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Forces strong for status quo

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, November 29, 1994

Like millions of other Americans, we used the Thanksgiving holiday to visit family in the Midwest. This year we took Amtrak.

The train ride was terrific; the scenery was spectacular. But there was an unanticipated benefit: long conversations with strangers, people from many walks of life, during the 17-hour train ride to Wisconsin and 17 more getting back home.

Our conversations inevitably turned to politics, as we picked through the rubble of the Nov. 8 elections. Most of my new friends echoed views consistent with the post-mortems of pollsters like Ed Goeas, who found that 80% or more of those who voted for Republicans voted for a smaller government that taxes less and spends less; and that 78% of the voters this year said government is too intrusive — up from 44% two years ago, before Bill Clinton took office.

What triggered voter rebellion against the president and his party? My friends in the “dome car” said it was health care. This was an issue they cared about, a debate they followed closely, a process that convinced them that Bill Clinton and the Democrats only have one answer to problems: create more and bigger government programs that cost more, provide less and raise taxes.

Conversations also reinforced my view that a very large number of people have tuned out on Bill Clinton — they simply don’t care what he thinks or what he says. Whatever the cause — the “character” issue; bad judgment from travelgate to gays in the military; or flip-flops on policy — Bill Clinton is already history to many Americans.

But there is another side to the story: forces for the counter-revolution, who were also on the train. Some are employees of government — Amtrak conductors, lawyers for federal agencies, school teachers, social workers. These are people who work for powerful and entrenched interests that feed at the trough of big government. Many of them run our lives through big government mandates. Imminent changes in the status quo, the first in 62 years, since Franklin D. Roosevelt, threaten their power and their livelihood.

These counter-revolutionaries will resist fundamental changes endorsed by a tax-weary majority of voters. Those on the payrolls of schools that don’t teach gave me the 1,000 proverbial reasons why we should not jettison government schools for schools of choice. From professionals whose education and training are primarily in the art and science of compliance with federal laws and regulations, 1 heard 1,001 reasons why you can’t change the welfare system or railroad subsidies.

With groups like these, there is no appetite for reforms that would take the government middle man out of the system — even though the middle-man function is being reformed or eliminated in nearly every other walk of life.

So, those who would change the way we do the people’s business are waging an uphill battle. Reason: The forces for real change, who spoke on Nov. 8, are not well-organized; the entrenched interests of the counter-revolution are well-organized and concentrated in downtown Washington, D.C.

That’s why the new leadership in Congress must find a way to remain connected to its real constituency in the hinterlands — a New American Majority that goes well beyond the confines of the Republican Party.

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