Success in politics has always required vision beyond the latest crisis and thinking beyond one’s own most extreme instincts. For Democrats and the left, a striking inability to accomplish either fundamental task has headed them inexorably toward a ditch.
Impeachment has become the emblem of leftists’ shallow, one-step thinking: We don’t approve of, and refuse to accept, the results of an election that placed a despised villain in the highest seat of power. And so, instead of taking stock of why this happened and formulating the arguments to try and win back the voters who abandoned us and delivered this unspeakable result, we will simply reverse the results of the election by removing Donald Trump from office.
This anti-intellectual approach among the leftist intelligentsia is ironic to its core, for the consistent complaint advanced by the left against the right is that constitutionalism is inherently anti-intellectual. But this one-step, knee-jerk thinking has in fact long been a consistent thread throughout the highest ranks of leftist politicians and pundits, even though their socialist culture is so generously populated by high-brow, Ivy League academics who cut their teeth debating tenured professors in the faculty lounge and lecturing on lofty ideals from their ivory towers, far from the madding crowd.
They say they are deep thinkers, yet engage in economic and social policies that are formulated through not just one-step thinking, but willful ignorance of history, while constitutionally-based policies so often require multiple stages of thought and reliance on what history has proven.
Exhibit A is gun control, fast becoming an incendiary issue in Virginia and likely elsewhere. The leftist view is that guns are evil and used for killing, so we should simply try to outlaw as many of them as possible. Whenever a high-profile murder or mass murder occurs, the left calls for more gun control laws to fix future instances of the problem. Constitutionalists favoring a strict interpretation of the second amendment look at the fact that more gun control applies not just to criminals but to the vast majority of gun owners who obey the law. But of course, criminals by definition do not obey the law as it is, therefore they will hardly abide by stricter laws, while lawful gun owners will, and therefore more gun control actually creates a less safe society.
The left has made a single calculation to reach its policy position. The other side has made six. Which sounds more intellectually-based?
Then there is tax policy and reform, which stands as the signature achievement of Trump and Republicans. As we so often consider how to fix the unacceptable shortfall in government revenues caused by runaway spending, the left’s knee-jerk reaction is to simply try and raise taxes on the easiest targets, ignoring the root of the problem, the cascading consequences of higher taxes, and the fact that such a strategy doesn’t even begin to solve our massive budget deficits. One calculation. Constitutionalists, on the other hand, will make the argument that higher taxes burden job creators with higher costs and less profit, which means they create fewer jobs, which results in more private sector unemployment, less tax revenues flowing to the government, lower economic growth and higher deficits. Six calculations.
Next, consider the issue of health care. Obama and his leftist cohorts saw some 15% of Americans without health insurance and said the solution was to simply force the 85% who were insured to pay for the uninsured (though in this case, you must give them credit for complexity – they concocted a 2,300 page monstrosity that has been watered down over time and which nobody fully understood to begin with). And now, some of the Democrats’ leading presidential candidates propose to terminate private health care insurance altogether and grant the government full control. Constitutionalists, on the other hand, have thought far more deeply about this, and know that government-run health care will ultimately lower quality, raise costs, ration care, and squeeze providers to the breaking point. Thus, they favor the same mechanism for health care reform that works in every other area of the private economy – the free market, with ideas like expanded health savings accounts, tort reform, small business cooperatives, and the elimination of barriers to purchasing insurance across state lines.
Then there is the broader issue of helping the needy. The left’s answer is to create more and more government programs to hand stuff out. Constitutionalists understand that handing something to one person means taking it from another, who then has less money to spend and invest, which leads to less economic activity as well as less incentive and opportunity for the needy to become independent and lead productive and fulfilling lives. Thus, constitutionalists favor less government and more private charity, understanding that the willing hearts of donors are far superior to the compulsory charity of taxpayers enforced by the government. Again, a one-step thought process for the left, many more for the opposite point of view.
There are many other examples of shallow, one-step thinking on the left: If more people want access to a college education, then Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and their fellow travelers fix the problem by simply making it “free” for everyone. And if students who agreed to loan terms are burdened with excessive debt, the government can simply pay it all off. If enough people are having trouble making ends meet, the left wants to raise the minimum wage, never mind whether it will cost jobs.
Problems with illegal immigration? Just have the president unilaterally declare some hundreds of thousands of previously illegal aliens as legal.
And then there is climate change, perhaps the best historical example of the left’s emotion-driven prescriptives. In the 1970s, environmental extremists/alarmists discovered a cooling trend, so they warned us – on the cover of the vaunted Time magazine, no less – of certain doom in the coming ice age. That same crowd currently detects a warming trend, so catastrophic global warming, requiring economy-crushing regulations to contain, is now the threat to our very existence. Environmental issues related to fossil fuels can be solved, they believe, by simply drowning the industry in crippling regulations, which leads to the death of oil, coal, and natural gas, and the millions of jobs and energy production those industries create.
But the most potent display of the left’s one step thinking remains the 45th president: Trump is a threat to all we hold dear, thus we must remove him from office by whatever means avail themselves, no matter the dire consequences of overturning the clearly stated will of the American people.
In all of this, the single-step left can be counted on for one thing: the one step they take on any given policy will draw on their most extreme instincts and be centered around providing them – and the central state – more control, in spite of the demonstrable, spectacular, and repeated failures of their political philosophy. Of course, we should not be surprised – thinking through the lessons of history or considering proven and unintended consequences requires more than one step.
So, the next time you see the left spew their hatred at Trump, conservatives or anything resembling a free market – or God forbid, free people – remember that their positions on most every issue are based on just a single thought. If nothing else, it will make things easy for “simple-minded” constitutionalists to understand.
Read more from Tim Donner.