Diana West is the author of "The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization," and blogs at dianawest.net.More ↓Less ↑
Thirty-two years ago, Ronald Reagan gave his first Inaugural Address. His words still illuminate.
“We are a nation that has a government – not the other way around,” he said. “And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth.”
For the past nearly two weeks, some of the temporary custodians of our government – President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to name two – have impressed upon the nation their scorn for this same founding principle. That, of course, means their scorn for Us, the People. Above all, in trying to force House Republicans to fund Obamacare against the wishes of the voters who elected them, they want us to understand that we don’t “have” a government, the government has us.
And not only us, but everything else. That’s why, for the first time, I feel like a tenant in my own country as President Obama has assumed the role of landlord.
Meanwhile, House Republicans passed at least 10 “mini” bills to fund services from the National Institutes of Health, including cancer trials for children (“Listen, why would we want to do that?” as Senate Leader Reid notoriously asked), to Veterans Affairs, to national parks, to the District of Columbia. The Democrat majority in the Senate, however, refused to approve them. In alliance with the White House, theirs is the strategy of the monolith: all or nothing.
Why? If Congress funds the more popular or relied-upon parts of the federal government, the American people won’t mind a bit not funding or even defunding the unpopular or unnecessary parts, and that includes Obamacare. Conversely, Democrats really seem to believe that only in a total shutdown will Americans feel “maximum pain.” According to such thinking, in our pain lies Democratic gain.
It makes a great party motto: “In pain they trust.” Engender enough of it and the Democrats think they’ll drive right over the Republicans to a virtual one-party state.
But maybe the grand strategy backfired. Something’s wrong when Landlord Obama, his administration busy ordering up “barrycades” and roadblocks for everything from the Grand Tetons to the Smoky Mountains, ekes out just a 37 percent approval rating this week.
It rankles. I don’t think Americans will ever forget this president for using the 2013 budget battle shutdown – the 18th in three decades – to lower booms and erect “keep out” signs all over the country just as though he owns it. It started at the World War II Memorial, where our veterans have been barricaded out of the open-air plaza they fought for and even built, since much of the private funds that constructed it came from veterans groups. From that symbolic spot on the Washington Mall – where, also symbolically, illegal aliens have received special privileges as when an “amnesty” rally was permitted to proceed despite the shutdown – a New Obama Order has taken shape. Unexpectedly, this federal flexing has been most visibly enforced by a thuggish National Park Service (NPS).
Incredibly, we have now seen NPS, in the name of the shutdown, block access to everything from 1,100 square miles of prime fishing in Florida Bay to scenic overlooks along the Potomac River. We’ve seen kids prevented from practicing soccer on a field deemed “the government’s,” and the privately run, privately staffed Claude Moore Colonial Farm shuttered (though it finally reopened just this morning), both in McLain, Va. We’ve seen the NPS drop orange road cones to prevent drivers from pulling over to catch a glimpse of Mount Rushmore; tourists hustled out of Yellowstone by NPS and ordered not to snap pictures of bison on their way out (no “recreating” allowed in a shutdown). We’ve seen “barrycades” go up around the famed geyser Old Faithful to obstruct the view from a nearby lodge. Walking through Rock Creek Park, the national parkland in Washington, D.C., I’ve seen a massive concrete barrier, courtesy of the NPS, blocking access to a tiny parking lot (four slots) adjacent to a foot trail through the woods.
Since when is the manpower required to block four parking spaces by the woods considered an “essential” government service? Since rubbing the nation’s face in the shutdown became the president’s policy. It’s little wonder, then, that Twitter has taken to calling the White House the “Spite House.” From such petty tyrannies – look out.
Fortunately, the answer lies in the very next lines in Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural Address: “Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.”