As the newly elected Republican Party Chairman of California, agreeing with Nancy Pelosi on anything is hardly something I could have imagined. Recently though, she suggested “that elections shouldn’t matter as much as they do.” I agree with that statement – they shouldn’t – and our Founders would have too – but not for the reason Nancy Pelosi offers.
Pelosi was decrying the influence of the Tea on the Republican Party – an influence she thinks is too partisan. She wants the Republican Party to be less partisan, i.e. more like the Democrats when it comes to spending. According to Pelosi’s thinking, if Republicans were less conservative and went along with Democrats, Republicans and Democrats would be more alike – and elections wouldn’t matter as much as they do.
In believing that, Pelosi could not be more wrong. It is the monolithic and growing size of government that causes intense polarization, raises the stakes of politics and makes elections matter so very much.
Keep in mind that politics is the competition for and division of power. As government grows, so too does the realm of politics over the economy and peoples’ fortunes. In that same vein, as government grows, the number of those receiving government benefits, whether by employment or the dole, grows along with the cost of government.
Whether in Diocletion’s Rome or America today, as the amount of those dependent on government reaches an unfortunate equality with those funding government, political competition peaks and division becomes commonplace. That is so because, throughout history, democratic governments descend into a process by which an elected few, often for their own political gain, redistribute the earnings of one societal group for the benefit of another.
That dynamic, more often than not cast in compulsory terms, can’t help but be divisive. As that chasm of envy and resentment grows, and it has throughout all of history, ever-greater partisanship is sure to follow and elections become all the more important.
Our Founders understood that dynamic and wanted none of it. Keep in mind that they fought against a powerful government and the notion government should rule our lives. They also knew, as studied as they were, that the Utopian chase of a better life through government fiat was not only illusory but necessarily fracturing.
In part, that is why Washington initially eschewed party affiliation – hoping that Americans would unify behind our experiment in freedom not wrangle over partisan government. Within that unity, elections would matter much less. By intending to set up a limited government, of enumerated powers, they sought to limit political competition and compulsory envy. In other words, and ultimately, they didn’t want elections to matter so much because they never wanted government to matter so much.
Now that it does, and because the likes of Nancy Pelosi advocate for even more government, elections that seem to matter ever more can’t help but follow.