Political shifts, left and right (pt 2): The State of The Union
Need to catch up to part 1? Check it out (here).
The propaganda siren call of the right and the left is strong. Both lull adherents to sleep with ideas that they are the righteous ones, that the ultimate enemy is the other side, and that they can safely sleep in the bosom of their chosen ideology. No further growth is needed. “Congrats. You made it. You’re among friends now.”
Both have religion. Both have science (ish…). Both have a full half of the country with them. Both are fully convinced their side is for truth and the other side is for total destruction. There is no middle ground. There is no compromise. There is either victory or there is death.
Which is fine for the gladiatorial games, where one participant is forced to murder the other and be done with it. But it is dehumanizing. The other side becomes a villain, a demon, a sub-human. Actions against them—even violent actions, are justified, because you have to take them out before they take you out, right? Machiavelli teaches us this in the “Un-Golden rule”.
However, this is a sham of a way to run a free country, where both sides must work together to achieve a civilization.
You’ve seen the stats. Filibusters remain a constant obstacle to productivity (here). Congress passes fewer and fewer laws (here) (here) (and here). The Senate backlog on appointee confirmations is a “national embarrassment” (here).
And the vitriol is pretty rough. The extremists of each party get more press than the moderates. In the past few years, moderates have become actively hated. Repubs and Demos rarely vote against their party (now and then, sure, but only 6% of 2012 Representatives voted against their party more than 20% of the time…the rest of the time is straight ticket Right or Left) (here).
Moderates are easy fodder for more extreme challengers and the Tea Party. One by one, they fall to the wayside, or drift left or right to keep their jobs. In recent years, Republicans have taken to hunt down their moderates outright (here), lead by groups like RINO (Republicans In Name Only), who seek to eradicate the softies who might not agree with their party 100% of the time (here). It’s just not sexy to be open to working with people of different opinions.
And that’s the crux of the whole thing: not wanting to work with others.
Ever hear of Rick Nolan? He’s a Representative from Minnesota (here). The guy served in the House back in the 70s and 80s, took a 30-year break and came back. He said he wanted to bring his experience from the past and see what might work in the present.
He was shocked at how little interaction there was between both political sides. Even in the day-to-day interactions of Congress, both sides rarely spoke to each other. No one came face to face with members of the other party anymore. There were hardly as many social settings where Senators and Representatives could see each other as human. Both sides nowadays stayed in their respective camps and lobbed artillery over to the other.
Did you know Congress only works two-to-four days a week (here) (here) (and here)? Usually Tuesday through Thursday. That’s alongside the month-long break in August and the week-long breaks in February, March, April and May (here…look for “district work week”. That means not in Washington). Sure, Reps need to get back to their districts and meet with constituents, but how often that actually happens is another argument and set of statistics.
To Nolan’s point though, the political atmosphere stagnates and festers. Moreover, it is fettered by money and special interest (a whole other world to discuss). To combat all of this, Nolan introduced a bill to get Congress to work more and work together more. It is called House Resolution 695 (here) and while it stands very little chance of going anywhere, well…at least someone put up a symbolic resistance? Is that the best we can hope for?
So how to respond? How should you respond and how should I? I can’t really speak for you. you can do that in the comments. But I’ll share what’s been going through my head recently.
We’ll have to wait until next time, though, if you can stand it. This post has gone on long enough.