Do you ever get the feeling that our polarized government is a little like sitting across the table and listening to Archie Bunker talk to his faithful and compassionate wife Edith? It dawned on me just recently that our government is like that now. Archie would stand on what he believed in and facts did not matter, while Edith would sit there, patiently listening, hoping to get a few words in. I can just hear her now saying, “Awe, Archie!”
Most Americans have to deal with every day problems in a pragmatic way, they deal with them and try to solve them so that they go away. Well, let’s face it America, we are a red and blue America for the moment. I have good news, though, this too will change. Our problems are not being dealt with because we have the most polarized and partisan government since the days after Reconstruction.
I will not reconsider why we have gotten to this point in our history, the point is that we are at a place where the most conservative Democrat is more liberal than the most liberal Republican. Partisan rancor has escalated to the point where the likelihood of any of our elected representatives reaching across the aisle to find common ground is getting less and less likely.
President Obama may seem to be a weak leader because he does reach across the aisle seeking compromise, but that is part of his job description. A President is supposed to work for all Americans and to be frank, problems do not have any ideology, they are just problems that need solving in a pragmatic way.
If any of you wish to read on how we got to this place, I would suggest 2 books for all of my democratic and republican friends. One is Geoffrey Kabaservice’s,” Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party.” The other book that everyone should read is “It’s even worse than it looks,” by Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein. The subtitle of the last book is telling as it says, ” How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.”
It can be said that democrats since President Clinton have become more centrist, willing to protect government while at the same time, cutting and trimming government in order to maintain government’s commitments during these years of worldwide economic challenges.
What has been lacking is a forceful presentation of ideas to move things forward. We have seen too much support of the status quo. What we need is to have ideas that will present 21st Century solutions to 21st Century problems.
There are indications now, that what is now being called the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party, is ready to stand firm when needed and reach out across the aisle when needed to resolve our differences. Elizabeth Warren and company get it. They are in Congress to protect the consumer, we the people.
When one political party becomes so extreme as the Republican Party has been alleged to have become several outcomes are possible.
One is that due to demographics, Republicans continue to lose national elections. As we can see, the battleground states are the ones being fought over as the population centers, or cities equal approximately the voting strength of suburbia and the agricultural areas of a state. But places like Virgina are having the areas that typically have democrat support grow, while the rest of the state’s growth population wise is rather stagnant. With a decline in the white male percentage of the vote, the inevitable outcome is seen by the Republican Party professionals as handwriting on the wall, that their long-term strategy has to change.
A political party loses relevance when it continues losing elections. This possible outcome may cause the Republicans to moderate their extremism and be more pragmatic.
The debt ceiling crisis may have given impetus to a new spirit of moderation because Wall Street did not like what they saw from Congress. The money that Wall Street put into an off-year election in Alabama is illustrative of the point as they outspent the tea party candidate by a ratio of 8 to 1.
Another possibility is that the cult like aspects of the Tea Party will help to cause the Republican Party to implode. There is a growing split among Republicans between those who advocate immigration reform and others who are against any reform other than getting rid of those who are in this country illegally. Marriage equality is another issue that is causing a rift among the party faithful.
Well, Edith Bunker, the bad news is that for the near term our ideologically based politics will continue to dominate. Don’t worry about those Cling peaches though, things will change. We just have to hang in there. Our hope is that during the current struggle, the Tea Party does not do irrevocable harm to our country’s institutions. I am waiting for the familiar refrain that began “All in the Family.” “Those were the days.” Better times are a head of us, we just need to fight on and work to preserve the system of government that we were intended to have.
Well, Mr. Tea Partier, enjoy your power for the moment. You believe you are winning because government is in gridlock. As we approach the holidays let me give you a glass of good cheer and say nice try, as this is your last hurrah!!!