It feels as though things are coming to a head. It’s as if political continents are colliding, and resisting one another, and cataclysmic forces are about to be unleashed. All over the world there’s a revolt against the Center, as people seek to regain control over their fate. Resistance may be futile in the end, but it is fierce. Something’s got to give.
The campaign for a Balanced Budget Amendment is about the dangers that lie ahead, and what we can do to save ourselves. It’s abstract, mathematical, and logical. Not exactly a good fit for the times we seem to be living in, which are all about passion and justice and freedom. What the BBA Task force is trying to do is so sensible that logic would seem to demand that it be done. But it’s in the trenches fighting every step of the way. We need a break.
And that’s what I sense coming, a sudden release of tectonic forces, a political earthquake.
36 years ago, on March 30, 1981, we had such an event. It was the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. If Reagan had been killed, God knows what would have happened to this country. But he survived, bravely and gamely, and the American people loved him for it.
It was only with this wave of popular affection and support that Reagan was, that summer, able to rally the people behind his tax cuts. Speaker Tip O’Neill had a thirty vote Democratic majority, and he fought Reagan every step of the way. But in the end he caved, because he knew public opinion when he saw it.
Those tax cuts led directly to Reagan’s reelection landslide in 1984, and were the bedrock of his popularity. If he hadn’t been shot, he may have never gotten them.
I’m certainly not predicting any sort of national calamity, far from it. It won’t be the act of a lone mad man who shakes things up. Rather, a sudden break, that becomes a crisis. And, as a wise man said, you never get an opportunity like you do in a crisis. That’s when you can shake things up.
It may take some sort of financial crisis, but I hope not. What could come is a crisis in confidence in Congress as an institution. They may reach gridlock, unable to do anything with the budget, adding a trillion to the deficit, and no end in sight. It could come later this year. Right after the Phoenix Convention of States.
And then people might ask themselves, why not get a balanced budget using Article V? Do you need to be Doctor Spock to figure that out?