Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Surviving in a divided country

The United States is a divided country. Toss out any issue and Americans will split pretty much 50/50 on it. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. The age old favorites, Coke vs. Pepsi, Ford vs. Chevy, just led to more choices without causing any harm. But when it comes to politics we are locked into an two party, either/or, situation that is harming us all. To survive our government is going to need some fundamental changes.

Winner takes all means we all loose.

Most elections in recent years have been very close. Trump lost the popular vote and still became president. Does that give him a mandate to run rampant on our government institutions the way he has? Of course not. Republicans slim majority in the Senate. Do they really think this means all the American people support what they are doing? Of course not. It means maybe half of the people support what they are doing. And when you factor in the margins by which each candidate won, and the percentage of people who voted in each election, their slim majority really represents maybe 30% of Americans at best.  So no one has a mandate. If the party in power by the slimmest of margins pushes through their most extreme agenda they are going against the will of the majority of Americans.

Recent events bare this out. Polls were very clear that the majority of Americans do not support Trumps's Muslim ban, the Republican tax plan, the FCC repeal of Net Neutrality,  or the leasing of public lands for oil and coal extraction. Yet Trump and Republicans moved ahead with these things anyhow.

Intransigent leadership means we all loose.

When President Obama took office he realized that even though he won the popular election by an overwhelming margin, and his party controlled both houses of congress, in order to move forward in a meaningful way would require compromise. He reached out across party lines and tried to find common ground, but Republicans wanted no part of it. They stood firm and stubbornly blocked everything they could. Then when they had full control in 2016 their first move in the Senate was to change the rules and approve a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority. Surely no one can see this as the will of the people.

Party lines mean we all loose.

When any decision is made along party lines it should automatically be invalidated. If the two parties cannot reach an agreement on something it certainly does not represent the will of the people. Once again at best it represents the minority Americans it took to win the slim margin in congress. Ignoring for the moment that our representatives care more about the will of their campaign donors and powerful lobbyists, they cannot pretend to represent the will of the people if they are not willing to compromise and work with the other party.

The swinging pendulum means we keep going backwards.

Eight years of Clinton, eight years of Bush, eight years of Obama, and now Trump. See a pattern here? The fact that we want to give the other party a chance each time is a good thing. That fact that each new administration immediately attempts to reverse everything done by the previous administration is not. Indeed Trump seems to base every decision on whether or not he can undo something Obama did. One step forward and two steps back is eventually going to lead us back to the dark ages.

United we stand, divided we fall.

We stand at a precipice. The United States of America has fallen from grace and may soon go the way of the Roman Empire and the Soviet Union. Outside of politics people are able to put aside their differences and work together everyday. If we can do this in our daily lives shouldn't we expect it of our elected officials? There is a strong argument to be made that the structure of our democracy is fatally flawed and significant structural change must be made if we are to survive. While I agree that things like the electoral college and two party system are broken and need to be changed, this alone is not going to fix the problem. Our democracy survived many generations with these institutions and managed to succeed because our elected officials understood the importance of putting personal gain and ideologies aside and working together for the good of all. This is what has been totally lost and this is what we must regain if we are going to survive. The question remains are there any leaders among us who can rise to this challenge?

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