The upcoming election, like all elections is about choices. The old cliche that "this will be the most important election in our lifetime" really could be true this time. Why do I say this? Because America, we are at a tipping point. A tipping point economically, socially and environmentally. If we do not pull our collective heads out of the distractions that are modern life and spend the five or ten minutes that it takes to seek out and read up on an issue from a legitimate, credible source rather than form an opinion based upon carefully crafted ideological sound bytes scripted by evil ad men using all the tricks that Madison Avenue and modern psychology has to offer, and disseminated through corporate controlled media outlets, we are truly doomed.
This country was founded by some incredibly smart individuals who had the pragmatism and common sense to construct a form of government that took into consideration human nature and had the respect for individual human dignity. Oh it was not perfect by a long shot. At the time of this country's founding, equality and justice did not extend to all citizens, depending upon your gender, race or class, but it has been a work in progress and we have, by and large, as a nation pushed ahead with progressive reforms incrementally recognizing the ideals upon which our great nation was founded.
Unfortunately, something has profoundly changed during my lifetime. It would be far too easy and simplistic to point to just one or a few things as being to blame for this increasingly dire and stalemated situation. No, the problem, like modern life itself is far too complicated for there to be a simplistic solution. But one thing is abundantly clear. For there to be any improvement over the current situation, if we are to advance as a just and fair society that respects the rights of all citizens, rich and poor alike while at the same time preserving an environmentally stable future for our children and grandchildren and beyond, we have to get over the "I got mine, tough luck if you can't get yours", tax cut for the uber wealthy mentality that is the hallmark of the current split that almost equally divides the country, be it Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservator, Tea Party or Progressive.
Politics after all is about the art of compromise, not the art of deception and one upping your opponent. But this is precisely the rub. If one side is not negotiating in good faith. If one side is just paying lip service and going through the motions while all the time manipulating the woefully deficient corporate controlled mass media coupled with an intellectually lazy and tuned out public, a healthy democracy cannot survive. Despite what the conservatives would have you believe, even as smart as our founding fathers were, there is no way that the human imagination could have predicted the confluence of influences which have created the current stagnation in the body politic. That is why the constitution was meant to be a living and breathing document, subject to interpretation, grounded in fundamental principles, but nevertheless flexible enough to account for changing times.
But enough of my abstract palaver, let us look at a few recent examples that I believe support not only my hypothesis but the similar opinion held by countless other persons of good will and who pay attention, and have the interests of all Americans in mind, regardless of partisan affiliation. Case in point, health care. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), derisively referred to as Obamacare, by the Republicans is, in actuality, a creation of Republicans as a response to the Clinton Administration's attempt at health care reform over twenty years ago. If the Affordable Care Act were a musical composition instead of a piece of legislation (now law) the Democrats could be sued by the Gingrich era Republicans in Congress for copyright infringement.
In fact, the most objectionable provision in the law, the one aspect that makes for an easily remembered and manipulative sound byte for the ignorant masses is in fact the hallmark of the Republican's current candidate for President, Mitt Romney, Massachusetts health care reform law that was passed while Romney was Governor of that liberal state. Despite the fact that it has worked well, in order to get the endorsement of his own, increasing radical party, Mr. Romney has had to fall over himself apologizing for this legislative success and disingenuously trying to distinguish the Massachusetts law as legitimate under state law but unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause. Well, "Horse hockey!" as Colonel Potter aka Harry Morgan used to say on M*A*S*H.
There is no question that if the Affordable Care Act was passed and signed into law by a Republican Administration, the Republicans would all be singing a different tune. But instead, because this was passed by a Democratic congress and Administration, the Republicans will stop at nothing to repeal the entire legislation, throwing out the good with the bad, much to the danger of the American public. And this is precisely my point. Whereas recent history is replete with instances where Democrats have worked compromises with even the most ideologically driven Republican Administrations (e.g. Reagan and GW Bush), the current breed of Republican is more than happy to cut off the noses of the American people to spite their faces.
Case in point number two: the Federal deficit, its origin and a reasonable solution. In perhaps their greatest lie, Republicans constantly scream about the rising Federal deficit and disingenuously point their collective finger at the Obama Administration when in fact the lions share of the approximate 16 trillion dollar Federal deficit rightfully belongs at the feet of the Bush Administration, its tax cuts for the wealthy at a time of war and the unnecessary war in Iraq with utter lack of oversight by the Republican controlled Congress. Not only is the Obama Administration's contribution to the deficit in actuality a carry over of the Bush Administration policies, it was President Obama, who by executive order upon taking office, made it mandatory that the banks, financial institutions and insurance company, AIG, that received the Bush Administration Wall Street bailout, pay it back. Before President Obama's executive order, it was merely discretionary that they pay the money back. Can you say thank you Hank Paulson? Sure you can.
When it came down to getting serious about the Federal deficit and the Tea Party Republicans ruined this country's A+ credit rating with their reckless political grandstanding, it was the President who called their bluff and along with the Republican, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, agreed to a "Grand Compromise" which would have reduced the deficit by more than 4 Trillion Dollars including reductions in third rail categories for Democrats like social security and other social or entitlement programs, only to have their agreement ripped up and proverbially thrown back in their faces by the likes of Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. Again, another example of the Republicans not agreeing to something that was of its own origin merely because of partisan politics and their highest priority, as candidly admitted to by Senate Majority Leader, the chinless Mitch McConnell, which was "making sure that Obama was an one term president". Good of the country be damned. This is a mentality that is shared by virtually all Republicans these days and flies in the face of what is required of an elected official and responsible public servant.
To keep it local, my final case study is the administration of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and the Vikings Stadium Saga. If there is one elected official in the entire country who has reached out and attempted to work with an opposing, majority party more than Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, I do not know who that would be (except possibly fellow Minnesotan, Senator Amy Klobuchar and her party has been in the barest of majorities during most of her tenure in the U.S. Senate). Governor Dayton has been at times the only adult in the room, has worked with the Minnesota Republicans who control both houses in the state legislature and has signed into law many bills that were opposed by many in his own party, but none the less deserved to become law, regardless of which party sponsored the legislation.
Perfect case in point, the Vikings Stadium bill. No matter how you feel about corporate welfare and subsidies for billionaire sports owner, the fact of the matter is that the legislature has been playing politics with this issue since 2006 and the then Governor, Mr. Pawlenty was unwilling or unable to give it serious consideration, due in part to his personal presidential aspirations. For various reasons, including the expiration of the Vikings lease at the Metrodome, an unworkable revenue stream at said venue and an opening in the most lucrative market in the country Los Angeles (or even Tuscon), the time to sh!t or get off the pot had come. Despite the fact that it was opposed by many in his own party and that the authors of the legislation in both houses were Republicans, Governor Dayton has risked his own personal political career for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, is good for the state. There is not a Republican I know of currently in office or active in politics that I can say would take the same risk
Most tellingly, the Republican Speaker of the House, Kurt Zellers, and his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader and fellow Republican, Amy Koch, were meeting with the Governor throughout the fall of 2011 and paying lip service to the public and media while at the same time secretly emailing and text messaging their fellow Republican legislative members that they were in essence setting up the Governor and had no real intention of letting the legislation see the light of day.
Tomorrow, thanks to the incredible hard work and persistence of Governor Dayton along with a handful of legislators, including the bill's Republican sponsors, the Vikings Stadium bill is expected to get a vote in both houses. I have no doubt in my mind that the Republican House leadership is doing everything in its power to defeat the passage of this bill merely because of the (incorrect) public perception that this is a Democratic piece of legislation and therefore must be defeated for fear of giving their opponents a "victory" regardless of what is in the best interest of the state. Furthermore, I fully expect the Republican leadership will pull out all the stops to defeat the stadium bill in retaliation for the Governor vetoing yet another tax cut for businesses to be paid for on the backs of the working class (property taxes).
There you have it. Three concrete examples of one party being the problem and one party trying desperately to do what is in the best interest of the people. Simply to mouth the untrue and ignorant cop out "that's just politics" and "they both do it" makes me want to grab these people by their throats, back them up against a concrete block wall and slam their heads repeatedly until their senses return. To be contrary for the sake of contrariness is not cute nor funny, but ignorant. In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.