by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When George W. Bush was in the Oval Office, liberals often argued that conservative wariness and distrust of government made them poor managers of it. Because they didn’t believe in the power and benefits of an active, powerful federal bureaucracy, they tolerated and came to expect waste and mismanagement.
Alan Wolfe articulated this idea in the Washington Monthly in 2006. “Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference,” he wrote, “expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government. . . . As a way of governing, conservatism is another name for disaster.” His article was entitled simply “Why Conservatives Can’t Govern.”
That argument is strongly disputed, but the Obama administration has proven the flip side of the coin: Liberals’ belief in the inherent goodness of a far-reaching federal government drives them to avert their eyes from its wildest abuses, even when it’s occurring right in front of them. Waste and mismanagement are ignored, dismissed, downplayed, and excused, because confronting it too directly would undermine the central tenet of their worldview: That the federal government is an irreplaceable tool for making the world a better place.