Sunday, July 10, 2016

Politics is NOT the Problem, It's the Solution

David Brooks has a piece in The New York Times that got me thinking. It's titled "The Governing Cancer of Our Time," and in it, Brooks lays out the case for, of all things, politics. According to Brooks, it's the outsiders, or as he describes them, the "antipolitics people," who have caused most of the problems in the country. He writes,
Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups - best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the Right - want to elect people who have no political experience. They want "outsiders." They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They're willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power. 
Ultimately, they don't recognize other people. The suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don't accept the legitimacy of the interests and opinions. They don't recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.
The biggest problem I had with the candidacy of Bernie Sanders was how much it had it common with the candidacy of Ted Cruz. Not on the issues, mind you, but on the whole revolution thing. The more I listened to him - and to a larger extent his supporters - the more convinced I became that this single-minded fixation on the system being rigged and Bernie being the only who could fix it, was no different than the rhetoric I hear coming from far Right commentators on how we have strayed from our constitutional moorings.

Words like transform aren't all that different from words like restore when you parse out the ideological leanings. The intense emotion that such verbiage provokes on both sides only makes things worse, not better. Brooks elaborates,
The antipolitics people don't accept that politics is a limited activity. They make soaring promises and raise ridiculous expectations. When those expectations are not met, voters grow cynical and, disgusted, turn even further in the direction of antipolitics. 
The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder.
Soaring promises abound this election year, from Donald Trump's wall on the Mexican border to Bernie Sanders's promise for free college tuition and universal healthcare. Nobody even remotely familiar with the nature of logistics believes for a moment that any of these things will come to fruition, but that hasn't stopped both men from pushing for them, nor for that matter their supporters from insisting that they be enacted. In fact, Sanders has demanded that his policy positions be included in the Democratic platform as a condition for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, which he is expected to announce this coming week. For the most part, the DNC has capitulated.

This is no longer about the Left vs. the Right vs. the Center; it's about unrealistic expectations butting heads with practical limitations. Politics has, for all intents and purposes, become the ultimate four-letter word in our society and yet, for most of our history, it was how things got done. The scratching of one's back for the scratching of another's, as distasteful as that may sound to some, is how legislation used to get passed in this country.

One of the greatest pieces of legislation ever passed - the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - was signed into law primarily because Lyndon Johnson ostensibly cajoled and/or "bargained" with dozens of members of Congress. Abraham Lincoln used similar methods to help get the Thirteenth Amendment passed. Without some good old fashioned horse trading (e.g., politics) neither would ever have seen the light of day.

The polarization that has gripped much of the nation is simply a by-product of ideology run amuck. The two major political parties have been taken over by their respective bases. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination, but not without being pulled far to the left of her comfort zone. When the GOP and the Democrats hold their conventions later on this month they will have one thing in common: neither will mention anything about bipartisan compromises that will allow the nation to heal. Both will be way too busy cementing the divide that already exists within the electorate. Republicans will speak to their contingencies; Democrats to theirs; and both will talk past one another.

The deadly shootings in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, Falcon Heights, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas, underscore just how precarious the plight of the nation truly is. Two black men and five cops were violently taken from their families and we still can't summon the courage to properly mourn the dead without turning it into a circus.

If you are pro Black Lives Matter, than you must hate the police, and if you're pro police, then you must hate black people. But why do we have to choose between such extremes? Isn't possible to be outraged at the killing of so many black men and women at the hands of law enforcement, while at the same time acknowledging how difficult and many times dangerous it is being a cop? Why is there a black wall and a blue wall? In fact, why are there any walls at all?

Admitting that racism still exists in many parts of the country is not an indictment of cops; rather it is an opportunity for them to become better examples to the communities they serve and protect. Black people must feel that they will be treated fairly and equally by cops in their neighborhoods and cops must feel safe while patrolling those neighborhoods. It is a two-way street.

Maybe the answer to all our problems has been there all along. Maybe if we all sat down together in one room - Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, moderates, whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, atheists, men, women, straights, gays - and listened to one another, we might start a real conversation. Hell, we might even get some things accomplished.

One thing is for certain: what we're doing now sure as shit ain't working.

1 comment:

Slbe11004 said...

I'm sorry but I disagree somewhat with the basic premise here. It is one that has been dragged out and rehashed so many times as well as disproved mostly, you'd think that it's message is surely diminished and mostly rejected by now. The good old False Equivalence never seems to want to go to its justified end as a valid political idea.
Of course, oh so moderates like Brooks and the few others holding dearly to the idea of moderate (read: sane) republicans, always trudge out this canard that both sides are as bad as the other. They do this because they are continually and persistently burdened with having to defend their horrific party's doings. Since they have long since moved past the point where they can credibly defend their party's actions, they move to the only thing left to them that is available. That is, "both sides do it". Peter, seriously try to recall the multitude (hundreds) of times you here this defense and recall how many times it's a republican saying it. If your memory is true you'll realize that it's about 98% of the time.
I agree somewhat regarding the comments about Bernie being a "pure" type of candidate and how that influences SOME of his followers to be the same, and how that can detract from the "political discourse". However, it is not comparable to the intractability displayed on the right for many years (Merrick Garland and literally a thousand other examples). We know that a large percentage of Bernie's supporters are young and thus new to the process. I believe this fact should allow us to cut them a little slack as they are jist getting the "feel" of politics. They are already coming around to Hillary which proves they are not quite so single minded. The very nature of progressives includes being thoughtful, deliberative, open minded, attemptedly objective, and within all of that open to compromise. Not so much with conservatives. Yes both sides have both the yin and the yang, but it's about degrees. One side has way more yin ( or is it the yang) than the other. It's just the way it is - the parties are not equivalent in the way they act.
Further the example that you site - pro BLM, must hate cops, and pro cops, must hate blacks is a fantasy. Just as Trump's claim of thousands of Muslims shown celebrating after 9/11 is absurd, so to is this former claim. Yes, obviously there are a few on either side that comport to your theory, but they are the fringe not the majority. EVEN on the conservative side, I'm not willing to concede that a majority of police supporters also hate black people. Some, but not a majority do. I'm certain that percentage is even way smaller when it comes to BLM supporters who hate cops.
The theories here are old and outdated. That entirety of public, or nearly so, is stupid. Also that both sides are equal.
The "bend over backwards" contingent as I call them should just quit it already. That is those that never allow the idea that they need to maintain their neutral bonafides leave their mindset as they write or speak.
The two parties and their constituencies are not equally objective right now and have not been for a long time. Right wing radio, and then Fox News made sure of this. There is no equivalent ( there goes that word again) on the left. Never has been. And, oh yeah, for those that tried to equate MSNBC with Fox, what do you say now that the former has made a concerted shift to the right recently. They were never analogous anyway (MSNBC never was as ideologically pure as Fox (not even close), and certainly never engaged in the misinformation campaigns that Fox did). Hence we don't see poll after poll on their viewers misbeliefs (Obama's a Muslim, ad infinitum)
I'm sorry to see your still attached to David Brooks, but at least your not quoting that other pathetic at that paper, Dowd. Stick to Krugman.
And, oh yeah, TRUMP!