Divided we fall

The Thinker by Rodin

I woke up this morning and realized I was living in the Divided States of America.

Actually, I have known this for quite a while, but in the last week or so, it has all become so very crystal clear. Like dust on the furniture so thick you cannot see the wood underneath it, I have been sort of pretending to myself that we really do not have completely dysfunctional government. You might say this morning I awoke fully from my intellectual stupor.

Here is what is clear: Republicans will put party and wacky extremist principle before their country. In fact, so will many Democrats. It’s my tribe over your tribe. Our country can go to hell for all they care, and as long as their base is happy, it does not matter. Take the latest cause for bitching: our exploding deficits. Republicans, who were happy when they were in charge to cast votes that caused the deficits in the first place, are now all about fiscal discipline. However, they are not enough about fiscal discipline to, like, actually do something about exploding deficits like maybe raise a tax or two, or simply let a tax cut expire. That might show leadership and political weakness. It’s too scaaaary for them to go there. What would their fellow tea baggers say if they actually moved toward a middle ground?

What an irony. Instead of showing courage, they are actually showing cowardice, not to mention abuse of their public office. When a nation has two wars going on, exploding deficits, ten percent unemployment and hosts of other major problems clearly it is the job of government to come together for the good of the country. At times like these, we need a government that cares more about whether the nation holds together at all, than whether a party gains or loses seats in the next election. By digging in their heals, of course, these political obfuscators only make the situation much worse and I might add much more costly. Inaction only breeds the bigger deficits about which they claim to be so upset.

Scared of rising deficits? It’s not too hard to figure out what’s driving most of them. It’s health care costs. What gives when they rise unchecked? Pretty much everything else gets short shrift, just the way your house would if you neglected the roof and invested it all in lottery tickets instead. If you don’t fix health care, everything continues to get much, much worse. So what is Congress busy doing? It’s trying to not fix health care, even though through a reconciliation process there is an obvious way to do so. Can’t do it. Too scaaaary.

It’s too scaaaary to do lots of things apparently. Too scaaaary to stop telling our military industrial complex to make lots of weaponry we don’t need. To scaaaary to raise taxes on the wealthy back to where they were when Bill Clinton was president and we enjoyed record prosperity. Change is just so darn scaaaary, at least when it requires political compromise. It’s in to be extremely partisan. It’s scaaaary to compromise.

I do give President Obama credit for trying. He was quite brave standing in front of the Congressional Republican Caucus in Baltimore last week. He could not have been more polite and respectful. He simply told Republicans that they have an obligation not just to oppose but also to find middle ground and work on behalf of all Americans. What an idea! It appears that it was not a message they wanted to hear.

It would be nice if there were any leaders in Congress willing to move toward the middle, but it’s hard to see where they will come from because to lead you necessarily take risk. The “leadership” got where it is primarily by moving toward the extreme and eschewing political compromise. What we need is someone with a very firm paddle to move these recalcitrant assholes. They are not leaders. They are pathetic whiners too busy covering their backs to care about the country they claim to love.

It sure would be nice just to hear a tad bit of honesty from these weasels. A mea culpa would be nice. How about this for a start: “You know what? At the time we passed those enormous tax cuts, they seemed like a good idea. They were a mistake. A big mistake. I regret with my whole heart voting for them because they caused this fiscal mess we are in right now. I also regret my vote for the Iraq War. What a waste of money and precious American lives! I cannot undo those votes, but I can vow to do what is right for my country from now on. I will vote to let those tax cuts expire as my contribution to helping reduce our $1.3 trillion dollar deficit. Moreover, I will work with my colleagues from the other side of the aisle to find some middle ground to solve many of our other pressing problems, like health care reform. It’s going to hurt, but I will give a little. In return, I expect the other side to give a little too. It may cost me my party’s nomination, but this time I really will act in the best interest of the American people as a whole, not for my political base. I know this process will be imperfect, but it will be better than the mess we have now. I will not contribute toward anymore of it.”

Gosh, I would vote for someone like this if he (or she) were sincere and actually followed through, even if they were a Republican. It’s not being mavericky, it’s being a statesman. It’s called doing your fucking job.

I would like to see the leadership on both sides of Congress come out with statements like these where they honestly acknowledge their mistakes, pledge to end the pointless finger pointing and pledge to do their jobs. I would like to see the leadership arm-twist their whips and committee chairmen into following along. If necessary, I would like to put the leadership of Congress and the White House in a room with nothing but Dominoes pizzas slipped under the door until they find middle ground. Moreover, I would not let them see their spouses or their children until we have a health care bill that contains costs and covers all the uninsured, a jobs program that puts people back to work doing meaningful work and a climate bill that actually shows Americans want to join the rest of the world in surviving as a species.

Then perhaps we ordinary Americans could feel hopeful again. Most likely we would be so thrilled to see government work again, we would reward those who showed the courage to compromise. In fact, mine is a fool’s hope. Instead, our political parties appear to favor dismantling our country piece by piece than compromise on anything. And so we sink further into the muck, sinking in part because we keep throwing more muck on each other. At some point in our not too distant future, the U.S.A. is nothing will be nothing but an ugly mud pit, fit only for the partisan pigs who brought it down.

As for the rest of us ordinary citizens, we sure would like to have a government that works for us again. Unfortunately, there is no place that three hundred million of us can emigrate to in order to get it.