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A Twelve Step Program for Recovering Democrats

Emil Henry, WSJ, January 5, 2015

After hitting bottom with the midterms, they need to sober up fast for the 114th Congress

Most substance abusers eventually hit bottom—usually an embarrassing and humiliating postbinge episode indicative of a life out of control. Many ignore the wake-up call, but others seek help, often finding it in the form of the 12-step program laid out in 1939 by Bill Wilson in “Alcoholics Anonymous.” The book’s dozen core principles have since been adapted to treat a variety of ruinous addictions.

So why not a 12-step program for Democrats of the 114th Congress? Surely the party’s defeat in November qualifies as an epic bottoming event. Democrats had been on a six-year bender, a progressive bacchanalia of fiscal mismanagement, job-stifling regulation, harmful foreign policy, heightened racial tensions and executive-branch overreach. On Nov. 5 they awoke with a pounding headache, looked groggily in the mirror and saw the smallest congressional minority in nearly a century.

When Congress convenes this week, chastened Democrats will have the opportunity to start afresh. Bill Wilson’s 12 steps seem ideal to free them of the ideological obsessions that have brought them so low:

1: Democrats must first admit 

 

 

that they are powerless over their addictions to spending other people’s money and to imposing more government as the answer to every problem.

2: Congressional Democrats must come to believe that there is a power greater than themselves—the people whom they serve. Looking out for these citizens’ interests would finally mean a Washington focused on fiscal sanity.

3: Liberal lawmakers should make a decision to turn their will over to the Constitution as written and resist the compulsion to redefine it as a “living” document subject to fresh interpretation.

4: This step requires brutal self-reflection, taking fearless inventory of all the actions that led to the Democrats’ electoral humiliation. Examples might include: an examination of why the lawmakers ignored abuses of power such as the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives; illegitimate executive orders; and bogus accounts of the Benghazi murders. Above all, Democrats must reflect on their role in the enactment of ObamaCare, with all the Congressional Budget Office gimmickry, legislative shenanigans and crony giveaways that got it passed.

5: Democrats should openly admit the exact nature of their wrongs. Begin with the spending binge that left the country $18 trillion in debt; finish up with how the Harry Reid -led Senate ran interference for the president, and for Democrats in tough re-election fights, by burying hundreds of bills passed in the House.

6: To shed their main defect—the tendency to perceive America as the problem—Democrats should spend some time on the road examining what alternatives to free-market capitalism and the rule of law look like. Mandatory stops include the Middle East, where real wars on women are waged, and the eurozone, where economic stagnation from years of tax-and-spend liberalism is on ample display. Also on the itinerary: Cuba, Venezuela and, sadly, too many other places to mention, where central control or its first cousin, socialism, produces a certain kind of income equality—across-the-board misery.

7: This step requires only that Democrats pray for the removal of their shortcomings. They can choose whatever deity they prefer, though George Clooney and Barbra Streisand are notoriously hard to reach.

8: Making a list of all they have harmed in the past six years will be a challenge for Democrats—it’s a long one. For starters, there are the 20 million people newly enrolled on food stamps during their watch who risk falling into a lifelong cycle of dependency. Then there are the six million Americans who, for lack of opportunity, have removed themselves from the labor market. Oh, heck, let’s count everyone except the fabled 1%.

9: Democrats can make direct amends to those they have harmed by using their power as lawmakers to encourage prosperity. Luckily, Republicans in the 114th Congress will be asking for their votes to do just that, with legislation on tax reform, deregulation, trade and repealing elements of ObamaCare like the device tax. Supporting the Keystone XL pipeline will make a fitting apology.

10: If Democrats continue to take personal inventory and promptly admit it when they’re wrong, they might want to revisit the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation program.

11: This step calls on Democrats to meditate and pray for the wisdom to internalize these steps and the strength to remain on a path of recovery. The lawmakers should look for inspiration in the example of others who found the strength to shed their former liberal compulsions: Ronald Reagan, Condoleezza Rice Rudy Giuliani and Phil Gramm.

12: Having had a spiritual/political awakening, Democrats of the 114th Congress should carry this message to those still hopelessly gripped by their inner progressive demons. A good place to start would be an intervention in the Oval Office.

Mr. Henry, the CEO of Henry, Tiger, LLC, was an assistant secretary of the Treasury, 2005-07.

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A Twelve Step Program for Recovering Democrats
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