The polls indicate that Americans are really fed up with Washington - all of Washington. Certainly I am. The things that are being said and done by our elected representatives on Capitol Hill and in the White House are, to say the very least, unbelievable. I can actually remember when our government made decisions according to a fixed procedure, originally laid out in our founding documents. The system was not fool proof by any means, but it worked pretty darn well for a couple of centuries and even got us through a civil war. Today, we manage our affairs by doing absolutely nothing for long periods of time and then creating a dramatic last minute crisis in an effort to force one side or the other to back down as ignobly as possible. The objective seems to be to gain the upper hand politically rather than to solve any particular national problem. This political contretemps seems to be getting worse and worse, more and more irrational, and certainly more dangerous to the stability of our system of government.
The polarized nature of our society is, of course, a major part of the problem. This country has long been divided into three groups. Right, center and left. The right and the left have, over time, become more radicalized, while the center has become less and less engaged. I leave it to the scholars to determine the historic roots of all of this, but I see it as a fundamental part of the challenge that we face going forward. I am fiscally very conservative and socially rather liberal, a difficult juggling act these days. I am so disgusted with both political parties right now that I almost wish that we had a parliamentary system of government so that I could join some splinter group that better reflected my political views. It wouldn't really help in finding political solutions to our problems, but it would make me feel better. I could hide among like minded people and ignore the political views of all of the rest of the nation, knowing that those in my group were the only ones that were right about whatever subject came along. Come to think about it - that is precisely what most of us are doing right now.
Our news media have all, long ago, chosen sides with most of it choosing to champion very liberal principals. The much maligned talk radio and the Fox TV Channel are pretty much the lone proponents of conservative values. All, repeat all, of the news media spin events to suit their political philosophy. As a result, they attract those elements of the public that generally agree with that philosophy. Another factor in encouraging like minded people to talk to like minded people is the increasingly ghettoized nature of our neighborhoods. There are notable exceptions, but generally speaking, well-to-do people tend to vote Republican and less well off folks tend to vote Democrat. They usually live in different parts of any given community and they rarely socialize to any great extent. I live in California. California has adopted a lot of laws and regulations that are inimical to many forms of business. Many of those businesses have moved out of the state. On balance that resulted in more conservatives leaving the state than liberals. Many of them have moved to Texas. California votes liberal and Texas votes conservative. Etc, etc, etc…
While the trend lines in the right and the left are not good, what is happening in the middle is the really bad part. More and more Americans are burying themselves in popular culture and ignoring the fundamental challenges that are facing our nation. As a people, we have always been more interested in our private lives than we were in what was happening in Washington, let alone outside the borders of our country, but things have gotten worse in recent years. I suggest that the major reason for this is the increased complexity of the issues that swirl around us here at home and in the global economy. Things have gotten so complex that it takes full time study to understand any one of the various components that interrelate to make up the modern world and the few experts who actually do understand one or another of these components are usually very busy. None of our politicians have proven very able at explaining the various challenges in such a way that Joe Citizen can understand them. I doubt that very many of the politicians really understand the issues themselves. The result is that half-truths prevail and are used to spin competing political objectives. Joe Citizen can, of course, see through this and throws up his hands in disgust and returns to Facebook.
What do we do about it? Our system of government depends on an enlightened public. We don't have to all be smart about all subjects, but most of us had better be alert enough to see important trend lines or we will follow down the Greek path to financial collapse. I argue that we have been following the liberal path long enough to have successfully addressed some of the social issues that have plagued this country for a very long time. We are not, by any means, done remedying any of them, but we have made great progress, particularly in recent decades. The downside of all of this is that we have racked up some pretty spectacular debt along the way, and the downturn in the world economic picture has not helped either. We risk everything that we have fought so hard to achieve if we do not face up to the economic reality that is staring us in the face. I humbly suggest that the ship of state needs a minor course correction and we have to nudge our government to the right for a few years. I admit that at this precise moment it is hard for me to envision giving my support to the Republican idiots that are prancing around this country yelling at the tops of their lungs, but we must, repeat must, correct our economic course and I see no hope that the Democratic idiots that we have in power right now will do that.