Belmont Club

The Victory Disease

Although Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters and Arizona sheriff Paul Babeau have nothing obvious in common, a single thread runs through their recent actions. Each is unwilling to be reined in. Rangel and Waters are thumbing their noses at the Congressional ethics committees attempting to investigate them for corruption. In the instance of the sheriff, he is pushing back against a what nearly 70% of the population regard as the irrational immigration policy of not enforcing it. The other side is pushing back too — at the law. “Undocumented and unafraid” was the slogan of 22 self-confessed illegal aliens who sat in five Senator’s offices in the Capitol.

The students in D.C. are part of a national network of undocumented youth and students who’re approaching the constant stall-outs of the Dream Act with civil disobedience. They’re also among the thousands of people expected to descend on Arizona next week when the state puts the SB1070 law into force, barring legal challenge.

“Civil disobedience”, once a term of honor used by those who fought tyranny, now means “I’m walking out with the TV from the store and you can’t stop me.” If Maxine Waters, Charlie Rangel and the “undocumented and afraid” bunch are willing to simply tear up the tickets in the face of law enforcement, and law enforcement, as typified by Sherrif Joe Arpaio are determined to issue the tickets anyway, what impends is not a simple “failure to communicate” but a warning that the legitimacy of the system is under attack.  Fewer and fewer know the rules any more. And the word that everything is there for the taking is leaking out. News that a Mexican drug cartel has put a price on Sheriff Arpaio’s head isn’t really so surprising.

“It’s offering a million dollars for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s head and offering a thousand dollars for anyone who wants to join the Mexican cartel,” the man, who wants to remain anonymous, told the station.

Pinal County (Ariz.)_ Sheriff Paul Babeu said, “What’s very troubling is the fact that at a time when we in law enforcement and our state need help from the federal government, instead of sending help they put up billboard-size signs warning our citizens to stay out of the desert in my county because of dangerous drug and human smuggling and weapons and bandits and all these other things and then, behind that, they drag us into court with the ACLU.” President Obama who ran on being post-everything has partnered with everyone. The result is that no one knows whose side he is on; and that engenders a feeling of betrayal in everyone who thought he was on ‘their’ side.

The problem is that when public policy and its enforcement mechanisms blink on and off like a broken intersection stop sign nobody knows if the signal is meant to be obeyed or not. Eventually people who stare at the light decide ‘not’. The Washington Post says “President Obama’s relationship with members of the Congressional Black Caucus is being tested over a series of high-profile incidents.”  But after years of being allowed to get away with anything Rangel and Waters are understandably resentful at the sudden zeal of the ethics committee. The WaPo blog The Fix hints that the Congressional Black Caucus are so wroth may actually play the “race card” against Obama.

One party strategist familiar with the CBC painted the following doomsday scenario:

“You have a bunch of ‘Front Liners and Blue Dogs — predominantly white members — calling for Rangel and Waters to step down, and the CBC digs in and defends them and goes after [Obama] and the party for not adequately defending them. This causes big drop in enthusiasm among African Americans for Democrats (coupled with bitterness with the Sherrod incident), and they stay home.”

The fact that President Obama is sworn to be President of the whole American people is likely to be unappreciated by a constituency which the Democratic Party has made the hinge of their political majority. When elections depend on the support of a bloc vote, they must be mollified at all costs. All costs. The political establishment is paying the price for split-level rules. Having conditioned selected groups to receive special treatment they now unable to discontinue the service. Promises made in the fat times now have to be made good in the lean. That they can’t be kept is no excuse. Pension funds are bankrupt, the voters are angry at political corruption, Americans are desperate for jobs. The design margin is gone.

In that atmosphere public employee unions, congress persons and the PC activist crowd can no longer get the goodies they used to. But taking it away from them is going to be like pulling teeth. ‘Whaddaya mean I can’t park where I am not supposed to park?’ One of the charges against Charles Rangel’s involved his Mercedes Benz “which was parked in a House space for roughly five years beginning in 2003” when the limit is 45 consecutive days. When you let a guy park in one space for five years, you’ve signaled the rules don’t apply to him.  The day the tow truck comes is also the day Charlie asks ‘why’? Why now when there’s a post-racial President did you remember the parking space? And five years is a short period in the history of political correctness whose motto is “once given, for always”. Taking back Hope and Change is a lot harder than promising it in the first place. In Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago the criminals have come to accept lawlessness as their due. They’ve become so brazen they are now targeting the police. That city has a murder rate in literal excess of Iraq or Afghanistan. In a 59 hour period, forty people were shot in the city.

Three Chicago police officers have been murdered in the last two months, the most recent of whom was Michael Bailey, who at age 62 was only weeks away from retirement. On the morning of July 18, Bailey had finished an overnight shift guarding the home of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and was in front of his own home cleaning his new car, which he had bought as an early retirement gift to himself. He was still dressed in his police uniform when someone tried to rob him. Police officers everywhere accept the risks to life and limb attendant to the job, but it’s generally taken for granted among cops that the uniform will serve as a deterrent against being robbed on the street. What level of depravity has a city reached when a uniformed police officer is no safer from a street robbery than anyone else? More important, what is to be done about it?

Like Sheriff Arpaio the robbers are after the cops. So what do Arpaio and the Chicago cops have in common?  The essential is invisible to the eye; and that essence is that the current system is losing its ability to function through self-inflicted corruption and red tape. It has messed things up so badly that it is struggling to service itself. Not only is it progressively less likely to provide “free” benefits for its adherents, it may be approaching the point where it must work simply to keep the routine wheels turning. If virtue is its own reward, incompetence in a closed system is its own penalty.

The designers of the American political system set it up to tolerate local dysfunction — the Federal system established limits on power and created firewalls against the spread of the consequences of their abuse. But those limits were inconvenient to the boundlessly ambitious. Since World War 2 the narrative has been of increasingly putting the central government in charge of everything. The Super New Dealers are here. That centralized the risk as well. Once the firewalls on imbecility have been dismantled the inevitable consequence, as in the case of the global financial system, is that limits to their dysfunctional effects are removed as well.

Then you have a cascading effect. One reason why systems often don’t fail gradually is because small changes, each seemingly inconsequential in itself, can come together and enable each other. The blaze just jumps when it exceeds a certain temperature. Just as people often think they have more money than they have, the system had less ‘give’ than its masters believed. Now the challenge on the left will be, not as they believed, to ensure their permanent majority, but to simply ensure that the bills are paid and that their routine instructions are followed. It’s an ancient process, one already known to the Greeks. Hubris, which was defined as “ruin, folly, delusion” is often followed by Nemesis.  That wasn’t hard to guess thousands of years ago.  But for some moderns, who would have thought it?

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