The Love Affair Is Over

Many of us awoke this morning to discover that pre-election forecasts of anti-Washington fervor were largely borne out in last night's voting returns. Voters across the country were angry, and Washington incumbents were their target. But don't turn to the political pundits to find out what the election results mean. The pundits are part of this nation's political class, and the last thing they want to admit is that most Americans want less government in Washington. But that is the unmistakable meaning of yesterday's election results. From coast to coast, Americans said, "Enough is enough. Our love affair with Big Government is over." This is a revolution in our political faith. For 50 years, the operating assumption of American politics has been that big government can solve our national problems. Yesterday's election marked the end of that era in our national life. Actually, we are returning to a healthy skepticism about big government that is as old as the republic itself. Just 60 years ago, before the Great Depression, most Americans did not want the federal government to accumulate much power or spend much of the nation's wealth. But as the Depression continued, President Roosevelt expanded the government by initiating numerous federal programs—like Social Security. Many of these early programs responded to real human needs and were fairly efficient. But the next stage of growth of big government was less benign. In the 1960s, President Johnson launched his vaunted "Great Society" programs and America began its love affair with Big Government—an affair that took us away from our traditional commitment to local and limited government. Johnson was a man whose utopian faith in big government knew no bounds. In his "War on Poverty," the federal government founded scores of programs and spent billions of dollars. Yet many of those programs backfired. Thirty years later, our families are coming apart, our cities are in a shambles, and payment on debt consumes a huge portion of the federal budget every year. This is the era voters are saying they want to end. Yesterday's historic elections signaled a sea-change in Americans' attitude about government. That is the central meaning of Election Day 1994. The returns are consistent with polls showing that more than 70 percent of Americans want the federal government to be smaller, less intrusive, and less expensive. This is good news for Christians. For we believe that limited government is not only a good idea politically, it is also a biblical principle. Only by placing limits on the power and authority of government can we create space for a rich, active church and family life. That's why we can applaud the new attitude expressed in this past election. But it will take more than a change in attitude to tame the Leviathan of Big Government. We cannot merely stand against an overweening national state, we must also work hard to revive state and local governments, as well as the private sector of family, church, and voluntary associations. The elections may be over, but the fight has barely begun.


Chuck Colson


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