We hear repeatedly that we've lost our trust in government, but precisely the opposite is true: If we'd lost our trust in government, we'd be on the road to healing. It's our trust in government -- our belief that if we just poke the ballot in the right place, there will be a chicken in every pot -- that is dooming America to domination by unanswerable rulers.
Between 1840 and 1880, according to the Cato Institute, more than half of incumbents either voluntarily retired or lost their Congressional races. With the advent of Teddy Roosevelt's and Woodrow Wilson's progressivism -- the notion that government was for experts, and that the people should be kept as far from the lawmaking sausage-maker as possible -- incumbency rates began to climb. In the middle of FDRs presidency, as Americans bought into the comforting liberal bromide of cradle-to-grave government administered by our betters, the rates skyrocketed again. Today, we are a people ruled by our government, not the other way around. Even during the 1994 Republican Revolution, 91.3 percent of incumbents kept their seats.
Now the Republican establishment seems to have selected Mitt Romney as the standard-bearer for the 2012 election. They say he's the most electable, which is probably false -- his poor record of job creation in Massachusetts, his job-slashing at Bain Capital and his embrace of Romneycare pose serious problems.
But here's the good news: Assuming he wins the nomination and somehow wins the White House, most conservatives will be ready to box him about the ears as soon as he steps out of line.
That would be a welcome change. The problem we have isn't with our politicians -- after all, we elect them. Our problem is us. Until we re-learn to hold our politicians' feet to the fire, our country will continue its gradual slide toward irrelevance.