The Sad State of American Politics

There is a famous Bugs Bunny cartoon that opens with Elmer Fudd walking with his shotgun. He turns to the camera to inform us that he is hunting rabbits. Soon he finds Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, who get into an argument about whether Elmer should shoot rabbits or ducks because there is some confusion over whether it is Duck Season or Wabbit Season. There is a famous exchange where Daffy and Bugs are yelling at each other – “Duck Season!” “Rabbit Season!” “Duck Season!” “Rabbit Season!”

Sadly, this is the state of our political debate. There is no middle ground. There is only Black and White. There is Night and Day. Either you are a patriot or a commie pinko, terrorist-loving traitor. There is no compromise.

Not in a cartoon, but in real life, we saw everyone take similar positions after 14 Americans were slaughtered in San Bernardino, CA. On one side, we have Americans screaming that Obama and the Democrats have been soft on terrorism, and if Obama were truly serious about keeping American’s safe, he would have prevented this tragedy. On the other side, we have Americans shouting at the top of their lungs that this event was 100% predictable in a country where it is easier to purchase an assault rifle than it is to buy liquor in most counties.

The arguments on both sides are so routine and predictable they should be written down on the American Tombstone. “Here lies a Once-Great Nation, but everyone stopped listening to each other.”

Within the last decade we have hardened our positions. The Speaker of the House recently resigned his post – and his seat, which he’d held for 28 years – because one flank of his own party forced him out. The so-called “Freedom Caucus” took the stance that compromise on anything was wrong. There was no give. There was only “our way or the highway.”

While Boehner was less than ideal as a congressman or as Speaker, he has been replaced by Paul Ryan, who is even more extreme. We are going from worse to worser. (Yep, I said worser. And I hope and pray we don’t get to worstest.)

This whole political thing is un-American. America was built on compromise.

I don’t hate Paul Ryan. I think that his ideas would move America in the wrong direction and make it even harder for middle-class Americans to get ahead. Turning Medicare into a voucher program will leave thousands of elderly Americans out in the cold.

On the other side, I like Hillary Clinton, but I don’t think she is a saint. I recognize that not everything she says is brilliant, nor worthy of writing on stone tablets. But she’s smart, experienced and capable. We have to stop making some politicians into saints and others into devils. We really don’t need to elect a saint (think how many of them were fanatics); we need to elect a smart, decent human being who’s a good leader, a good listener, and a good judge of what’s right and wrong, what’s possible and impossible, and what is the best way “to promote the general welfare” of the United States and all its citizens.

Let me focus on the idea of compromise. This is the foundation of democracy. James Madison didn’t think that we needed a Bill of Rights. George Mason left the Constitutional convention because a Bill of Rights wasn’t included. Madison noted that without a Bill of Rights that the Constitution might not pass the states. So, instead of finger-pointing and calling his political opponents anti-American, King George-loving, mulletheads, he sat down and wrote the Bill of Rights based on what George Mason had laid out. By writing the Bill of Rights, James Madison made what may be the biggest political compromise in the history of our nation.

The biggest problems of our time are now being kicked down the road. Since we can’t compromise, we try to repeal Obamacare over 50 times, instead of understanding that it really is the law of the land. Since we can’t compromise, we have watched little children get murdered with weapons that were designed to be used on the battlefield. Since we can’t compromise, we sit by and watch our planet get sicker and sicker.

I understand that no legislation is perfect. I don’t want perfection. I just want to make it harder for anyone to have military assault weapons. I don’t buy the argument that only criminals will have assault weapons if we ban them. When was the last time we saw anyone use a bazooka in Chicago or Los Angeles? This is a weapon that has been restricted to military usage, and the American public, as far as I know, haven’t been able to get their hands on any bazookas.

I want climate change legislation that will allow you and me to breathe easier year after year. I really don’t want something that looks good on paper but does nothing. I want to start breathing better now, not in 20 years.

International corporations that do business in the United States but have their corporate headquarters in Russia, Dubai, or Ireland need to pay a steep price. We need to enact a corporate tax. We need to make it too painful to have your corporate headquarters overseas. If the tax is high enough, corporations will be scrambling to relocate somewhere in the good old USA.

If we are truly tired of the stalemate in our state capitals and in Washington, then we need to take money out of our political process. If a candidate decides to run for the Senate, then he or she has to show that he or she has enough support for federal funding. Let’s say 250,000 signatures. Then that candidate gets X amount of dollars to run a political campaign. If there are 10 candidates who have enough support, then they all get X. They must run their whole campaign with the federal moneys that they were given. That’s it. No more. Outside groups can advertise in the newspaper and on the radio. No TV ads. None.

No negative ads.

Wait. Before you say that we can’t do this, I say Horse Hockey. We can do just about anything that the majority of Americans agree on. We can amend the Constitution to regulate political speech. Unless and until we do that, we won’t be able to do much else.
Once we take money out of the political process, we can be on the road to fixing everything that is wrong with our political system. Oh, and while we are at it, we need a nonpartisan computer program to draw fair districts and to prevent gerrymandering of political districts. Such a program exists. We just need another constitutional amendment to enact this bit of fairness nationwide.

This is not too much to ask. We need real political reform in order to save our democracy. We need politicians who can compromise and get things done. Wait. One more time: Before you tell me whose fault this mess is – I … don’t … care. I just want to fix it. Because I know the folks in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino don’t care, either.