Commentary: A House Divided…

In an earlier opinion piece, I referred to the USA as “The Divided States of America”. The never ending presidential campaign is doing little to reunite us. In theory, the best way to govern would be if we were represented by persons who had enough self-awareness and self-doubt to listen to those with differing opinions and seek compromise. In the current political environment, however, compromise is viewed as selling out. If the basic unit of government is the family, it is relevant to ask how functional is a family unit that refuses to compromise and considers other family members with differing opinions evil or disloyal.

With all due respect to Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz for example, they are possibly the two most ineffective presently serving senators. Their combined list of accomplishments is as long as the list of honorable discharges from the military of all of the present presidential candidates. But that is another story.

It is difficult to comprehend how ineffective senators could magically transfigure into effective presidents. The thought of either of them getting their agenda through congress would be laughable if the consequences were not so serious.

Persons of reason and moderation have sadly become less fashionable. The first canary in the coal mine was Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. Senator Lugar was a very conservative Republican who was one of the nation’s premiere experts regarding national defense. He was also very much a gentleman. I have had Democratic senators who served with him tell me they “loved” and “respected” him. That love and respect did him little good as he was defeated by his own party in Indiana. Good manners apparently have become a liability even in the Midwest where people are supposedly so nice. Is there something un-American about loving our enemies?

Persons of moderation need to regain control of both political parties. If they do not, things could get worse. Christians trying to mold the USA to their own image could be more effective by leading by example rather than giving secular America sermons. Sermons from politicians are invariably suspect. Churches can be great institutions as shelter from the storms of life. Churches also have proven on occasion to give cover for bigotry. Why was segregation the law of the land for so long in “the bible belt”? Action speaks louder than words, but does mere loudness demand respect?

The other side of the coin is that America is not ready for a socialist president. Capitalism with all of its warts is what made America great.

Is America a land of wide open spaces and narrow minds? Is everyone who disagrees with us unpatriotic? These are questions both the right wing and the left wing need to answer introspectively. Abraham Lincoln once said, “United we stand and divided we fall.” For living that truth he got a bullet in the head. We should ask ourselves how political and religious orthodoxy is working in the middle east. We should also self-examine what George Orwell once called, “The smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls”.


Jim Maxson

One comment on “Commentary: A House Divided…

Leif Snyder

Jim Maxon I do agree but what is the solution?

“In theory, the best way to govern would be if we were represented by persons who had enough self-awareness and self-doubt to listen to those with differing opinions and seek compromise.”

Theory is good but unless you have a magic wand to wave that gives people the ability to use that self awareness and self-doubt what good is it? We are stuck with the political process we have now which is not a political process its political stampede, with little or no thought given to candidates or consequences but rather just how to react to follow the heard. 70 years ago a soundbite was 5 minutes or an entire speech. 10 years ago it was 15 seconds, nowadays with social media soundbites are not even a way in which some people develop political opinions but rather some get their opinion via cartoons or propaganda that is forwarded, “shared” or “posted” many times with no comment as to why someone even agrees or disagrees with, or why its relevant?

I came to realize 8 years ago linear thinking in politics is wrong, left vs right, blue vs red, Democrat vs Republican is a loosing endeavor. It’s like a scale or perhaps an old teeter-totter, with the balance point being the middle or most Americans, with those on the left pulling for their issues and those on the right puling for theirs. Lobbyists and politicians both are taught not to compromise as even if those on the left might agree with an issue on the right it means giving up ground heading in the direction of the opposition. Its the same for those on the right, you can’t give up ground towards the middle the only direction to go is further to the right or left thus the gridlock. I read someplace “Do you suppose the right and left wings are attached to the same bird?” It is and most of us are just along for the ride.

The late comedian George Karlin had a bit in which he summed up politics as “Its a big club and you aren’t in it!” Both parties have become distant from the relative middle yet try to appear as to care about it but when it comes to action do nothing. Both parties have implemented a process to protect their own existence from outsiders. The Democrats have the “super delegates” to guard against the vote of their own members/party. The Republicans have some closed primaries and even allow their delegates to vote however they want not obligated to anyone to guard against the majority of their own party. As a kid in grade school we use to play a balance game on those old teeter-totters, standing on them trying to get your opponent off balance, similar to log rolling if you will. A sure fire way to get both participants to fall or behave if they were getting out of hand was to add a 3rd. George was right its time for a new club!

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