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Republicans are Regular Guys

by Christopher Chantrill
January 19, 2005 at 2:45 pm


CONSERVATIVES like to complain that for liberals there is no life outside politics.  Politics is their religion, their livelihood, and their politics.  They start out as student politicians in high school, and go on to make a splash in college politics.  After a triumphant spell in law school they spend a year or two on a prominent politician’s staff.  Before they are thirty, they have begun a career in elected office. 

Conservatives on the other hand avoid this monomania and live balanced, nuanced lives with everything in its place.  For religion they go to church, for livelihood they start a business.  They get married; they have children.  And for politics?  They turn to politics only after they have learned a thing or two about life. 

This is a comforting myth, but is it really true—in the best sense of myth, symbolizing a profound truth in a compact and compelling way?  Let’s take a look at our recent national leaders and see what we find.

The last time they played “Happy Days are Here Again” for the Democrats at a presidential inauguration it was January 1993, and Bill Clinton was sworn into office.  Clinton had spent his entire adult life politics.  After a jolly time in Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and getting a law degree from Yale in 1973 at 26 he fought and lost a campaign for Congress in 1974.  But two years later he won election as Arkansas Attorney General at the ripe old age of 30, and two years after that he was elected governor.  Ever since, until his second term as president, he was running for something or other, and enjoying every minute of it.

Clinton wasn’t the only lifelong politician leading the Democratic Party in 1993.  The majority leader in the Senate, George Mitchell graduated from Georgetown Law in 1960 at the age of 26 and served as a Senate staffer, government attorney, and U.S. District Judge until he was appointed to the Senate when Ed Muskie resigned to become Secretary of State. 

House Speaker Tom Foley was another man who had spent a life in politics.  Graduating from the University of Washington Law school in 1957 he became a deputy prosecutor in Spokane County in 1958, taught law at Gonzaga University for a couple of years before getting appointed as assistant attorney general of the State of Washington.  Then it was off to Washington, DC as a staffer on the Senate Interior Committee, and election to the House of Representatives in 1965.

So there they were, in 1993, three Democratic leaders who had never known any life but politics, ready to restore the fortunes of a Democratic Party sorely tried for twelve long years by the underestimated Ronald Reagan, radio announcer, movie actor, union leader, television presenter, who finally achieved his first political office in 1966 at the age of 55.  But in 1994 the band stopped playing “Happy Days are Here Again,” and the Republicans took control of Congress.

Ten years later there is a Republican in the White House and the Republicans are enjoying their biggest majorities in the House and Senate since 1930.

When they assemble on the rostrum in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2005, the nation’s new Republican leaders will be men who came to politics later in life.  George W. Bush is a man who spent fifteen years in business before running for governor of Texas in 1994.  He’d started an oil company, Arbusto, at the very peak of energy prices in 1980, riding the energy bust to an agonizing business failure.  Then he parlayed his political connections into a successful stint as president of the Texas Rangers.  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1978 and worked as a surgeon and director of the Vanderbilt heart and lung transplantation program.  It was 16 years before he turned to politics and won election to the U.S. Senate in 1994, becoming majority leader upon the resignation of Trent Lott.  Denny Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is perhaps the most humble of our national leaders, working as a high school teacher and coach and running his own business for 13 years until winning election to the Illinois state house in 1980.

There is one regular guy on the Democratic leadership in 2005, and she’s a woman.  The biography of Nancy Pelosi, minority leader in the House shows an embarrassing 20-year gap between graduation at Trinity College and her first admitted political job as chair of the California State Democratic Party in 1981-83. Perhaps she was busy raising her five children.  Harry Reid, minority leader in the Senate, is just another lawyer who’s spent his life in politics.  Why can’t we have a Democratic Party that looks like America?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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