The Era of Big Government is Over?
What are the implications of the Federalist and Anti-Federalists arguments on the modern political landscape? Because of successful branding techniques of the Republican Party, it would be easy to classify the GOP as the “small government” party and Democrats for “big government”. However, that ignores the complexities of today’s policy initiatives and the nuance of the Founding Fathers’ main arguments.
Anti-Federalist language has been threaded into the speeches of statesmen for decades. Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick ethics, Hoover’s bootstraps and Reagan’s limited government rhetoric is grained into the public memory. Today, both parties use Anti-Federalist poetry to gain influence with the people. Listening to Bill Clinton’s declaration that “the era of big government is over” and the constant beat of Republicans’ individualist, state rights’ rhetoric, it would seem as if everyone in the American government was looking to downsize government. The emotional appeal to the individual and to the ideal of freedom is irresistible to a budding candidate who is trying to get into office. By equating regulation with restriction of freedom (despite the fact that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive), politicians get many Americans yearning for a limited government of yore. With a carefully crafted message, candidates can campaign with Anti-Federalist principles in mind.
However, when looking at policy initiatives, it seems as if nobody want to downsize government. Democrats are responsible for the creation of the social security net, Keynesian economic practices, and the strengthening of executive agencies. Many Republicans are proud to stand for the patriotic PATRIOT Act, the nationalization of education standards and the expansion of the national military. Even Thomas Jefferson – a man who was certainly influenced by Anti-Federalist thought – couldn’t resist the temptation of buying the Louisiana Territories. Even when campaigning in Anti-Federalist poetry, the government is run by action-oriented leaders (even though political gridlock may make this point seem mute!). The actors of the federal government try to solve problems – which generally creates a centralized authority and Federalist oriented state.
Basically, in the United States today, statesmen of all stripes campaign in Anti-Federalist poetry and govern in Federalist prose. Do you agree?