Ronald Reagan referred to Congress, the news media and special interest groups as an “Iron Triangle” that hampered his efforts to get the federal budget under control. In the decades since, I think we are learning that Reagan’s iron triangle is a symptom, not a cause.
The rot in the national consciousness that blinds our fellow citizens to the enormous danger decades of reckless big government spending is a result of a different triad. Those of us who believe in fiscal responsibility are pinned down by forces that control the high ground of the media, the academy and the bureaucracy. We are only able to eek out territory by inches while our opponents can advance miles at a time.
The media is a regular boogeyman among conservatives, but we often only talk about bias in the news. What we fail to understand is that the media includes everything from newspapers, network and cable news to movies, sitcoms and cartoons our children voraciously consume.
Within the walls of the academy, a liberal worldview is default. We as parents see our tax dollars used to send our children to seven hours a day, nine months a year, kindergarten through senior in high-school to live in a culture carefully crafted to reflect all the features of a liberal utopia. We then go deeply into debt to send our young men and women to four to eight years of intense exposure to liberalism actively hostile to a conservative way of thinking.
Politicians come, politicians go, but bureaucracy is eternal. Long gone are the legislators who gave the alphabet soup of agencies at the Federal level the power to enforce regulations as if they are law. Vast swaths of property rights have been placed under the purview of well-paid bureaucrats with budgets, time on their hands and a default view of government knows best. Minds comfortable with big-government policy are drawn to big-government jobs. Taxpayer funded unions for government workers make it extremely difficult to muster the political resolve to abate the power and reach of these agencies. What agency head would ever set a goal to reduce the number of agents by 10%? Who of these would ever try to voluntarily cut their enforcement budget by 10%?
This is the battle. So long as we have an academy redefining freedom, a media mocking freedom and a bureaucracy that exists to take freedom, political success will only take us so far. With our blogs, rallies and remarkable successes considering the forces arrayed against us, I fear we are only playing small-ball.
Our opponents have been playing chess while we have been playing checkers. We will always be on the defensive so long as our strategy fails to address getting conservatives to teach, conservatives to write scripts and produce entertainment and conservatives to chip away at the influence of the bureaucracy.
This is the battle before us. We must prepare for a multi-generational battle to take our portion of the opponent’s high ground.