I love my country and I want to see our system of government work. Our Republic has served us well for over 200 years, but to be honest with you, our current system is not working. Congress is broken and it is in bad need of reform.
Our parents generation, the generation that some refer to as the greatest generation, understood the need to work together for the common good. Their attitudes were forged by the huge events of the Great Depression and World War II. Those events shaped how they thought and how they worked together. They disagreed on issues but they did not harbor the bitterness that seems to have entered into our current public discourse.
Partisanship and ideologically based politics have divided us into what the media has popularly coined as Red and Blue states. Talk show hosts claim that you can’t be moderate or independent.
Well, James Madison, warned us in Federalist #10 about the dangers of faction or in modern-day terms partisanship. Factions “have in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere failed.”
Madison went much further in defining what he meant by a faction. “By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority of minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
I would argue that we are living at a time that we are experiencing the greatest degree of partisanship since the days before and after the Civil War. The passions of partisanship divide our nation and threaten to destroy our country that we love and cherish.
We have seen our government close down. The very existence of our Republic is in jeopardy. There is plenty of evidence to indicate that the attempt to gain the appearance of partisan gain has triumphed over what is best for the people and our nation.
Madison went on in great detail as to how to cure the mischief as he called it. He said, “There are two methods of removing the causes of the faction: the one, by removing its causes; and the other, by controling its effects.”
He gave us all reason to pause and think about our current situation in the following lengthy quote, but it’s importance and wisdom are self-explanatory if we take the time to read it.
“The latest causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them every where brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning Government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have in turn divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosities, frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions, and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions, have been the various and unequal distribution of property.”
Madison could have been talking about today as we have the greatest disparity of income distribution since the days right before the beginning of the Great Depression.
If the job of government is to make people happy, our government since the great divide of income disparity began has failed to do its job of making people happy. Clearly if the Middle Class shrinks and the pressure and reality of financial insecurity rise, that fact makes for an unhappy and frustrated electorate.
Madison wisely concluded his analysis by stating that the causes of faction can not be removed but that the best way to deal with faction was by finding ways to control its effects.
Herein lies the key for he said that if the faction makes up a minority of the electorate, rather than a majority, the best thing we the people can do is to defeat them at the polls.
Congress from a structural standpoint is failing we the people, through the use of parliamentary forms of delay, such as the wide use of the filibuster in the Senate and the use of what is called a hold, where one Senator can stop a nomination from going forward by placing a hold on it.
These actions have thwarted legislation from going forward and in essence the result is that we no longer have a government that works well at all.
We no longer have majority rule but instead we are experiencing a tyranny of the minority. A minority of the membership of the House of Representatives is able to stymie needed legislation, by just saying no and obstructing the needs of the people.
When Americans are desperate for better paying jobs the President of the United States can not get his jobs bill a fair hearing. When a President proposes to fix our failing infrastructure by funding highway, bridge, and dam repair and airport expansion, higher paying jobs fail to appear and our infrastructure suffers.
With our excessive partisanship you would think we had a parliamentary system but that is not what we have. Partisanship encourages the division of our citizens into these so-called red and blue states.
I reject the whole idea. We have to remember that we are all Americans. We come from every corner of the world. Our diversity is our strength but if we allow extremists to divide us our Republic will come to an end just like all of the Republics before us.
I don’t care about ideology I care about results. I care about smart government. We, the people, should demand that our representatives in Washington stop being obstructionists and get to work. Isn’t that what we pay them to do?
We, who identify ourselves as moderates hold the key. We have been called the silent majority, but we can not afford to remain silent. We need to make our thoughts known by calling or emailing or representatives and insist that they do the people’s business. There are so many pressing issues that need to be acted on. Independent voters need to be heard and be involved in the process as well. We, as citizens need to participate in the process. Silence and the willingness to just throw in the towel and not even vote gives strength and power to the extremists.
The status quo and the politics of no is not what we elected our Congresspersons and Senators to do. Obstructionism is not what the founders had in mind when they set up a system of checks and balances. If there is a crisis the last thing we need as a nation is to have a political party stand in the way of needed change. It is unpatriotic to sit back and prevent action just for the sake of partisan gain.
Americans tend to rely upon great leaders to lead us out of the political wilderness. We expect miracles. We now know that a determined minority can even close down our government and put our system of government at risk.
Let us reject extremism and obstructionism, by sending a message at the voting booth. If anything, most politicians want one thing the most, and that is to be re-elected. The threat of sending them home may in effect have the desired result, if we once again have a government that works for all of the people. Some may not be happy with any change that might take place, but maintaining the status quo is often worse as it encourages problems to fester and grow as a result of inaction. Let us return to majority rule and reject partisanship. Compromise is not a sign of weakness but rather it illustrates a willingness to solve the problems that we have. Let us end the blue and red state madness and recognize that we are all Americans, irrespective of race, or gender.
Let us return to the day when our representatives in Washington worked for the people and not what is best for themselves or their political party. When we once again put the nation’s interest above any partisan gain we will once again have a Republic worth keeping.