“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
–President Ronald Reagan, inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981
For over 30 years, Republicans and conservatives have tried to turn “government” into a dirty word. But maybe the term “government” is a bit of a straw man created by Republicans in the first place.
In common usage, to be “governed” generally means to be controlled or ordered around. That’s often a negative connotation. A “governor” on a car or motorbike engine limits the top speed. And how about that staple of literature and Masterpiece Theater episodes, the strict, bossy English “governess”? It hardly seems a coincidence that Republicans, from Reagan on down, have so frequently referred to “government” (especially the federal government, especially when Democrats control the Executive Branch) in a negative way.
But perhaps progressives are mistaken if they embrace or get hung up on the word “government” rather than its concept. The word “government” only appears in the U.S. Constitution a few times, so there’s no natural requirement to use it when referring to the protection and security that Democrats and progressives want as a check on individual, group, and corporate excess. Instead, the Constitution largely talks about our elected representatives, i.e., our U.S. House members, Senators, and President (and the various state constitutions likewise cover elected representatives at the state level) as the agents through which we get things done.