The yearly budget battle is over for a few months (until extensions are required), with two bills, the Consolidated Budget Bill and the Further Consolidated Budget Bill going to the President’s desk for signing. The pair allocate trillions of dollars for policy and staffers.
In years past, my default position would be to rail against the Republicans for signing on to unnecessary spending. The party which regularly campaigned on shrinking the size of government typically found it extremely difficult to achieve any of that diminution when they were in power, and when they were in the minority they would seem to roll over for the Democrats, rarely putting up any sort of visible fight but instead resorting to negotiations to get more cash for their constituencies.
Those complaints still hold, but in the Trump era they seem almost quaint. No attentive person expects the Republicans to be fiscally prudent; they rarely discuss that matter anymore. They are a big-spending party and they embrace that mantle, some reluctantly and some enthusiastically. If there is any doubt that any are eager to declare themselves wanton spendthrifts, ask Trump supporters about “the wall”.
In such an atmosphere, the Democrats had the opportunity to prove themselves people of integrity. They demonstrated the opposite… or at least they showed where their true loyalty lies. After talking for months with valid, reasoned points rebutting Trumpian policy, they authorized a Space Force which they knew would undermine the international peace, they authorized money for “the wall” despite knowing that it would do very little to combat the issues associated with illegal immigration, and they acceded to many other contentious points both small and large.
On the one hand, negotiation is key, and some of those points should have been abandoned. Demanding everything is fine for rhetoric, but it is not how progress is achieved. On the other hand, there are basic principles that should be impediments to agreeing to grave offenses. An example of the first would be splitting the budget bill into two parts to give the President cover against his pledge to sign no more omnibus bills. An example of the second would be funding the wall.
Instead, the Democrats showed that they could be bought off… with twelve weeks per year of taxpayer-funded medical leave, or with federal funding of Planned Parenthood (an odd conflation where the party is firmly both for and against the birth of new babies simultaneously.)
I wrote that I have typical complaints at this time of the year; this is also when I start to hear the inevitable grousing about “the uniparty”. The idea is that there is no difference between the parties, and that the division is merely the trappings by which the people are kept from considering the rampant Washington spending.
I reject that analysis. By any objective reckoning, there are two dominant parties in Washington, with differing sets of principles. While those principles may have unexpectedly shifted for the Republicans away from freedom and toward authoritarianism, the new set claimed by them remain distinct from those of Democrats.
The problem is not “the uniparty”. That is just another distraction, designed to convince the subset of the country which pays attention to politics to sign on with the conspiracy groups. The problem is corruption.
If this seems like a minor distinction, consider that the revolt against the Washington establishment is what led directly to Trump. People were seeking an alternative, without a mind as to whether that alternative was also corrupt. It is for this reason that I demand to have a reason to vote for a candidate, that voting against a different candidate is not enough.
In the upcoming year we will have an election, we will have primaries, we will have an impeachment trial (or endless bickering about whether the Republican Senators are betraying their oaths of office by deliberately mishandling the trial) and we will have a plenitude of other moments of drama and offence. Through it all we must attempt to reject the corrupt of any party, while not blinding ourselves to the dangers of simplistic thinking.