The problem with ‘line cutters’

Matt K. Lewis | Senior Contributor

Joseph de Maistre said “Every country has the government it deserves.” As the government shutdown continues, this might be something we should consider.

Many factors, of course, contributed to our current state of affairs. But I’ll posit one question you might not have considered: To some extent, is this whole mess a product of voters having awarding line cutters?

What is a line cutter?

We see it in both parties. People who challenge the “establishment” — who say that Washington, DC is broken — and that if only this district or state would send me to DC instead of that person, I will be automatically be better because I am not tied to the establishment. I am the fresh face!

Being new or inexperienced, of course, does not automatically constitute being better. And the assumption that it automatically does is a very unconservative one — not terribly different from the cult of youth.

(Note: Frequent readers of this blog will recognize this as a common theme. See, for example, reason number 4 on my list of reasons Liz Cheney shouldn’t run for the U.S. Senate.)

So what is the establishment?  While the word “establishment” has a negative connotation today, a more flattering way of looking at it is to say that it represents the person who is established — the person came up through elected office by winning a small seat and then a bigger one. It’s the person who started on the school board and then went to city council, state rep maybe state senator then ran for Congress.

For years, this was the preferred way to pay your dues and prove your mettle. After a few years toiling in the minor leagues, you might one day be ready to walk onto the freshly cut grass of Fenway Park.

But this sort of dues paying cuts against our modern American ethos. Technology and the collapse of traditional culture have conspired to lower the barriers of entry. Today, we lack any sort of hierarchical system with the credibility to informally sanction rites of passage.

Meanwhile, our appetite for instant gratification encourages — no incentivizes! — line cutters.

So today, we see a pattern of highly-intelligent, if inexperienced, Ivy-educated politicians cutting the line and defeating a lot of politicians who came up through the ranks.

The electorate is rewarding the sizzle and not the steak.

This is not an argument for incumbent protection. I wouldn’t say Ron Johnson or Marco Rubio are line cutters. Johnson was in his 50s and a successful businessman; Rubio was Speaker of the Florida House.

But President Obama definitely cut the line.

And so did many of the leaders of the defund strategy. And it’s worth wondering whether this is a coincidence. Might some additional experience and wisdom have made them more likely to negotiate and compromise?

I’m not suggesting this is the only reason for our troubles, but it’s worth asking: Is this the government we get because we have elected unprepared leaders?

At the end of the day, people may hate Congress. But maybe we are just getting the nation we deserve?

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