Reading about Paul Ryan’s recent $1.1 trillion omnibus funding bill will leave many republicans furious. The fact that it nearly quadruples H2B visas and funds the entire liberal policy panoply will surely vex those establishment figures who see it as an insidious plot to elect their bete noir. Obviously there’s only so far you can walk cattle into the abattoir before they start noticing bloodstains. And Ryan seems determined to grind snouts in the spatter. The resulting electoral revulsion of establishmentarians isn’t difficult to project. Plainly he is a creature in service to Trump.
But Ryan is accomplishing more than cementing the nomination of his liege. He’s also shining stadium lights on the now complete decoupling between a party and its constituents. This being just one element of the vast and increasing gulf between nation and state that is occurring in countries simultaneously across the West.
These were the thoughts as a friend called today to ask my opinion of some local political trifle. Upon expressing ignorance of the issue, he quipped “You know more about what’s going on across the world than you do across town.” And that’s true. Because whether meter maids are working on Wednesday afternoons will ultimately exert less gravity on my life than the large objects forming far away. It’s a poignant realization that politicians closest (and thus most conceivably responsive) to their citizens are those least empowered to serve their interests. While that is unfortunate for man’s happiness and dignity, it’s not at all atypical to his station through history.
Because power craves altitude. It seeks the greatest possible elevation from those rooted to the ground. Only constant vigilance and viable threat of head/neck separation have ever leashed power to the same plane as the people. Those too stupefied, venal, or craven to hold the ropes can be assured of it quickly levitating far from their input. And that is much of what passes for current political discussions in both America and Europe: a frantic “come back!” gesturing toward the fading helium balloon called government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I guess we’re just not the people.
Though once men are disconnected from any conceivable means to affect their environment, events often culminate in fairly emphatic disciplinary action. The ennui and lassitude that result from being ruled by cumulus-cloud politburos can quickly turn to bitterness and then fury. It seems like so much risk and hassle that I would almost accede to popular will if only to save myself the headache…and the head. But you can’t be a philosopher-king without a crown, so here we are.
And here is a state of representation theater for all but the sub-nine figure subject. The rest may appeal to a local government that can’t do, or a federal government that won’t care. And those industrious enough to pursue state referenda soon find their efforts discarded by judicial whim. As Californians learned with Prop 187, defending your habitat and resources from alien incursion is definitely a notion that would have been offensive to drafters of the constitution. Of course the hoi polloi may still elect representation to pass national legislation. If you want to curtail Guatemalan border sorties, you just get a law passed. Like the Secure Fence Act of 2006, for instance. That law required a southern barricade, which means one must exist presently whatever our senses may imply to the contrary. Citizens demand and their government responds.
Sometimes government is so responsive it does so in enthusiastic opposition to popular appeals. That has been the process of Mr. Obama’s executive orders, which have simply dispensed with both enacted law and public opinion in favor of his own demographic preferences. I’m dreaming of a brown Christmas.
It’s really quite a task men to which men are put. Toothless state and local governments; federal politicians whose fidelity is to donor fellatio; a judicial junta that jettisons votes cast poorly; and an executive who enforces or discards laws with less modesty than Emperor Bokassa. The cumulative result being that even when acting in concert with millions, the common man faces a shorter journey walking to Andromeda than coaxing agreement from his government. And this is what we frivolously call The Rule of Law.
Disappointingly for the ghost-shirters, power resides always with men and not paper. And in thinking of who may rule next, I pause to admire Paul Ryan’s determined and transparent political advocacy. Because sometimes when enough is had, men on the ground actually change The Law of Rule.
And that’s when frantic gestures start coming from the other hand.