My broader point is that progressives do themselves a serious disservice by frequently invoking government failure as the problem. All this does is feed the decades-long image of government, built up by right-wingers, that government is indeed the problem. BrooklineTom suggests that we must do better by “raising, not lowering, local government revenues” — but who wants to give more money to “these bums” in government who “can’t even do their jobs”? If the rhetorical context is always set in government failure — from both the left and the right — than the power of anti-government sentiment shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The purpose of this post is not to attack BrooklineTom, who as I mentioned wrote up a good post on the flooding issue, nor is he some sort of poster child for what I see as a broader problem with the strategies of the progressive movement. However, the post (innocently focused on the Boston-area flooding though it is!) is another small but good example of the fundamental problem in progressive rhetoric since at least the 1960s. In short, trying to build up government while rhetorically tearing it down isn’t a winning strategy.
I’m not sure exactly what the solution is, but we need to give people a reason to trust government and offer them belief that it can and will work if we ever want to ensure that people working in government get the resources and support necessary. The rhetoric of the progressive movement for many years now, focused as it is on “government failure,” does quite the opposite, little by little feeding in to the harsh rhetoric of the anti-government ideologues.