The Era of Big Government

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 19 2012 9:53 AM

The Era of Big Government

Aaron Blake writes one of the more nuanced takes on Build-It-Gate (I really don't know what to call it; taking suggestions), starting with the assumption that Republicans are mangling the quote but staying realistic about the politics.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

While Obama often takes care to also say that government can’t and shouldn’t do everything and that regulations should be rolled back, for example, his message on the government’s necessary role in the economy is often the one that sticks in people’s minds.
In large part, this is because he’s talking about the role of government in a way most Democrats don’t. If you want a sense of how Democrats have handled this issue in recent years, look no further than Bill Clinton’s “the era of big government is over” quote from 1996.

But the fuller Clinton quote, from his 1996 State of the Union address, demonstrates just how dumb this accusation actually is.

The era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. Instead, we must go forward as one America, one nation working together to meet the challenges we face together. Self-reliance and teamwork are not opposing virtues; we must have both.
I believe our new, smaller government must work in an old-fashioned American way, together with all of our citizens through state and local governments, in the workplace, in religious, charitable and civic associations.

Blake's absolutely right about Democratic rhetoric, generally, and right about how Obama usually takes about individuals and government. Every liberal Democrat talks like that. You start with a preamble about how we all know government can't solve every problem, but c'mon, folks—it can solve some. Obama's typically pretty good at this tap dance. He left out the first step this time.

I'd like to be done defending the president on his grammar now, because he's probably powerful enough to do it himself. But we're spending an awful lot of time arguing whether a banal point about the force-multiplying effects of society is actually an admission of hard-core collectivism.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.