Cronies and liberals end up in the same place: growing government at the expense of the citizenry.

Recently I was quoted in a rambling article in The New Yorker by Lawrence Wright, one of their liberal Austin writers. I found out the article was coming only when I was contacted by a “fact-checker” from The New Yorker about various statements made by Wright. (I’m not sure the purpose of that person’s job, given that corrections to Wright’s “facts” didn’t make the article.)

The liberal writer writing for a liberal magazine’s liberal audience produced a predictable result. Wright laments the ascendance of grassroots conservatives in Texas and praises liberal Republican House Speaker Joe Straus for obstructing conservative reforms. (According to the article, Wright and Straus became very buddy-buddy during the regular legislative session; Wright claims to have met with Straus at least four times during the 140 days.)

The article is hardly worthy of a response, but Wright’s twisted take on a quote from me presents a unique opportunity. Indeed, he used one of my favorite personal mission statements: “I’m not there to get a seat at the table. I’m there to get rid of the table.”

But then he concludes, “In other words, [Sullivan] wants to destroy the government.”

It would be laughable if it weren’t such a perfect reflection of the sad state of affairs in politics today that a liberal New Yorker writer can’t imagine a government that isn’t composed of a group of cronies gathered around a table, haggling for what’s theirs while folks who aren’t in the room foot the bill.

We hear this all the time. A bill will shoot through the legislative process, often with little debate, when the author claims to have met with “all of the stakeholders” and reached agreement. That means all the crony lobbyists have received a sufficient carve-out to satisfy their paymasters.

In fact, there are 27 million “stakeholders” in Texas, and 321 million in the US, but they don’t get a say in those negotiations. Taxpayers are little more than an ATM for the cronies, with our constitutional liberties an inconvenience to their schemes.

Frankly, the idea of a group of people haggling away the future is a perfect metaphor for the dysfunctional system of government too many politicians have embraced or tolerate.

But there is a better way.

At Empower Texans we work to restore taxpayers to their rightful place as masters, with the “elected officials” fulfilling their role as public servants. Lawmakers should be responsive to their constituents by following through on campaign promises. We demand a government that is transparent, where lawmakers don’t routinely lie to their voters, where criminal justice is fair to all, where policies benefit the general public rather than a select few, and where businesses compete to serve customers in a free market rather than hiring lobbyists to hamstring the competition.

Indeed, the system Wright and his ilk defend – the system to which he can scarcely imagine an alternative – more closely resembles the syndicalist system of government championed by Benito Musolini than the constitutional republic envisioned by our founding fathers.

I’ve seen people get involved in policy fights – often on behalf of a noble cause – only to be coopted by the promise of an invitation for a seat at the table. By accepting it they may sometimes get a carve-out or work-around that satisfies their particular grievance for a short time. Yet by sitting down at the table they sacrifice the ability to do anything that threatens the corrupting regime; maintaining proximity to “power” – even corrupt power – becomes an end unto itself. Bad company, as Scripture notes, has a way of corrupting good character.

I don’t want a seat at the table. And frankly, you shouldn’t either. We need to get rid of the table and put government actions in a glass box all can see.

The alternative to the “stakeholder” cartel of cronies isn’t the end of government, it’s the embrace of the American brand of self-government. The alternative to government corruption isn’t anarchy, it’s an empowered and engaged citizenry.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."


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