In early 20th century Paris, violent street gangs called Apaches became a popular cultural fad. Apache shirts and argot showed up in cabaret entertainment, fashion, and movies. Most famous was the Apache Dance, a pas de deux mashup of seduction and feigned violence in which the man slapped his paramour around and she pummeled him until the couple reconciled. The audience all knew that when they left the stage, they were heading for the same bed.
The recently passed omnibus budget bill that capped 2022 is a good reminder of the essential unity of our political guild, one obscured by the theater of “divisive partisanship” frequently decried by pundits. This current bill triples-down on the earlier near-trillion-dollar Inflation Reduction Act, and the near-third of a billion CHIPS Act that subsidizes the semiconductor industry–– “an embarrassing stew of accountability-free corporate welfare and government spending,” as the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel reported on July 28. Republicans–17 Senators and 24 House members–voted for the bill.
Now comes the $1.85 trillion omnibus spending bill crammed with pork, aka once-banned “earmarks,” for Senators’ home states and House members’ districts. Additionally, the bill contains policies Democrats couldn’t pass through the “regular order” process of committee hearings, debates, amendments, and votes on individual bills. Republicans again, 18 Senators and nine House members, voted for the bill, with 226 House members voting by proxy. Rather than chagrin for facilitating this subversion of Congress’s Article 1 powers, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he was “pretty proud” of achieving Republican “priorities” with yet another spending binge of money we don’t have.
How can a Republican who professes to be a conservative and champion of the Constitution be “proud” of “woke” Leftist policies and “priorities” like “family planning/reproductive health including in areas where population growth threatens biodiversity or endangered species”? We all know that “family planning” and “reproductive health” are euphemisms for abortion. So taxpayers are going to be fleeced for $575 billion to sacrifice more human beings on the altar of “biodiversity.”
And don’t forget funds bestowed on other progressive policies and clients. Commentary’s Noah Rothman catalogues other “woke” lucre: “Embedded in [the bill] are earmarks for ‘coworking and community’ spaces, but only for ‘women and gender-expansive people of color.’ Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars are dedicated to ‘Pride Centers’ and ‘Non-Conforming housing.’ There’s funding for ‘antiracist training’ and ‘antiracism virtual labs,’ ‘workforce development programs’ for transgender, intersex, and non-conforming migrant women in Los Angeles, and whatever an ‘equity incubator’ is.”
As Kimberley Strassel commented December 22, “Never has Washington contemplated such a monstrosity. If a satirist set out to describe a once-admirable institution in decline, its members cheerfully passing off their laziness, secrecy, cowardliness and graft as “success,” it’d be hard to compete with this week’s Senate show. The omnibus is everything that is broken in D.C., dumped in one steaming pile.”
So why did so many Republicans hand the Dems such a victory? Yes, the bill increases defense spending, but not nearly enough to correct the neglect of previous years when we stinted defense and increased spending on entitlements, even as China has year after year been spending billions on building a military powerful enough to bring closer its dreams of replacing us as the world’s most consequential power.
But here we are, spending more for Ukraine’s national security, the total of our gifts now reaching $100 billion. Have any Republicans supporting this bill done a long-range, cost-benefit analysis that shows how fattening an already $30 trillion debt, and throwing more fuel on the inflation bonfire, serves conservative “priorities,” as McConnell boasts?
The answer to that question is that for all theatrical displays of “divisiveness” between the two parties, in fact there is a fundamental progressive consensus. The Constitutional structure that divides and balances the power of a limited federal government in order to protect the political freedom of the sovereign states, has become passé.
As Woodrow Wilson said in 1913, Constitutional laws “have not kept up with the change of economic circumstances” and “political circumstances.” For the Founders, Wilson continues, the Constitution was “a variety of mechanics” that followed “the law of gravitation.” But “government is not a machine, but a living thing . . . . It is accountable to Darwin, not it Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life.” It should evolve and adapt to create greater efficiency.
This is the bedrock assumption of progressivism. The Founders, however, believed in a constant and corruptible human nature that makes utopia impossible, and so must “set ambition against ambition” to protect freedom. In contrast, progressives believe in a plastic human nature that can be shaped to achieve social justice and equality. It looked to apply to human beings Darwinian evolution of organisms through time to improve human nature and its social environment.
To achieve this aim, government must become the purview of “experts” guided by “science”––“architects and engineers,” as Wilson called them, who have the technical knowledge necessary for guiding the state, the “hundreds who are wise,” as Wilson later said, to direct the thousands who are “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish.” Thus as a “science,” government administration “lies outside the proper sphere of politics.” Government administration’s “questions are not political questions,” and “it [politics] should not be suffered to manipulate its offices.”
Here we see the theoretical beginnings of the federal Leviathan. The Constitution was designed to minimize the power of the federal government in order to forestall tyranny, and left the task of “solving problems” as much as possible to the states and civil society, who could better know the varied needs of the diverse peoples of the United States. Now a centralized, concentrated federal power––the very definition of tyranny––comprising “experts” housed in huge complex bureaucracies, are unaccountable to the people and wield the power of law to create and enforce rules and regulations encroaching upon civil society, private business, and personal life.
Nor is that power, as Wilson idealizes it, beyond politics and partisan ideologies. It is inherently political, as we have seen especially over the past six years, and more starkly in the recently exposed Twitter Files, in which allegedly apolitical “offices” and “public servants” including the IRS, the DOJ, the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department, and the FBI have “manipulated” Twitter to neutralize political enemies and censor dissent.
Meanwhile the House of Representatives for the last two years has squandered its time on fanciful conspiracy theories of “insurrection” in order to prevent a former president supported by over 70 million citizens from running for office––one reason the 12 bills necessary for funding the government were ignored until the last minute, providing an excuse for monstrosities like the current omnibus bill.
Finally, the progressive paradigm has been expanding since FDR’s 12 years as president, because the Dems know that the technocracy has prevailed, and enough Republicans de facto endorse its opportunities for plundering the nation’s fisc. Using one’s office to secure spoils for one’s political clients is an age-old habit of democracy, but now the spoils are not just federal contracts, entitlements, and subsidies, but political ideologies and policies that are blatantly anti-Constitutional and mortal threats to our freedom.
The Republicans should know better. The party’s legislators did show some spine with the preposterously named Inflation Reduction Act, not one of whom in both houses of Congress voted for it. They should have done the same thing with the next two budget-busting bills, especially the omnibus bill, which they should have obstructed with all the limited powers available to them, rather than helping the Dems to hamstring for several months the incoming Republican-led House and its power of the purse. But some lost their nerve, their virtue, or their Constitutional ethics, and voted for yet another feckless bill that redistributes the wealth of the unborn.
So don’t be fooled by the bipartisan Apache Dance. Most of the time, below the rambunctious theater of partisan conflict lies the progressive consensus, which benefits the bipartisan political guild and their clients, not the people and their rights and freedom.