Sunday, March 31, 2013
Of Cowardice and Corruption
And how about immigration reform? Looks like Congress might actually pass legislation that deals with an issue that has plagued America for well over a generation and a half. Imagine Republicans and Democrats agreeing on something substantive. Somewhere a cat and a dog just shacked up together. And to think, it was only a year ago that one political party's solution to the problem was self deportation, while the other party's solution was mainly silence.
What could be responsible for this unprecedented 180? In a word, the polls. Over the last few years, the public's perception of both these issues has virtually flipped. More and more people now have a favorable view of gay marriage and a vast majority of Americans want meaningful immigration reform.
As a result, politicians from both parties are heeding the call to act. Not because they are moved by or truly believe in the cause - though clearly some do - but because failure to do so could mean political oblivion. In a rare moment of candor, Arizona Senator John McCain summed up his party's recent reversal on immigration reform in one word: votes. Self preservation, rather than doing the right thing, is the modus operandi for Washington these days.
Don't get me wrong, I applaud both turnarounds, regardless of motivation. They are long overdo. And with respect to gay rights, the day when all people are treated equal under the law will be a momentous one for the country. I just would've felt a whole better about things if the sudden shift by our elected officials wasn't so obvious and shallow and based entirely on fear. You get the feeling these people couldn't decide on lunch without taking a poll.
If you really want to know why most people hold government in such low regard this is why. Politicians who show true courage and conviction have become an endangered species in America. A handful of brave senators and congressmen are now the exception to the rule. And that rule is simple: Do whatever you have to do to get reelected. Going out on a limb and bucking the headwinds is the political equivalent of committing suicide.
Ironically, the one group in Congress that seems to not care about what the polls say and stays true to its cause - the Tea Party - just happens to be the most mentally unbalanced group in all of politics. Go figure that. If only we could bottle that passion and authenticity without all the insanity, we'd have a pretty impressive and courageous government instead of the current bunch of sniveling cowards we now seem to have in abundance in Washington.
But there is one thing even more powerful and influential than polls, which brings me to gun control. Despite overwhelming support for a ban on assault rifles, there is zero chance of the Senate passing legislation on one. Indeed, it'll be news if a background check makes it through. Why? The NRA, that's why.
A government supposedly of the people, by the people and for the people is ostensibly bought and paid for by influential lobbyists such as the NRA. Like the Empire in Star Wars, their job is to crush any resistance that threatens their specific agendas. There are more than 34,000 registered lobbyists in Washington today. In 1980, it was a fraction of that amount. Those lobbyists, despite attempts at reigning them in, wield tremendous power and influence over legislative initiatives. So when Congress isn't bending its policies towards the recent trends in society, it's cowering to powerful and corrupt interests who hold a vice grip on its purse strings.
This isn't merely a Republican issue. Need I remind you that of the 55 Democratic senators in Congress, Harry Reid only has 40 who will support an assault rifle ban. Indeed, five Democrats joined forces with 45 Republicans recently to require that any gun control bill require a two thirds majority to pass. Thankfully, the measure failed, but it symbolized the lengths to which some will go to paralyze and defeat what should be sane and reasonable gun reform laws.
This pitiful excuse for leadership didn't just spring up overnight. It took several decades for it to grow like moss blanketing all of Washington. The result is that the U.S. federal government is now the laughing stock of virtually every country in the West. And the saddest part of all is that things aren't likely to improve anytime soon.
It was Mark Twain who said, "We have the best government that money can buy." Had he lived long enough to see this government he probably would've demanded a refund.