Here's the problem: Government matters most to people on the margins. If I may be blunt about this, we live in a society where the effluent flows downhill. And the people on the bottom are drowning in it.
And it is precisely those citizens — whose lives sometimes literally depend on the difference between a politician who really does have a plan to help with the cost of prescription drugs and one who is only pretending that he does — whose lives can be harmed by your idealism.
The size of a tax cut doesn't matter to people in the richest 1 percent. They're in Fat City now; they don't need more money. But the size of a tax cut makes a real difference to Bush's oft-cited example of the single mom with two kids making $22,000 a year.
When you are barely making it in this society, hanging on by your fingernails, with every unexpected expense a crisis, it matters which is the lesser of two evils.
I know it's hard for young people to envision age or illness, or the sick feeling of frantic despair when your old wreck of a car finally dies (it always does this in traffic) and will not start again. People who work two and even three jobs to support their kids get so tired — you can't imagine how tired — and guilt and depression and anxiety all pile on, too. The difference between Gore and Bush matters to those folks.
This is an old argument between radicals and liberals; sometimes I'm on one side, and sometimes I'm on the other. In the primaries, I vote to change the world; in November, I vote for a sliver more for programs that help the needy.
I do not believe that things have to get worse before they can get better. I think you will find that most mothers object to the idea that you would deliberately do something to make a child's life worse in order to bring about some presumed greater good in the long run. I believe that the best can be the enemy of the better. I believe in taking half a loaf, or even a slice.
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