The Battle of Mastodons

The battle in Washington is not over a balanced budget. It is not between the rich and the poor. It’s not between business and consumers.

It’s not about the environment. It’s not about Sara Palin’s intellect or the entropic Tea Party. It’s a mastodon battle between ideologies. Much editorial writing simply misses this point. So, sadly, do liberals.

Underlying the childish antics in our capital is a deadly serious battle of philosophies. On one side is an experienced dinosaur with clear objectives and a well conceived strategy for winning. On the other side is a disorganized dinosaur with good intentions and no strategy.

The mastodons have been circling each other for decades. The conservative mastodon cannot forget the success of liberal mastodons in the Roosevelt periods, when the first Roosevelt, a conservative, splintered the business trusts and created public lands. Then, shortly thereafter, the second Roosevelt, a liberal, built the basis of a modern government focused on the economic well-being of its citizens. This enraged the conservative mastodon and he’s been trying ever since to undo the work of his opponent.

If Democrats continue to measure projected outcomes of this battle by unwanted pregnancies, high school dropouts, starving seniors, uncared-for-vets, or the medically uninsured, they will lose this fight.

This fight is as basic to American hopes and aspirations as one can get. One mastodon believes that government, writ large, is a necessary evil, good only for a severely limited menu of responsibilities which includes national defense, a criminal justice system and some national infrastructure, although even these conservatives have tried to privatize every one of these government fundamentals in the last few decades. Implicit in their belief system is that business, regulated only by the constraints of a free market, can manage any complex socio-economic system better than government.

The other mastodon believes that Government has the potential to function at a higher level and, in fact, should regulate business,environmental, and detrimental social behavior. Indeed it ought to focus on the well being of its citizens and that the Atlas Shrugged philosophy of survival of the fittest, although it mimics the plant and animal worlds, is irrelevant to a just and benevolent society of human beings.

Only when we fully understand what these dinosaurs are fighting about will we be able to have a real discussion about what we are to become as a nation.

In more normal times, data and story are compelling elements in policy and decision making, but in this epic battle of behemoths, they are sadly irrelevant, except, of course, for the fact that real people and the climates they inhabit may get trampled.

Personally, I believe in the possibility of good government. One that is wholly transparent and accountable to its citizens. If we focused more on framing the elements of good government and less on circling one another and trumpeting our philosophical differences we might make progress.

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