Liddick: Gardening not for the faint of heart (column)
March 27, 2017
It takes a lot of patience. One must cultivate the ground carefully, pay strict attention to the environment, encourage the right sort of developments and ruthlessly eliminate the nonessential and malign. One must begin properly and be involved every step of the way or the enterprise will fail. One's attitude must be a complex mixture of diligence, modest expectations and willingness to wait for the right time to act.
Gardening: It's not for wimps.
A few thoughts over the past week as the vegetable beds were spaded up, new mulch, lime and fertilizer cut in, incipient weeds pulled, and the Mutant Cilantro Jungle From Hell was hacked back, all while this year's plantings were planned based on last year's performance. No more watermelons in the all-day sun. No more cherry tomatoes where the dogs could enjoy them first. And yes, the same process applies to the Keystone Kops flop of health care reform on Capitol Hill last week.
Paging Speaker of the House Ryan: Sorry, no. What we saw on Friday wasn't a "disappointing day." It wasn't a learning experience, a near miss or a setback. What you presided over was a swan dive off the high board into an empty pool. Wile E. Coyote couldn't have done it better. The next time around, whatever the subject — and there will be many over the next few years — try being a gardener, not a slight-of-hand artist.
One of the criticisms of Obamacare was its genesis: Cobbled together in secret by politicians and specialists whose opinion of the American people was, to put it mildly, low, it was rushed through the House by Nancy Pelosi, she of the famous, "We'll have to pass it to find out what's in it." It was then hustled through the Senate in a quivering fit of reconciliation, to prevent meddling by anyone save Democrat cognoscenti. Why would Republican leadership want to ape a process they showered with derision? Because shower it they did. Then they appropriated the process for themselves. Remember, folks: Imitation is the highest form of praise.
The upcoming struggles over tax and immigration reform will be equally, if not more, contentious than that over Obamacare. Every interest and pressure group lusting after a tax break for snake oil producers or more visas for religiously observant chicken eviscerators will pour out of the woodwork to cajole, frighten, threaten and buy votes. In the face of this inevitable onslaught it may be wise to adopt the gardener's patient strategies.
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Work the ground. Have public hearings, not only in Washington but out in the rest of the country where people grow stuff, make things and generally live productive lives, that you may hear them and they, you. If people in pink hats and outlandish costumes show up, listen. But insist they follow the rules; if the only voices they want heard are their own, they are just another aspect of the authoritarian Left and should, like any noxious weed, be eliminated from the garden without regret or apology so that useful plants may flourish.
Understand the environment. If one wants to grow avocados in Minnesota, there are preparations to be made; it's not simply a matter of popping a seed into the ground and waiting for the fruit to drop onto your counter. On Capitol Hill there are currents and cross-currents, factions and egos. Each needs something from the process, and the Speaker should know — and be able to negotiate — them. Or find something else to put on the salad.
There are also garden pests to be dealt with. We all know who they are: the politicians who cling tenaciously to beautiful theories or ideological purity; who exist to say no; who will oppose any idea not of direct political benefit to themselves, and the country's welfare be damned. These must be carefully identified, exposed and made to leave the field for the general benefit.
All this will take time, but the more care exercised in groundwork the better the outcome. It might be frustratingly slow for those who expected immediate, dramatic action because they were promised such and had reason to believe the promises. But it usually brings better, longer-lasting and more productive results.
Which might be one reason why many in Washington are now urging haste in moving the agenda: a desire to derail popular changes and embrace a stand-patism that promises to continue the gravy train for a chosen few.
Rather makes one think of reaching for the hoe.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.