Saturday, September 16, 2017
Relearning Compromise and Moderation
Memories are malleable things subject to current biases and circumstances but I can say with absolute certainty I have always entertained various liberal ideas when it comes to politics and society. Yes, I have to admit that for a short time from the mid-1990's to the early 2000's I bought into the conservative mindset. After voting for Bill Clinton in 1992 I became extremely dissatisfied with his behavior and along with the Democratic Party after several highly visible congressional scandals. I felt the party had become hopelessly corrupt after several decades controlling both houses of Congress.
There were other reasons for my rightward drift but rehashing the ancient political history of those times and my shallow membership in the “conservative movement” would be meaningless. What is important though was that my exposure to the likes of Limbaugh, and numerous other false right-wing prophets made me realize its talk about freedom and self-reliance was largely a lie. As I listened to the usual right-wing talking heads it became apparent that conservatism had quite literally jettisoned rationality and was toying with authoritarianism along with displaying a dangerous fascination with religion having a direct involvement in politics. Lets face it, both Eisenhower and Reagan were great presidents but neither would stand a snowball's chance in hell at getting nominated in today's Republican party.
Even though I had fallen to the Dark Side back during the early days of the 1996 presidential campaign I was disgusted with the blatant racism directed towards General Colin Powell on the popular radios talk shows during the time he was considering making a bid for the Republican nomination. To have General Powell, who had served his country with honor for decades, be criticized by individuals who leaned heavily on military deferments to avoid being drafted was an outrage. It wasn't long after that I became conscious of the movement by Republicans to outright reject anyone not fitting their religious and societal definition of what it means to be a true American. Yes, I was guilty of many of these sins myself and have no excuse for my horrendous behavior other than mindlessly following the crowd.
What pulled me back to sanity was Bush and Cheney's Iraq adventure that totally failed to find any of the dreaded WMD's that they assured the American people were on the verge of being given to the 9/11 attackers by Saddam Hussein. Side note: Unlike numerous Republican politicians and radio talking heads, I served in the military and know just enough about remote intelligence gathering to understand that Saddam's missing stockpile of WMD's wasn't an honest mistake. Certain pieces of information questioning whether Saddam had any WMD's were ignored or willfully suppressed while other, less reliable sources were pushed on the public through sympathetic media outlets. Throw in the acceptance of torture by the administration and a large part of the Republican party, the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on a war built on lies, along with the factors I had already noticed and I ran back to the Democrats and my true nature.
Since then Republican actions have only pushed me further left. I found it appalling and even damn scary that President Obama, a man elected with clear majorities in both the popular and electoral votes in 2008 and 2012, was treated like a criminal by an overwhelming numbers of conservatives. At the same time, those same individuals openly admired and embraced the authoritarian thug in Russia, Vlad Putin. A person that murders journalists and dissenters with a casual disregard that Stalin and Hitler would respect.
All that being undeniable to anyone except for fools, racists, and the outright stupid, I find myself increasingly disappointed with both the Democratic leadership and the rank and file members. The Democrat Party leadership seems mired in some sort of passionless limbo unable to articulate any clear route the country might take to overcome the unique challenges we face in this era. They are still terrified of being painted the the party of welfare moms constantly popping out babies to boost their food stamps and wasteful spending.
The response to this lack of a Democratic vision has been the development of a left-wing version of the Republican “Tea Party movement” by those who generally label themselves as progressive. In no way is it an exact copy but it does share the same penchant for ideological purity tests along with a total disdain for compromise. Both of those items are like cancer to a working (small D) democratic system like our elected government.
Way back in 2009 after President Obama took office I remember a lot of Democrats were whining that nothing was getting done even though they had a thin control over both houses of Congress. One person I know on Facebook and the blogosphere even suggested Obama was a Republican/corporate-controlled Manchurian candidate out to just pursue the Bush/Cheney agenda.
Here's the problem that to some self-aware individuals might sound strikingly familiar. Obama wasn't a dictator, yes, during his second term he did start issuing executive orders in an attempt to get something done in the face of a Congress that by then was heavily controlled by Republicans and that refused to work with him. But before the 2010 midterms the Democrats didn't get much done because many of them were in districts that were not politically secure or that outright leaned Republican. Their one collective desire was to get reelected and that meant they couldn't go along with every policy Obama wanted to enact.
Despite showing restraint many of these hesitant Democrats were voted out of office in 2010 anyway. But honestly a lot of that can be blamed on lazy and self-absorbed liberals and progressives who couldn't be bothered to vote while conservatives, now terrified that the Antichrist was in the White House, flocked to the polling booths. As they say, the rest is a sad history with only Putin smiling over self destructive American intransigence.
Funny thing though, all during the Obama years Congressional Republicans had scores of non-binding votes to repeal “Obamacare”, shrilly promising that if they ever regained the White House it would be killed minutes after the new chief executive took the oath of office. Fast forward to the disastrous aftermath of the 2016 election and these same Republicans honestly looked like a flock of headless chickens with their inability to not only repeal Obamacare but their mind numbing incompetence at crafting a semi-workable replacement.
Speaking strictly as an outside observer, yeah their inability on crafting a replacement and getting it approved was sheer monumental incompetence on the party leadership. But the deja vu should have been overwhelming for the rank and file Republican members of Congress from politically insecure districts or ones that usually voted Democratic. It was easy to rage against Obamacare, the rabid base loved it but when it actually came to ending the only means millions had access to healthcare those same Republicans from problematic districts had second thoughts. Oh God I admit it, I thoroughly enjoyed the whining put out by conservative talking heads disturbed that after years of promising to take healthcare away from people their party failed as badly as the proverbial lead balloon.
The one element that everyone occupying the growing partisan divide ignores is that our system of government was built on compromise. YES, it is always clumsy and often as ugly as a mutant pig but trying to govern with just one party in control simply ain't working! When you have one party trying to govern alone the results are wild swings in Congressional majorities with the opposing party using every means to undo or sabotage previous efforts when they take control.
Moderation and compromise are dirty words in politics these days, both political parties feel called by God (one quite literally and the other figuratively) to “save America” from the evil minions on the opposing side. But moderation and compromise are the only way workable solutions can be enacted. I've said it before, while I am firmly settled on the lefty liberal side of politics I am not egotistical enough to believe my opinions are the only way for our country to go forward.
Watch any of the cable news channels shows and it isn't hard to hear both conservatives and progressives say that America is on their side. That any deviation from their proscribed political dogma violates the soul of our nation. A curious sentiment given that it is similar to any number of destructive religious cults that demands the individual surrender their free will and ability to change their minds when new evidence is uncovered.
Such a thing happened the other day when I caught a conservative talk show host on television get a wild, rapturous look on his face when he got the actor Henry Winkler to agree on some point. The talk show host's response was to exclaim, “That means you are a conservative!” in the same way a preacher gets when a person becomes born again. Don't worry, I've seen many progressives (Bernie Bros) get the same way and go into a rage if someone dare suggest their policies might be unworkable or impractical.
How did the situation get this way? That's as complicated as explaining why the Roman Empire fell. Sure, it's easy to point to certain individual factors but lately I come to think we are seeing a cascade effect with many elements involved. Conservatives, who are generally white and well off financially, fear change while progressives rage against a system that, truthfully, isn't fair to the economically disadvantaged and minorities. This fear and rage dynamic plays off each other and brings out the extremes. I have to add that you can't ignore the willfully destructive individuals in our society who associate with conservative and liberal/progressive causes. Their true mission is to sow hate and discord and to burn the world down the first chance they get.
The only simple thing I can find with our collective political constipation is the fact that the only way we are going to extradite ourselves is by getting the vast number of non-voting Americans to regularly show up on election day. The only thing fear and rage accomplishes is to bring in a new congressional majority that will be ejected within an election cycle or two. Allowing the bases of either political party to dominate the nomination process for any elected office is akin to letting an emotional unstable toddler play with matches and a five-gallon jug of gasoline.
If pushed, and if I have drank enough beer, you might get to admit there is a thin silver lining in the apocalyptically dark cloud that is Trump. That abomination is such a disaster that I see a record turnout of voters for both the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential run, even if he is impeached and removed from office. There is a slim chance he might be the catalyst that reengages the members of both political parties forcing them to relearn the art of compromise and moderation.
Ideally, I'd like to see some sort of unity ticket run for president in 2020. I don't care if the its Republican/Democrat or the other way around, I want rational government that can adapt to the news situations that appear daily both here at home and around the world. Yes, I am still a liberal Democrat but the welfare of the nation and world should transcend our petty politics.