The Fault In Our Politics

I was reading  piece online that, while intriguing, isn’t worth linking to here, but brought up an interesting point which can be echoed across the political spectrum in this country as we hurtle ceaselessly toward another glorious presidential election next year.

The writer’s entire point was that they are totally turned off by politicians they’d otherwise support, and in fact, have supported in the past. They’re turned off by the process and the bickering within their own party over the last year. And at this point, they see no alternative but to not even participate in the process next year.

To be fair, while this was aimed specifically at the Republican party, this could probably be said about the Democrats too. And it illustrates the larger issues dividing this nation. So let’s look at these complaints in a broad way, because specifics would take forever…

The writer was saying that after the midterm sweep in congress, there was an expectation that the Republicans would do what they’d promised: overturn the Affordable Care Act, fix the budget problems that have been an open wound on the side of congress for so many years now, make some moves on the social agenda, and truly make Obama a lame duck for the last two years of his term. But we all know that virtually nothing has been done. In fact, in thinking about it, I’m hard pressed to even come up with anything meaningful that congress HAS passed.

And that makes me disappointed in the Democrats. Because they clearly haven’t been trying to advance any kind of agenda, either. To top it off, it feels like the last year in politics has actually been owned and driven by the Supreme Court, which should alarm even those who have supported their rulings.

We know that there are vast chasms across the political divide, with the theoretical majority of people (moderates) falling largely silent, while the extremes have taken to yelling at each other and getting substantially more airtime. And yet, no one has managed to move the political football at all for a couple of years now.

So is the problem ineffective leadership, or an ineffective and sharply divided electorate?

First off, note that the truly smart people are staying on the sidelines for the presidential campaign: Elizabeth Warren, Paul Ryan, and Amy Klobuchar. While each is deeply committed to their party and their party’s platforms, each of these potential candidates isn’t the type to yell, demonstrate, or directly insult someone from the other side.

Second, note that those in charge of each party’s platform for the last few years have effectively stepped out of the spotlight: John Boehner hasn’t been heard from since the first Republican debate, and Harry Reid is actually leaving Congress entirely at the end of his term. For Boehner, it could be because however the election comes out next fall, he’s probably going to be thrown out as speaker. But I don’t think he doesn’t care about policy or the platform. Rather, I believe he’s grown tired of the bullshit coming from his own party.

And that’s the third thing: both parties are actively trying to tear themselves apart from within. Powerful, loud voices are being heard from the fringe of both parties–voices that have always been there, but have always been willing to be quiet if they were given some small concessions by the party. These voices, best represented by Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, are coming from groups that have been dismissed as being on the fringe for too long. So as much as the Clinton and Bush presidencies were characterized as a race toward the political middle, the next president will likely preside over parties chasing the outside wings.

Trump and Sanders, in particular, have tapped into the deepest and sometimes darkest parts of the far right and far left political opinion in this country. And they’ve successfully managed to communicate effectively to those groups and energize them enough to rally around the campaigns. But the question is how much energy is there in these groups? can it last another 14 months?

The curious thing about the process as it stands right now is that I don’t see a clear-cut leader emerging from either side. There’s no way in hell that either Trump or Sanders can capture a majority of voters in a general election, because Sanders is a socialist (which the people of this nation don’t fully understand, but think is a bad thing), and a Trump presidency (even to a lot of conservatives) is just a scary thing.

So is there enough support and energy from the moderates and possibly a couple of fringe groups to regain control and move things forward? Based on the tone of the article I read online, there may not be. And that’s a big problem.