Today, I nearly blew my lid and destroyed my reputation in Small Town, Texas. I’ll tell you what happened, but first, a little context…
As I join the crowds who attempt to make sense of the political phenomenon we are witnessing unfold before us this year, my take is that this is neither exclusively anti-Democrat / pro-Republican, nor is it anti-incumbant / pro-fresh-face. I would consider this a year of rebellion against The Establishment.
The Establishment exists in both parties. Not all incumbents are a part of The Establishment (see Bachmann, DeMint, Coburn, and others), though it is safe to say that most of them are on their way. The Establishment is made up of those self-proclaimed elite experts who believe themselves to have superior skill with political nuance. They consider themselves to "know what’s best" for the rest of us. Clearly, they operate on a whole other plane. The Establishment – on both the right and left – almost seems to become one with the government system in which they find themselves; that’s the only explanation for their reflexive defense of that government system.
This angers me. This is why I can’t stand the Specter/Crist/Murkowski mentality. It betrays their upside-down understanding of republicanism. WE THE PEOPLE get to pick who we want to represent us. You don’t get to pivot simply based on political expediency, Arlen. You aren’t entitled to a nomination, Charlie. And Lisa, you were rejected. Get over it.
The American people are sick of government for the sake of government. And that’s what The Establishment seems to promote. People get to Washington and lose their sense of self as they become entangled with the system. They can’t separate themselves from their positions of power and influence. And then their top priority becomes the preservation of the government system for the ultimate purpose of their own personal preservation. Government for the sake of government is not government of, by, and for the people.
I’m here to tell you, folks, it isn’t just in Washington. That’s what makes the headlines. That’s what is blaring on 24 hour cable news. That’s what people talk are talking about at the water cooler and pooling millions of dollars to defeat. But it isn’t just in Washington. It’s in your town, too.
I’m a, oh, let’s say, "CEO" of a medium-sized non-profit charitable organization in a small community on the Texas Gulf Coast. We are in a position to do some pretty significant renovations to some of our property. Specifically, we want to build out a huge open medal building into a two story facility that has a large meeting area on the bottom and smaller rooms in the top. This is a space our organization needs, but also a space we believe would benefit our community. We have just enough money saved up for the project…
…if we don’t have to put in a sprinkler system.
This morning we had a meeting with our city building inspector and the fire chief. In walked The Establishment. The city building inspector was nice. But that fire chief – someone I genuinely like as a person! – has The Establishment Mentality. While the inspector was thinking that we wouldn’t have to put in a sprinkler system, the fire chief was rooting for one.
He started explaining the present code, and then agreed with the inspector that we might "slide through." Then he starting talking about the coming code [cue lightening bold, thunder clap, and ominous minor chords]. In the next year, he said, our little city of Small Town, Texas, is going to adopt a code "better than Houston’s." I gulped.
Oh yeah, it’ll be great, he said. We’d absolutely need a sprinkler system then. All new commercial buildings will, regardless of square footage and occupation numbers. Not to mention the fire proof walls, excessive space around mechanical panels, and on and on and on. Under the coming code, all these precautions will be mandatory.
I couldn’t hold my tongue. "Would you please tell whoever is planning on making that decision that it will really stifle our town’s economic growth?"
"No, it really won’t. It will mostly affect people who are already here who want to do upgrades. For new businesses, they’ll just start out having to meet the code."
In my head, I wondered if the guy knew what he was saying. I spoke up again. "It is going to be very hard for small businesses, people who want to, say, build a small office building, to do so if they have to add the expense of all these codes – fire walls, sprinkler systems…"
"Oh, not just commercial buildings," the fire chief went on. "Even homes over 4,000 square feet will be required to have a sprinkler system."
I couldn’t speak. It was the grace of God. Had I spoken, all kinds of venom would have come out. But evidently my face expressed my disbelief and disgust. The chief went on to argue that the savings in people’s insurance premiums would offset the initial cost of sprinkler systems. "In 80 years?" my associate asked.
Then he went and said it. The Establishment Mentality was exposed. He said, "Look, in 20 years, this is going to make things so much better for THE FIRE DEPARTMENT" (emphasis mine).
I threw up in my mouth a little.
Excuse me? Last time I checked, the fire department was a public service. PUBLIC service. Public SERVICE. They exist for us, right? Apparently not. Apparently, our city counsel in Small Town, Texas feels it needs to expand regulation so that it can justify enforcing the regulation – doesn’t that sound like a better job for a fire chief than – oh, I don’t know – putting out fires?!
My point is this, friends: Don’t lose site of your state and your county and your town. Our voices are certainly needed in fighting The Establishment in Washington D.C., but we all have much more power in our states, and even more power in our counties and cities. We need to be vigilant there, as well. Regulation that stifles the free market is bad, no matter who imposes it. Government for the sake of government is no good. So pay attention and speak up!
The city counsel and mayor of Small Town, Texas will be hearing from this Tea Party Preacher. I’ll keep you posted.