Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) cuts to the heart of the debate over the government shutdown, in a must-view speech on the Senate floor.
She exposes the fundamental contradiction at the heart of the Republicans’ message: that they are all about hating government in general, yet they almost always refrain from attacking the essential functions the government performs — because those functions have overwhelming public support. She reveals the way to overcome the spell of the “anarchy crowd” — answer their vague, blanket attacks on government with specific references to all the good, popular programs that our government delivers every day:
When I hear the latest tirades from some of the extremists in the House, I am struck by how vague these complaints are. The anarchy gang is quick to malign government. But when was the last time anyone called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children’s toys? Or for food inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery stores is crawling with deadly bacteria? Or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause horrible deformities in little babies? We never hear that, not from political leaders in Washington, and not from the American people.
She then blows away the entire Tea Party ideology in one sentence: “The boogeyman government, like the boogeyman under your bed, is not real.”
If we can just get more regular Americans to realize that their government is not some monstrous, inchoate horror but the source of their roads, their police and firemen, their Head Start programs and Meals on Wheels, their clean water and air, their Social Security and Medicare, then we can overcome the real monster in the bedroom, the “anarchy gang” that stands in the way of every form of progress based on vague paranoias and conspiracy theories that melt away in the light of day.
Why don’t more Democrats turn the tables the way Senator Warren does, overcoming the Tea Party’s ominous vagaries with powerfully concrete specifics? Why not call their bluff, and let them tell us more about their plans to do away with USDA food inspections, air traffic controllers and public sewer systems?
We are lucky to live in one of the cleanest, healthiest, safest, most prosperous societies ever, and effective government makes that possible. We all need to learn to make that case as strongly and effectively as Elizabeth Warren.