when employed to self identify the proponents of corrupt and discredited policy positions and agendas like statism and fascism.  But the more I consider this, the more I lean in the direction of not merely withholding my objections to the improper use of that term, but actually encouraging the equation of ‘progressive’ with members of the Democrat party.  It is my sense that the effort in successfully associating the two, will pave the way for the de-legitimizing of these brands among the public at large.

To illustrate this, let’s return to the original theme of the essential nature of words as  necessary and vital functions of communication –  specifically the fact that we must maintain a common, universal standard as to their meaning. That principal is violated, when you have one set of individuals operating from the framework of traditional meaning and another set plundering a vocabulary and transforming it into coded speech. This is what has been going on with so-called progressives and Democrats.  Words that you and I have a familiarity with and a conventional understanding of, are now being employed to further an  agenda.

Remember how the dictionary, in describing ‘progressive’, included the quality of ‘change, improvement and reform‘?  If we poll most people on the slogan ‘hope and change‘ – we discover that the intended message the slogans were meant to convey, have now fallen into disrepute, even among people whose idealistic buttons were originally pushed by them.  Still, Democrats / Progressives remain undaunted.  “If ‘hope‘ isn’t selling quite as well anymore – perhaps we can adopt an alternative expression that has not been discredited (yet), n’est-ce pas?”  Well, that’s what they’ve done, although the exploitation of the word they’ve adopted is not entirely new.  That word is reform.

Now, whenever policy makers and their proponents on the Democrat / Progressive side of the room want to mislead voters into believing  some new legislative initiative of theirs is enormously beneficial, they tag the word ‘reform’ onto the end of it and voila, you have ennobled the concept almost beyond the reproach of conservatives.  The notion is, we dare our adversaries to oppose the popular conception of anything we brand with the label of reform.  I understand and appreciate this tactic.  It is devious, yes – but it’s anything if not clever on their part.  There’s only one fundamental weakness with this as a long term strategy.  If you don’t deliver the goods, you only have a limited time window to exploit those for whom the ruse is designed to deceive.

Notice the types of legislation which the formerly agreeable and encouraging word reform, has been used to promote. Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Here ‘reform’ is employed as a sweetener, a breath mint, if you will, to mask the halitosis of amnesty and all of its disastrous effects – imported crime, disease, illiteracy, wage erosion and the cultural affront of non-assimilation.  This is an instance in which Democrats and establishment Republicans, e.g. ‘Gang of Eight’ joined hands to advocate a Satan Sandwich that will only benefit the interest groups that each party serves.

Education Reform, in the guise of ‘Common Core State Standards’ marks another example of a cooperative effort on the part of both parties to implement opportunistic, top-down policy  that has something in it for everyone but the people it is touted as benefiting. Larry Cuban, an educator writing in the Washington Post, describes the hollow ring of reform as it reflects against the realities of Common Core:

“National, state, and local opinion-makers in the business of school reform know that what matters is not evidence, not research studies, not past experiences with similar reforms–what matters is the appearance of success. Success is 45 states adopting standards, national tests taken by millions of students, and public acceptance of Common Core. Projecting positive images (e.g., the film Waiting for Superman, “everyone goes to college”) and pushing myths (e.g., U.S schools are broken, schools are an arm of the economy) that is what counts in the theater of school reform.”

Then there’s gun control, euphemistically described as ‘reforms aimed at curbing gun violence‘.  People instinctively like the sound of reducing gun violence and certainly if new policy can be adopted to reduce it, who could possibly argue to the contrary? That’s until it becomes clear that what is intended by the ‘reform’ is not targeting criminals and  the unlawful use of firearms, but actually regulating guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens.  Reform, though launched as a cynical trope, is acquiring a tarnish, but the Democrats / Progressives remain undaunted.

One further example –  and of course, the one that has really caused massive fissures in the fault lines of American politics, is ‘Healthcare Reform’, aka, the ‘Affordable Care Act’, aka ‘Obamacare’.  This sweeping partisan disaster of an act of Congressional Democrats, makes total mockery of the admirable goal of reform, precisely because it doesn’t reform anything in healthcare – and there was a lot that was crying out for genuine reform.  Instead it was a smoky, backroom deal between Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Big Insurance, Big Healthcare and Big Pharma.  Now Americans have seen the meal that has been brought to their table and recognize it for the ‘Satan Sandwich’ that it really is.

The most genius thing the Right has done on their part to position themselves on the mainstream side of this issue, was to apply the moniker of Obamacare to it.  Now, as the wheels come off the bus, all the mayhem associated with it carries the imprint of Obama and his party.  Obamacare at this point is considered an oxymoron.

None of this is to suggest that  legislative slight of hand, now typified by Obamacare,  is exclusively a Democrat party practice.  Not hardly.  We saw examples of where both parties acting in collusion in the same way as organized crime families sometimes do,  supported laws that either became abject failures or were easily identified by anyone that is paying attention, as outright corruption.

Remember the joint venture of ‘Welfare Reform’ during the Clinton presidency?  Well intentioned, it may have been, but none of the ‘reform’ that was intended by it has been sustained.  California is swamped with welfare recipients, millions of which have no justification for receiving benefits – and the State, formerly known as Golden, is only the most egregious example, having 34% of the takers, but only 12 percent of the population.  What accounts for this?  Eloise Anderson of the Claremont Institute, writes in the Cal-Tax digest:

“Compared to Florida and Texas, California, New York and Illinois show slower declines in their caseloads.  Why?  Florida and Texas both have stronger penalties for uncooperative recipients. The reason may be that the welfare programs of California, New York and Illinois are all administered at the county level.  County governments are dominated by strong unions of public employees.  Government employee unions have a history of opposing welfare reform and their members have a vested interest in keeping caseload numbers high.  Without strong leadership focused on the goals of welfare reform, families remain trapped in a union-dominated bureaucracy.”

California Democrats run the state and they are not interested in any genuine reforms that actually shrink the size and scope of government.  It’s obvious that ‘reform’ is only a one-way street.

Meanwhile, Democrat / Progressives fight back by using the terms Conservative and Republican synonymously.  There may have been a valid argument for this even as recently as Bush 43’s first term, when millions of well intentioned folks on the right, got suckered in to W’s ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ and all the rest of his administration’s phony nonsense.  Less so after his re-election, when most of us discovered that we’d been played by Bush and the shadow government controlling him.  ‘Bush Bots’ still exist, but in marginal numbers.

No, it is the Democrat party that most consistently covers bad policy with the shiny wrapping paper of ‘reform’.  Unless there is strong and obvious evidence to the contrary, you can safely assume that any legislative initiative coming out of Washington D.C., or for that matter, any level of government that is couched in terms of reform, is simply corruption dressed up for the ball.  That’s right – the one you will pay for, but won’t be invited to.