Op-Ed

Ky. election was repudiation of progressive politics

Cameron Schaeffer
Cameron Schaeffer

In his autopsy of the Jack Conway gubernatorial campaign, professor Ernie Yanarella determines the cause of death to be a failure to embrace and expand the New Deal.

Franklin Roosevelt was the father of the New Deal. In 1944, he proposed a Second Bill of Rights. It included, among other things, a right to food, housing, wages and medical care. This was a profound departure from the original Bill of Rights, which was intended to protect the individual from tyrannical government.

There is a critical difference between these two sets of rights. One requires the centralization of power and a bureaucratic apparatus to decide what is adequate food, wages, housing and medical care; the other does not. One requires taxation, regulation and redistribution; the other does not. One costs money; the other does not.

Without benefit of constitutional change, America has pursued Roosevelt’s vision and agenda. Congress, ever eager to curry votes, has been an enthusiastic accomplice. The courts, tasked with protecting our liberty, have looked the other way. The cost of that course is now apparent. An American child born today enters the world swaddled in a debt that is increasingly unlikely to be repaid.

Most Kentuckians are probably unfamiliar with the writings of Englishman John Locke and Frenchman Baron de Montesquieu. These philosophers profoundly influenced the Founders’ understanding of the sanctity of the individual and his inherent rights, the link between liberty and property, and the necessity of the separation of powers to protect the citizen from tyranny.

Locke’s greatest insight was recognizing the link between the right to accumulate property and freedom. What a man accumulates through his own effort in his finite working life becomes part of and an extension of himself. The nexus of “life, liberty, and property” came from Locke, is found in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the 5th Amendment, and was poetically turned by Thomas Jefferson into “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

A diagnosis that Yanarella failed to consider is that the people are rejecting the progressives’ assault on their rights as citizens to keep the fruits of their labor and to be left alone. The Democratic Party, a party led by a woman who could not explain the difference between Democrats and Marxists, a party which missed the suffocating and violent lessons of the last century, has been decimated at the state level nationally due to its misguided, failed agenda.

The centerpiece of that agenda is the Affordable Care Act, an affront to our founding principles of liberty and limited government and an instrument of corporate welfare that is bankrupting some people, the states and generations of the unborn.

The impotent opposition party is faring no better. As in Abraham Lincoln’s day, it is splitting over an enslaving issue of morality and cruelty: the debt we are leaving our children.

In classical tragedies, all that is bad ultimately consumes itself, purifying the stage. Debt is the antipode of freedom; self-induced, self-consuming and immobilizing, like a snake swallowing its tail. Whether by design or ignorance, the Democrats had no answer to the question of our state’s debt. With a bankrupt pension system and an unaffordable Medicaid expansion, their plan was to “take a look at it.” Call that profiles in courage. Snakes that consume their own tails eventually vanish from the stage.

Yanarella is of course entitled to his perceptions, however distorted, and his opinions, however misguided. Yet one cringes to consider what he is teaching students. One hopes that a tenured professor of political science, a chairman no less, is presenting the entire spectrum of political thought and teaching students to think critically. In the end, critical thinking by voters is the only hope for America.

Here is an exercise for his class: Substitute “federal government” for the word “king” in the Declaration, and have a conversation about how republics can be just as tyrannical as monarchies.

Cameron S. Schaeffer is a Lexington physician.

At issue: Nov. 5 commentary by Ernie Yanarella, “Ky. Democratic Party must stop acting like a milquetoast GOP”

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