Politics is especially divisive and messy today. Everyone knows that. And just to get it out there at the beginning, I am not going to pretend this is a bi-partisan issue. What fails American politics today is an unbalance of discursive power.
Generally speaking the left accedes to the right a contrite sense of shared responsibility for our political failings. Blame is not a bi-partisan issue and the right knows it. They are not honest about it, of course, but they don’t care and they are happy to confuse the issue. The right swings blame like a giant hammer, knocking off opponents with rhetorical ease.
Case in point…compare offers of compromise from the conservative right with those of the left. First off, you have a hard time finding examples of compromise from the right, and when it does happen those politicians put their careers in jeopardy. In fact search “compromise” and “Republican” and you likely find a story about the so-called Tea Party condemning a political leader.
And when was the last time — any time, in fact — that you read about a Republican taking any responsibility for our current economic decline. It is all Barak Obama’s fault. (Find counter examples and post them in the comments section here. I need to see some sign of hope.)
Not everyone on the conservative right is an idiot, however. Smart people there know that our economic malaise is not President Obama’s fault. First of all he hasn’t been able to get much in the way of policy to do much, good or bad. Ultimately that is neither here nor there when it comes to politics. Congress makes policy proposal law. President Obama does not. It is so much easier to blame someone else, is it not? Facts and procedures merely get in the way of power.
This problem will only get worse through the next four months, and almost certainly beyond. To understand this we only need to see what has become of political “leadership.”
Politicians are not so much leaders as much as they are preachers, and they preach to their increasingly dogmatic followers. All that will happen between now and November is a lot of blah, blah, blah. Sadly — I will insist — the failure of leadership falls most firmly on the side of conservatives because they have the ability to engage the power of Congress. But they won’t do it.
Take the economy as an example. At a government level, there isn’t much we can do to turn things around. The primary government players include Congress, the President, and the Federal Reserve. Of these three, the only one that possesses any meaningful power to act is Congress. Even during the best of times the President is a minor player, drumming up a party platform and selling it. The president has very little direct effect on the economy, always has and, unless we change the Constitution, always will. Congress enacts laws, the President enforces them.
The Federal Reserve hasn’t much it can do either, but it has become sport to blame the Reserve as a de facto wing of the Obama presidency. In truth, policy options there are tapped out. All the Federal Reserve can do now is monitor and report. No one really pays attention anyway, especially politicians.
From a government policy option, Congress has the most power. If there is an answer in the short term, it will come from Congress, not Obama. Sadly, we would be in much better shape this were not true. If President Barak Obama did in fact wield the power conservatives claim he has in hurting the economy, we would be in much better shape today.
But wait a minute, don’t you hear your Republican leaders preaching a sermon about saving American jobs, the economy, and the middle class? Are they not worried about your children and grandchildren? They have hijacked that rhetorical trope and, in the face of the facts, get away with it.
Help for a stronger economy is up to a Republican Congress and therefore we can expect nothing. The party of wrack and ruin needs a depressed economy to maintain its hold on power.
Moreover Republicans use class warfare to divide America. This enables them to rollback sound economic policy that once supported America’s prominence and power — Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill — but that shining city is inconsistent with an increasingly paranoid and ignorant conservative ideology that has a long list of social issues to push.
The United States has done a lot of things wrong, according current conservative dogma. It began taking care of its citizens, protecting its environment, and investing in the future of a shared common good. Increasingly the rights of the minority were protected against the wishes of intolerant majorities. But these things cannot stand. I don’t know, maybe success and shared prosperity ruined us, leading us astray of Christian values. That isn’t exactly the conservative narrative, but what else in our country’s shining past would cause our ruin?
Conservatives tried to divide us on permissive social issues and largely failed. Now they divide us on economic issues and succeed. In a country so enthralled with the myth of independence, this works.
So what can we do?
I don’t hold out much hope in converting the right to joining the left. It won’t happen. But I believe a majority of Americans do in fact understand where their long-term best interests are served. It isn’t in the disastrous policies of conservative politics — politics that too many liberals supported as well in recent years — but in a future that values shared investment and cooperation.
America’s future depends on a progressive majority turning out to vote. It is that simple. Apathy is a bigger threat than ignorance at this point. It is too late to expect some sort of intellectual enlightenment among the dogmatic right. The disengaged middle doesn’t strike me as a crowd that will study the facts of policy history (they are uncertain for a reason). Instead it is time to rally.
If you don’t like the way our country looks today, don’t vote for the people who put us here. Save the country. Don’t vote Republican.
- Roberts scorned for not being sufficiently activist and political (pwtenny.newsvine.com)
- Religious right’s new rivals (salon.com)
- Politics and the Supreme Court (polentical.com)
- 5 Ways Republicans Have Sabotaged Job Growth (thinkprogress.org)
- Did Republicans Deliberately Crash the US Economy? (economistsview.typepad.com)