Have you ever had an argument with your husband or wife or with any other significant person in your life that just kept going on and on? Days or weeks later, someone tries to mediate a settlement between the two of you and get both of you to apologize or at least admit you were partially wrong. You look at one another and you both laugh. Neither of you can remember the reason that you were arguing in the first place. Whatever the earth shattering reason for the disagreement, time and other more important realities have superceded the original disagreement.
Guess what people? Our politics are similar. This is 2012, soon to be 2013 and we're still arguing the same arguments that we fought in 1950. The war of words has become so ingrained into our political psyche that most of us don't remember why those arguments were initially started. Let's look at a few of those arguments.
- First let's look at the TEA party and their rise in American republican politics and their move into the mainstream. Few Americans would argue that the TEA party is not a key player in the public political argument. But what is it that they are arguing? Many would argue that the TEA party looks at the government as dysfunctional and the goal of TEA party conservatives is to dismantle the central government. What we are forgetting is that the choice of the acronym TEA party actually stood for Taxed Enough Already. The people who were attracted to this movement were similar to the tax reformers of the 1950s who were strongly protesting high marginal tax rates that exceeded 90%. This was the original republican position on taxes. A 90% highest marginal tax rate was retrogressive and unfair to those who were the most well to do in this nation. It was a winning argument for the republican party and tax rates have moved to a 70 year low. The republican argument was never to have no taxes and to establish ideological rigidity on the tax issue, but they have. They refuse to realize that, on this issue, the 1950s republican party won the debate. Now they forgot the reason they had the argument and they risk losing the new fiscal debates.
- Second, let's look at the NRA and their decision to wrap all gun issues around the absolute right to gun ownership of the 2nd amendment. The original argument that launched the NRA was one of gun safety and training. They were an organization that was developed to save lives, not to risk them. They supported sensible gun laws and had both democrats and republicans support them. They won that debate, but then they somehow morphed into a shill for the gun manufacturers who have lost sight of sensible gun regulation. Now the argument has become the NRA and the gun manufacturers along with those on the furthest parts of the right against everyone else in regard to modifying laws to prevent or, at least impede mass murders. Again, we have forgotten the debate. How do we make the country safer? Not, how do we get rid of all guns? That is not the argument, and it would be good to focus on what the real issue is.
- Third, and probably the most important, is how did the political argument become, "If your side is for it, then my side is against it." We started this great experiment in democracy with the understanding that while we might have different views, it is the job of government to govern. We don't agree on everything, but we don't stonewall every piece of legislation that comes up for a vote. It was always a part of the American system that a member of the opposition could vote with the other party if they felt that was what their conscience dictated and what was best for their constituencies and the nation. Surely there were issues that were contentious and were decided upon party lines, but those were the exception rather than the rule. What was it that forced our legislators to have to vote with their caucus whether the legislation is good or bad? What is it that makes our legislators mindless automatons who do exactly what they are told to do? If you were to ask any of those who represent the people who they report to, they will tell you the people that elected them. What forces them to change once they walk into the legislative chamber?
The description of arguments that should never have been continued could go on and on. We are a nation in inertia with less and less occurring behind our legislative doors. I don't think that most of us want to continue this legislative insanity. If we start discussing things that are really important today, maybe our representatives can actually earn their paychecks.