Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Year of Us & Them

It's been a long year politically, no matter what side of the aisle you prefer. It seems like every single issue became a sharply divided fight. That in itself may not have been exceptional in our nation's history, but it was more than just partisan wrangling. I have to wonder how long it's been since Congress has exhibited gridlock of this level. I've certainly seen times when there were nasty political fights, but I don't recall another time where things had devolved to this level of stupid.

I know it seems that I am looking at things through Democrat glasses. I'll admit there is a bias that I am fully aware of, but this is not simply a case of a liberal viewpoint. What makes this last year different is the way the Republicans have chosen to approach the Obama Presidency. Not by pushing their own bills, but simply to sit in the stands and vote 'No' on pretty much every vote. No engagement or discussion. They just vote 'No' on any legislation proposed by Democrats and especially anything supported by the President. Then they run outside and make speeches for the cameras and blogs, decrying the partisanship of the process and how Democrats are ignoring the will of the people. It would be a losing strategy if not for how easily the American public can be baited and tricked into impatience and outrage. As the old saying goes, you get the government you deserve in a democracy. This is how the Bush Administration managed two terms. They masterfully wielded the 'fear' card to diffuse any public backlash that might arise from the careful trimming of civil liberties and massive military expenditures.

I have to give the Republicans credit for their ability to hold together in a solid phalanx on any issue. It's this ability that has always scared the hell out of me about the party. The Democrats have always been more fractious and prone to inner discord. I'd say it's more 'free thinking'. But the Republicans have this 'Children of the Corn' ability to band together as if they are all of a single political mind. I often wonder how they manage to force their more moderate members to follow along. Perhaps simply by threatening their re-election campaigns? Maybe they're threatening their children? I don't know, but whatever it is, it's certainly effective. The synchronized voting wouldn't be so worrying if confined to the occasional issue, as in the past. But when used across the entire Congressional term, that's when things have gone over the edge. What that tells me is that the choreographed voting has nothing to do with individual beliefs or considerations and everything to do with what they are told to do. This should be unacceptable from either party. It invalidates the whole idea of campaigning for office. Since all Republicans are functionally identical, why should anyone care what their name is or what they supposedly stand for? All we would need to know is if they can read, write and follow instructions. No active intellect required. Certainly simplifies voting.

Government is more than the competition between a couple of static political platforms! I remember issues in the past that tended to polarize Congress, yet even then you would see the odd Dem or Republican cross the aisle to vote their conscience.  But this last Congress has become nothing more than a schoolyard at recess. One side is so defensive about being the smaller group and so worried that the other side might do something that is popular that they're sulking in the corner and refusing to let anyone play. I have never been so disgusted with my government as I am now. And it's not because the Republicans won't rubber-stamp Obama's policies the way they did for Bush. It's because they won't even engage in the discussion. They spend more energy talking to the camera, Tweeting and posting inane comments on Facebook than they do in any kind of conversation with Democrats. They have taken the filibuster to heights undreamed of in the previous history of our nation. After holding fairly steady for decades, the number of attempts to block even the introduction of legislation has DOUBLED in the current session of Congress, and this session is far from over yet. In other words, the minority party has fought every single action by the majority party from day one. This is far beyond policy disagreements. This can only be a concerted effort to stop anything the President proposes. Not because it's questionable policy, but as overall political gamesmanship to make Obama and the Dems look ineffectual. Admittedly the Democrats are scarily good at this on their own. Put simply, Republicans have shown quite clearly that the needs of the Nation take a back seat to the needs of the party. The Republicans are too busy trying to discredit the majority party to notice that the building is on fire. This cannot continue.

The icing on this cyanide laced cake is that so many Americans don't seem to see or even care. We have historically looked to the government, right or wrong, for leadership in tough times. When things are at their worst we tend to follow anyone who speaks with authority. So without thinking things through, Americans have essentially ceded control to the loudest cry. Currently that is the Republican party. Even though it's a whiny, self serving screed. Yet the American public follows along the way they are told; they get angry at what they are told they should be angry about. Over and over they are manipulated with sound bites and corporate sponsored misinformation campaigns. Verifiable lies are allowed to not just sit unchallenged but are made the centerpiece of supposed legitimate arguments. Death Panels? Lie. Government takeover of healthcare? Lie. No terrorist attacks under Bush? Lie. None under Bush after 9/11? Lie. Obama as a Socialist fanatic? Lie. The Democrats ignoring Republicans? Lie! The list is seemingly endless. We Americans are currently getting the government we deserve. Oh yes, indeedy. A dysfunctional mess that accomplishes little other than filling the airwaves with noise. We voted in Obama by a solid majority, because we knew things had to change, only to then become furious that the new Administration is actually changing things! Oddly enough, you can't have change without change. And even if a bad decision is made, it's not the end of the country, as the 'Tea Bag' fringe dwellers like to claim. America is not a Faberge egg. We won't shatter if jostled. We elected President Obama and the Democratic majority to alter the course of the previous 8 years and deal with an economic crisis. We MUST let them try to do that. Not without some counterbalance, certainly. But we can't expect them to accomplish anything with half the government sitting in the dark, fingers in their ears yelling, "Lalalalalalalala, I can't hear you!"

If you really care what happens to America and our world policies, pay attention. Don't assume everything your favorite pundit says is the absolute, unadulterated truth. Think about it yourself and see if it makes sense. I like Keith Olbermann, but I am well aware that he does occasionally drift across the line, though I think it's from frustration rather than malice. What scares me is that listeners of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck don't seem to have the same realization. Beck practically lives in the fringe and Limbaugh has become so enamored of his own voice and the adulation of his fans that he doesn't appear to filter himself anymore. He actually says everything that crosses the transom of his mind without ever thinking it through. His comments after the Haitian earthquake are an excellent example of this. If an issue is of interest read different views, and really think about what they are saying and if it actually makes sense or is just self serving noise. It is probably best to try and avoid the noisemakers on the fringe though. They exist primarily as self promotion machines and are rarely more substantive than a WWF Wrestling event.

Most importantly, write your Senators and Congressional representatives. Email, Postal and phone calls. Democrats AND Republicans. Every one who represents you. Tell them what you think. Tell them what you want. Tell them what you don't like. Be reasoned and direct in what you think, but avoid emotional rants that might get you dropped into the wing-nut category. I know it's easy to just sit back and not get involved, but that is what many in Congress want. As long as you say nothing, they can presume to decide on your behalf in any way they see fit. Demand that they do their jobs and work with all the other children in DC to do what America needs and not what is politically advantageous for them or their sponsors. Because they will keep doing what's in their best interests until they feel it's in their best interests to change!

Below are links to find your Senators and Representatives. Everyone has two Senators and a Representative who directly represents them. Write to ALL of them. Write often on any issue you care about. They are supposed to be representing you, not their own interests or those of their largest donors. Make your voice heard!!

Contact the Congress
Electronic Frontier Foundation: Contact Congress Page


  1. Sorry dude, Olbermann? You're already in the "wingnut" category. The wingnut party didn't just shot itself in the foot, they just blew their whole damn leg off.

  2. Ted,
    As I said, I realize that Olbermann can drift on occasion. My point there was to note that I am aware when this happens. It doesn't seem that listeners of some of the Conservative pundits have this awareness. I can like listening to Olbermann and still know when to shake my head and think, "That's a little bit thin, Keith." I think what America needs is more critical thinking rather than blind allegiance.


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