Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Principles In Motion

If there is anything that causes the government of the United States to function inefficiently, it is partisanship. While, technically, our country operates on a multi-party model, the fact remains that both the Republicans and Democrats have made it, so as to monopolize the conversation, and maintain their grip on power from the national level on down to the local level. It is monarchy gone amok, with two "kings," neither of which is able to rule effectively on their own, but incapable of sharing power effectively.

Worse, each party has taken the interceding decades to consolidate their message to the point that they stand in almost complete opposition to each other on most points. As such, members of each who lean a little toward the other party, the moderates, are castigated and considered outsiders, out of touch with the party base, and often left to twist in the wind. Anyone who speaks of bipartisan compromise is not being "true" to the party's "ideals."

It is maddening, in the extreme.

It is not possible to rule effectively through one set of principles. Any nation, any empire, that has neglected the wider spread of ideas, and disenfranchised portions of its citizenry, has paid the price for its arrogance in civil war, dissolution, and destruction. Many a high-sounding idea for government has inevitably crumbled under the weight of power-gathering and autocracy. Any government that does not represent the interests of all its citizens, and weigh those against the common good, is doomed to the compost heap of history.

Even now, one of the most successful democratic republics to exist, ours, is in danger of falling into this trap, as Democrats and Republicans hunker down behind bulwarks of tired, nonsensical rhetoric, and see fit only to lob epithets and talking points at each other. The shrapnel from these exchanges rains down on us, the citizens of the United States, in taxes that are spent on frippery and boondoggles, wars that do not actually protect us from anything, economic chaos caused by unbridled speculation coupled with an unsustainable model of growth, and the continued existence of poverty, disease, and deprivation in a country that prides itself on being one of the most modern in the world.

This is a trap of our own making. The Founding Fathers thought it important for the people to run the show, to elect the officials, to shape and mold the country. This is what they got for their trouble -- a polarized government and a weak, stratified electorate, unwilling or unable to accept responsibility for creating the nightmare that is the power structure in Washington, D.C., and unwilling to do anything about it. Even the election of President Obama, a hopeful sign to be sure, was not followed up with a wave of fresh thinking. Congress still stagnates in the fetid swamp of its inaction, more interested in carving up the country into personal fiefdoms, and making off with the cutlery, that standing up for the guiding principles upon which the country was founded.

It is not about who is right and who is wrong, who is fair and who is unfair, who represents the "true" American people; it is about governance, and providing three hundred million people with the services and support that can only be handled through a centralized, national government. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few; all Americans deserve equal protection under the law, equal access to the services that government provides, and an equal right to make their own destiny. Sometimes the government must overrule the cries of the people, where a policy is not in the best interests of everyone, even though that may be unpopular.

Instead, we have politicians who promise much, deliver little, and live off the fat of the land, even as their constituencies fill with the poor, the under-educated, the homeless, and the helpless. They make great shows before the cameras of "standing on their principles" and "looking out for the voters," even as they compromise those principles and pay little attention to their constituents, especially those who have not contributed to their campaign war chest. Apparently, unless you are on the donor role, your voice need not be heard.

We created this problem, we the people. The idea of a perfect union has been sold to the highest contributor, because our votes have become automatic instead of thought out. We complain about the state of affairs, but we choose not to examine the root cause of the problem: our lackadaisical approach to the responsibility given to us under the Constitution. We have ceded control of our country to lobbyists, corporations, special interest groups, and foreign powers, because we cannot be bothered to take an active interest in what our representatives do day-to-day, and we do not seem to be able to force the media to report accurately on the problems at hand.

Vote, or don't, but at the end of the day when your paycheck seems too small, when the bills seem too large, when what was once something you gave no thought to now consumes your every waking moment, look in the mirror and stare at the face of the real culprit in the shoddy affairs of state: you. If we do not stand up, do not demand justice, do not demand that out representatives afford us the services it is their responsibility to provide, and do so without pouring our hard-earned money down myriad rat holes, then we have no reason to complain about what happens, because the fault lies not in the stars, but with us. We determine how our government functions, and we have fallen down on the job.

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