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The Wars of the Roses

Politics, Society and Morals

A number of commenters and commentators have lamented the rancor and venom permeating the legislative and administrative branches of our government. In my (long) memory, the intensity of conflict is unprecedented. In as non-partisan way as possible, I'll try to explain what I think is behind this unseemly display of partisanship. First, to explain the title.

The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars between supporters of the rival houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England.. They were fought in several spasmodic episodes between 1455 and 1485. Substitute Republicans and Democrats for Lancaster and York, and U.S. Government for England, and you have a pretty good description of what is going on in Washington these days. The political battle approaches the intensity and level of a civil war. I find the analogy irresistable.

At its core, it boils down to an arrogant display of the lust for power. But to delve deeper into this ugly syndrome, we have to look at the makeup of our legislative government. Who are these often juvenile scrappers who are supposed to represent "we the people" and what possesses them to act like children fighting over a football?

First, what motivates someone to run for high office? (except local representatives who are not anticipating a political career.) It's not the money, which, while significant, is not munificent. The retirement plan is pretty good as is the medical, but I think those are unlikely main motivating factors. Oh, I know, it's a desire to help his/her fellow man and solve the problems of society, right?

O.K., that sounds good, but why then do our problems seem to continually multiply and solutions elude us? How long have we been "fighting" poverty and homelessness? Is it any better for the trillions of dollars thrown at the "problem"? How about Social Security, which provides an unsustaining income for seniors and is going broke doing it? Pick your own program.

As flawed human beings, many of us find the idea of superiority over our fellow man appealing. We nurture our flagging egos by striving for a position where we can tell others what to do. Not everyone, of course, is thus motivated. There seem to be two distinct classes of people: those who gain self-satisfaction from controlling others and those who genuinely care for their fellows or are at least indifferent to the idea of being superior. The career politician, with pitifully few exceptions, tends to fit the former paradigm.

Neither liberals nor conservatives are immune to the Lorelei-song of elitism, which by definition is superiority. However, liberals typically espouse idealistic goals that create an aura of a higher calling. Sadly, liberal philosophy often tends to discount the "masses" as being unenlightened as to the desirability of its ideas. This concept of idealistic superiority leads in the political arena to a disconnect between the compassionate leftist fixes of perceived problems in society and the desires of the electorate. We are seeing this in garish Technicolor presently taking place in Washington.

High political idealism, something to which both sides of the aisle are prone, although more common among liberals than conservatives who are less inclined to favor radical change, requires the means to implement. In order to cram "fixes" down the throats of an often reluctant public complacent in their unsophisticated ignorance, near-absolute power is required. Liberal Democrats thought they had it, but they moved too fast creating the present backlash which they definitely did not expect. However, they will persist and will prevail whatever it takes, because the end justifies the means and the end is holy.

What we are seeing in government today, most flagrantly in Washington, is the unbridled quest for power. The overwhelming majority of government "fix-it" programs are spectacular failures. This is no accident. Even the blind man will hit the barn door occasionally, but these guys seem to miss every time.

The reason most government fixes don't work is that the purpose of these programs is not to fix the problem, but rather to gather power unto government, for only with absolute power can unpopular but deemed-necessary concepts be implemented. Unfortunately, as Lord Acton observed 170 years ago: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. High-level government today is largely morally and philosophically corrupt.

The present irrational suicidal headlong rush to pass publically unpopular health care reform legislation heedless of the consequences is an absolutely classic example of elitist arrogance. The reason for this politically suicidal quest for the Holy Grail of government-controlled health care is not a concern for 31 million uninsured--a ridiculously inflated number--but rather for the power it would accrue to the federal government. By the same token, Cap and Tax (nee Trade) is not to save the planet, but to acquire even more control. There are many more examples of government power grabs that are apparent if examined closely.

The allure of idealistic elitism is irresistable to the career politician, again with a few exceptions. The insular nature of that murky world beyond the Beltway provides temporal cover for this mad obsession with power. So, what's the solution? Frankly, I don't know. Perhaps the only thing we of the unwashed masses can do is vote the rascals out. Problem is they likely would be replaced with similar ilk.

What we are seeing today with the tortured and politically suicidal machinations to pass ObamaCare against all common sense--and it will pass as I predicted months ago because it must, lest liberal philosophy be discredited--is perfectly illustrated by the parable of the Scorpion and the Fox, which goes like this.

A fox is preparing to swim across a stream when a scorpion appears beside him. The scorpion says, "I need to get across the stream also, but I can't swim. May I ride across on your back?"  The fox says, "No, you'll sting me and I'll drown."

The scorpion says, "I wouldn't do that. If I stung you, I'd drown too."  The fox thought this over and decided it made sense, so he said, "O.K., hop on." The scorpion jumped on his back and the fox proceeded to swim across the stream.

Halfway across, the scorpion stung him. Drowning, the fox said, "Why did you do that? Now we'll both drown." The scorpion said, "I'm sorry, I couldn't help it. It's my nature."

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