The American Man-on-the-Street – or Person-on-the-Street in today’s correct parlance – is famous for his lofty indifference to political goings-on, both near and far.
“Let ‘em do what they want,” he says. “Doesn’t matter to me. They’re all crooks anyway.”
Of course, the “all crooks” quip was mostly a good-natured jab at politicians during a long span which included most of the 20th century. Your Average Joe went about his business – often politically ignorant, but secure in the assumption that politicians (and the government they ran) were basically under control and were working for his good.
Yes, there was an ongoing (mostly figurative) gunfight over taxes – how high they should be, and who should pay them – and over the societal adjustments caused by racial integration. But, by and large, your Average Joe (and Jill) figured that “civil serpents” were working honestly and fairly competently to preserve order, keep them safe, and help them live productive lives.
FDR and One-Party Government
We can now see that much of the public’s confidence in government flowed from the fact that the Democratic Party essentially controlled the Federal Government for most of sixty-two years: 1933 to 1995 (i.e., the 73rd through the 103rd Congresses)1. During that span Democrats held the presidency for 34 years and controlled both houses of Congress in all except the 80th and 83rd Congresses, when Republicans held both houses, and the 97th, 98th, and 99th Congresses when Republicans controlled only the Senate. We did have Republican presidents for 28 of those 62 years, but Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency during only the 83rd Congress (1953-’55).
This remarkably long span of what amounted to one-party government gave several generations of voters the impression that Democrat-control was the “normal” state. And there was not much pushback from Republicans, who adopted a non-combative “go along to get along” posture in houses of Congress that were far more collegial than they are today – “I yield to the honorable member…” and all that. Respected Republicans, like Gerald Ford and Bob Dole, built entire political careers on crossing the aisle to “work with” Democrats, without ever being in charge.
Wise-acre commentators joked that Republicans’ motto should be: “Republicans – we’re not as bad as you think.” From the 1930s to 1990s the idea that Republicans might ever challenge Democrats’ political hegemony seemed impossible to voters, and absurd to Democrat pols, until Ronald Reagan – that Grade-B actor who Democrats said was just “reading lines” – busted in, kicked over the game-table, and redefined the GOP.
The Reagan Revolution
Up until Reagan – for the half-century since FDR’s New Deal – federal legislative activity was partitioned into two spheres: Democrats passed out the goodies and spent the money, while Republicans took the lead on raising taxes to balance the books. This made Democrats very popular and led to their long tenure as the majority party. Republicans could never shake the brand – largely self-inflicted – of being “tax collectors for the welfare state.”
But Ronald Reagan rejected that division. And he awakened the Average Joe and Jill by declaring: “Government isn’t the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.”
After winning a decisive victory over Jimmy “Stagflation Man” Carter, Mr. Reagan ditched the “tax collector” label and pushed a 25% tax cut through the Congress with the help of his Irish pal, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil. Later, in his second term, President Reagan engineered another tax cut that reduced the rate-structure of the income tax to just two levels, for the first time since its inception in 1913. His tax-cuts produced a roaring economic-boom which ran from 1983 to the end of 1990 – one of the longest in American history. Happy days were here again, and the Man-on-the-Street knew who had brought them about.
Of course, it was all too good to last. Voters elevated Vice-president George H. W. Bush to the presidency in 1988, expecting him to keep the good times rolling. But Mr. Bush felt called to a “kinder, gentler” Republican governance – as though the conservative Reagan administration had somehow been cruel and harsh. Mr. Bush’s reactionary thinking led him to work out a quid pro quo deal with Congressional Democrats in which he would sign off on some tax increases, while they would pass some spending cuts.
But Mr. Bush got rolled by the cagey Dems. The tax increases cruised right through, but the spending cuts never materialized. Mr. Bush’s unwitting reversion to the “tax collector” role produced a lot of offended Republicans, plus a mild recession which let Bill Clinton run around the country claiming that Mr. Bush had given us “the worst economy since the Great Depression.”
Mr. Bush considered the charge so absurd that he didn’t try to refute it. But younger voters – who wouldn’t have known the Great Depression from the Great Gatsby – bought the Clinton line. And to finish things off for Mr. Bush, billionaire Ross Perot ran an independent “fiscal responsibility” campaign that drew off 19% of the popular vote – mostly GOP voters – and allowed Bill Clinton to slip in the back door with just 43%. (Mr. Clinton took the electoral vote 370-168.)
The Clintons (Act I).
Bill (and Hillary) Clinton’s leftist governance was a far cry from Mr. Reagan’s conservative approach. Bill had campaigned as a moderate New Democrat, but he tossed that brand after taking office. His government healthcare plan – dubbed “Hillarycare” by the media – was the centerpiece of his Big Government approach. Maybe the Clintons thought they could get by with that switcheroo, but the fully aware Person-on-the-Street was having none of it.
After two years of “Clintonism,” voters energized by Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America rose up and smote the Democrats hip and thigh – gaining 54 seats in the House of Representatives and 8 seats in the Senate. When the score was finalized for the 104th Congress, Republicans held a 230-204 majority in the House and a 54-46 edge in the Senate. It was the first Republican-controlled Congress since the 83rd (1953-’55). Subsequently, Republicans went on to control the 105th, 106th, 108th and 109th Congresses, and just the House in the 107th Congress2.
President George W. Bush took the country through the trauma of the 9-11 attacks, but he lost support by dragging the War on Terror out beyond the public’s patience-limit. He also alarmed senior voters by clumsily pushing a poorly explained plan of changes to the Social Security System. That plan and the drawn-out war caused Republicans to lose control of both houses of Congress in 2006. And it set the stage for previously unknown Senator Barack Obama to burst on the scene as a new Democratic presidential candidate.
Mr. Obama (dubbed The One by reporters) dazzled media and voters with his mellifluous words, his immaculately creased $2,000 Armani suits, and his Hope and Change candidacy. What “change” we should hope for was never clear. But the “first African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” (as Senator Joe Biden so eloquently described him) assured us that the change would be everything we dreamed of.
Commentators called his campaign “messianic.” A week before the election The One proclaimed: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming America!” Most of America’s Persons-on-the-Street had no idea how right he was.
Obama enjoyed the advantage of a Democrat-controlled Congress that was all-in on his agenda. With a 257-178 margin in the House, and 60-40 in the Senate, Democrats rammed Obamacare through in Obama’s first year. His Carbon cap-and-trade plan didn’t pass, but his executive orders restricting drilling soon pushed gas-pump prices to over $4 a gallon.
Although he had won election on a promise to end racial conflict, it soon became obvious that Obama and his “wingman,” Attorney General Eric Holder, weren’t heading in that direction. Dems obviously thought race was their winning ticket, so they bet everything on it. Commentator Glenn Beck said Obama set back race-relations in America by 50 years.
Two years into Obama’s term it was hard to find anyone willing to admit having voted for him. Around that time I heard a caller to a local radio talk-show say, “Sure, I voted for the guy. He looked and sounded great. But I never thought he would screw up this badly.” Experienced businesspeople could tell you that this is often what happens when you put someone with no previous experience running anything in charge of a company (or the country).
Sixteen years after the sea-change election of 1994, our Joes and Jills handed down a similar verdict on The One. In another “wave election,” Republicans gained 63 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate. In the 112th Congress the GOP held a House majority of 241-194, but Democrats still controlled the Senate, 53-47. Across the states, Republicans gained 6 governorships and control of twenty more legislatures. The party alignments remained the same in the 113th Congress, but Republicans gained full control of the 114th Congress in the ‘14 midterm elections.
The Clintons (Act II) vs. The Donald.
After Obama’s triumphant exit, it looked like Hillary Clinton had it in the bag in 2016. She had Big Media and a sitting president on her side, and it looked like an easy campaign for the (historic) first woman-president. But Donald Trump and fully awakened Persons-on-the-Street disagreed. Big Media, the Clinton camp, and sitting government officials (as is now being revealed) threw in everything but the kitchen sink at the trash-talking New York billionaire. But he continued to tell overflow crowds that he would do his darnedest to Make America Great Again. Working men, farmers in overalls, housewives, grandpas and grandmas loved it. And (as I wrote at the time) many of them began to believe that this guy might actually get something done.
As the campaign moved into its final weeks, polls continued to show Mrs. Clinton maintaining a slight lead: 44% to Mr. Trump’s 42%, or thereabouts. Numbers guys (including Yours Truly) kept asking, “What about the other 14%?” No one seemed to know, but on election night, as the state-totals poured in, we found out. A pall of gloom settled over Big Media’s TV studios as it became obvious that Donald Trump was going to win.
Hillary Clinton took the popular vote in California and New York by lopsided margins, but across the other 48 states Donald Trump carried the day. He won 304 electoral votes of 30 states, to Mrs. Clinton’s 227 electoral votes of 20 states. Average Joes and Jills had spoken, but not everyone wanted to hear what they said.
Mr. Trump took office determined to keep his campaign promises, but he had to contend with an unrelenting hail of slings and arrows thrown at him by judges, civil serpents, Democrats, media (but I repeat myself), and even some members of his own party. The onslaught started the day after the election with publication of a “dossier” of absurd slurs invented by British muckraker Christopher Steele – who was paid for his work by the Clinton campaign – and it never let up through Mr. Trump’s entire term. Nevertheless, he stopped the flood of illegals crossing our borders, brought the economy roaring back, engineered a Middle East peace deal, and made us energy-independent for the first time in our history. By 2020 gasoline was $2 a gallon.
Although the COVID virus from Wuhan, China dampened the economy in 2020, Trump voters still came out in great numbers to vote for their guy. They knew he was the real deal. On election-night it looked like they had given him a second term, but then came the counting of the mail-in ballots. Slowly, inexorably, excruciatingly Mr. Trump’s lead in a half-dozen key states dwindled, until Joe Biden was finally declared the winner. Establishment pols of both parties rejoiced over the “normalcy” that Joe Biden promised to re-establish, But millions of Average Joes and Jills knew something crooked had gone down. If they weren’t awake before, they surely were now.
Good Old Joe Biden – that aged pol from a former slave-state who had started out closely aligned with other old-style southern pols – immediately set about undoing everything Donald Trump had accomplished. To save the planet he cancelled oil-pipelines and new drilling, undid our energy-dominance, and sent the price of gas sky-high. At our southern border he threw open the gates and invited the whole world to flood in. He produced galloping inflation by printing trillions of new dollars to pay for his pet projects. And on the international stage he demonstrated a weakness that tempted Russia, China and Korea to aggressive actions they never dared take while Mr. Trump was in charge.
In the wake of the corrupted 2020 election – of which more and more evidence is now emerging – it’s difficult to know how many real voters Joe Biden actually had. But whatever the number was, it’s mighty difficult to find any of them now. Even some of his staunchest media supporters are beginning to wonder if he’s all there. And office-holders of his own party are panicking over the November-disaster they see coming. Millions of Persons-on-the-Street are fully aware that government is no longer under control, and is certainly not working for their good.
Experienced political analysts assure us that Joe and his brain-trust will soon adjust oil production to bring the price of gasoline down and salvage the election for Democrats. Surely Good Old (experienced) Joe won’t keep his party sailing right into an “iceberg.” But there is no sign of such adjustments. Instead, there is wild talk of $6, $8, or $10-a-gallon gas, and equally wild speculation about the whole country converting to $70,000 electric cars for which no charging-infrastructure exists. Biden spokes-persons declare that inflation is no problemo, while a child can see that it is real trouble for the country.
Why is all this happening? Is Joe Biden’s capacity so diminished that he doesn’t see the electoral danger ahead? Why isn’t his Congress passing legislation that would loosen oil production and close the border? What’s really going on?
Your guess is as good as mine, but from here it looks like Biden insiders believe the fix is in. They aren’t panicking because they think that no matter how badly they screw up the economy, transportation, immigration, and the lives of Average Joes and Jills (that Democrats used to care about), they’ll still be OK in November. They don’t have to win every House- or Senate-race. They just have to hold onto majorities in both chambers of Congress, which they can do by getting their candidates over the finish line in very close races. As we saw in 2020, there are various ways to do that, including delivering bales of mail-in ballots in the dead of night.
I know I’ll be called everything from Hitler to Lucifer for saying all this. I’m sorry to be so contrarian, but the time to issue a warning is now, not later. As we saw in November 2020, words are useless after the votes (valid or not) are counted and the results are certified.
There’s lots of brave talk these days about how Republican voters are going to set things right in November. (By jingo, we’re really gonna show ‘em.) Well, I hope so. Millions of Joes and Jills understand the mess we’re in, and they know who made it. They’re ready to throw the bums out. But this is a dangerous time. It recalls something Josef Stalin, that champion of democracy, once said: “who counts the votes matters more than who casts them.” We need to remember that.
We’re playing for big stakes here. If we fumble this election away, another chance to put things right might not occur for a long time – maybe never. Every vote must be cast by an actual citizen – only one per person – and the mail-in ballots, demanded by “national emergencies,” must go.
“Forewarned is forearmed.” (Ancient proverb)
“If not now, when? If not us, who?” (Ronald Reagan)
- See http://cstl-cla.semo.edu/rdrenka/ui320-75/presandcongress.asp
- In May 2001, the Senate shifted to Democratic control when Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched from the Republican Party to Independent status. He caucused with Senate Democrats and became chairman of a standing committee. In 2003 the Senate returned to Republican control.