Starkville Daily News
(Ask not what your country can do for you)
America is in the throes of a breakdown in civil political discourse which is eating away at the very core of American democracy. Politicians from both sides of the aisle and the general public have become less and less inclined to rise above their petty political biases, to listen to divergent views and compromise in order to reach consensus for the national good. This failure has converted us into a “rude and crude democracy” which threatens the prestige and leadership of the United States as an effective world model of true democratic processes. Worse yet, as we witnessed on January sixth, it threatens the continued existence of our form of democracy.
Concern for the efficacy of our civic institutions and the resilience of our fragile democracy is at low ebb. Talk to Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike about the political divide currently tearing the nation apart and they are likely to tell you it's no longer a divide; it's a chasm, deep and growing ever wider.they will also quickly point out that the problem is the other Party --- they won't compromise! Clearly, this is no ordinary time for the nation.
Political leaders seem to have given up on their ability to contend with identity politics, immigration reform, political polarization, social division, racial tension, political Party wrangling and the wealth gap. These problems have been left to roil and fester.
In the formulation of public policy the longer you wait to fix a problem the fewer options you have available. Congress knows this. Their “Lemming” like Party loyalty is eroding their capacity to forge shared visions along with their ability to collectively solve big problems. Yet, they stubbornly cling to their misguided belief of “Party before country.” There is no down side consequence for their obstinate behavior, so there is no impetus to change. This hard headedness is self-defeating on every conceivable level.
To initiate change, Congress must first move the debate from the battleground to the common ground. Then, they need to reinvest and reconnect with each other and they need to fear less and understand more. This can be done. They have overcome dysfunction before. But it won't be easy. They will need our help.
Liberals and conservatives have always had sharp differences of opinion. The truth is, democracy has always been messy; controversial issues always arouse passionate responses and our politics have always been rough and tumble. Through it all, our politics have been mostly civil and legislation for the good of the nation was favored over the Party. That was then this is now.
Today, there are too many hard line politicians, of various stripes, who denounce compromise and encourage the public to applaud and emulate such intransigence; yet political decision-making does not lend itself to such certitude. True democracy rests upon the conscience and reason of the American people. It can rise no higher than its source in us. We can't rely on the largess of our elected leaders to get the job done. Democratic rule involves sharing power with those affected by its exercise, and who have to live with its effects. That's us folks.
Believe it or not the US political system is ours. It belongs to the people. We can complain about it. We can even tear it down or replace it with something else; but, at least for now, it remains our system. And we should not presume that removing one office holder or changing one political platform will cure our political malaise or revive our civic institutions. We