Here’s what’s wrong with American politics

Here’s what’s wrong with American politics. The first of our letters to the editor on today’s page summed it up pretty neatly:

…(W)hile Sen. Barack Obama is an incredible orator and inspires hope for a
post-partisan future, the reality of American politics is partisan.
Astute voters realize this and want the candidate who is best suited to
fight the Republican Party. Hillary Clinton and her team have gone
toe-to-toe with the Republicans and beaten them more often than not.

What’s wrong with American politics, of course, is attitudes such as this letter writer’s. I say this not to endorse Barack Obama or condemn Hillary Clinton. Nor do I mean that this writer is a bad person. In fact, I think it’s a friend of mine (it’s a fairly common name, but I didn’t bother to check; who wrote it is irrelevant).

The problem is the staggering fatalism set forth in that paragraph, the refusal even to allow the possibility of something better than the madness these parties inflict upon our country: "The reality of American politics is partisan." Well, yeah — as long as neither you nor anyone else wants to try for anything better.

But the essence of what’s wrong is the next sentence: "Astute voters realize this and want the candidate who is best suited to fight the (fill in the blank) Party."

The worst candidates are the Democrats who are all about fighting the Republicans, and Republicans who are all about fighting the Democrats. The very best candidates, whatever their labels, are the ones who can see how pointless most of that fighting is, and have the vision and ability to lead us past it.

We need the UnParty, now more than ever.

42 thoughts on “Here’s what’s wrong with American politics

  1. Doug Ross

    > The very best candidates, whatever their
    > labels, are the ones who can see how
    > pointless most of that fighting is, and
    > have the vision and ability to lead us
    > past it.
    So that would exclude candidates who laugh and say, “Good question!” when asked how they would “beat the bitch”?

  2. Karen McLeod

    I know embarrassed when I see it. But this year we have some people who are putting positive spin on their campaigns, at least so far. As far as I can tell, McCain, Obama, and to an extent, Huckabee have shown some leadership here. It CAN be different, if we choose to make it different. That’s what I’m hoping, praying, and working for.

  3. Doug Ross

    I’m watching the debate in Myrtle Beach and John McCain is the only candidate who repeatedly has referenced the Democrats in his replies. Are you going to accept that, Brad, from the guy you will endorse or does he get special dispensation?
    His smug smile is really unnerving also…

  4. weldon VII

    To cure the poison partisanship about which you pout, we need a president with the leadership skills and vision to unite both parties in his wake.
    Absent such a person, which we most certainly appear to be, partisanship serves to dilute the power of each party usefully.
    If they don’t know what they’re doing, we don’t want them doing much, and partisanship helps ensure that. If they bite each others heads off, they can’t lead us down the wrong path.
    Here’s my list of what’s wrong with American politics:
    1) Somehow, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich got elected to something and have been allowed to appear on stage too often and divert attention from reasonable candidates. Paul made a complete idiot of himself tonight in Myrtle Beach, even moreso than usual, and Kucinich has fruit-looped himself through more than one presidential election cycle.
    What’s wrong with our politics is apparently that candidatesa aren’t required to prove their sanity.

  5. Doug Ross

    And I, oddly, found Ron Paul to be the only candidate who didn’t speak in soundbites and “best of” cuts from his stump speech.
    Paul was right on when he responded to the question about whether he was electable by asking essentially “what part of being the most fiscally conservative, anti-tax, constitution supporting, pro-life, anti-immigration makes me unworthy of the Republican nomination?” The problem is that Paul makes too much sense. Why DO we give money to both Israel and Arab nations and then try and broker peace between them?
    When did that become America’s responsibility? Why do we borrow money from China to give to Pakistan? Did we or did we not at one point provide funding to both Osama Bin Laden and Sadaam Hussein?
    I didn’t hear a single candidate dispute Paul’s facts…
    McCain was awful tonight. He completely avoided the question about what he would do with the 12 million illegal immigrants who are killing our economy. He took his typical non-straight talk approach and wrapped himself in the flag, saluted America, and claimed that he wouldn’t deport the illegal immigrant wife of a brave soldier fighting in Iraq. Okay, Senator, what about the other 11,999,999 people who broke our laws to enter the country? And did Senator McCain make his case for how he would handle immigration STRONGER by telling us how his home state of Arizona is one of the widest gateways for illegals to enter the U.S.? You’ve been in office for a quarter century, Senator, and you haven’t figured out a way to protect your own border?
    McCain’s handlers have coached him well, though. Because of his famous temper, he knows he can’t be caught grimacing and gnashing his teeth when people start questioning him. So he puts on that big cheese eating smug smirk and stares into the camera.
    I’ve donated money to the Paul campaign and support him 100%.. but after viewing tonight’s debate, I plan to vote for Huckabee because he actually has a chance to be a different type of President. The only Republicans I would consider voting for are Paul, Huckabee, and Romney.
    As for the rest?
    If you go to bed each night worrying that some guy with a box cutter is going to hijack a plane, vote for Rudy.
    If you want a President who chose his third wife over his kids, vote for Rudy.
    If you think the best period in American history was during the Vietnam War, vote for McCain.
    If you think we need more illegal immigrants in the U.S. draining more resources, vote for McCain.
    If you want a President who can act like a President when he’s got the lines written for him in a script but act like a grumpy old man when he’s on his own, vote for Thompson.

  6. weldon VII

    I don’t know what debate you were watching, Doug. Paul tanked talking about Iran. Went senile to go with his usual economic ga-ga. Made the least sense of any candidate I’ve heard all year, Kucinich included.
    To sum up what I heard from him: let’s play turtle and pull ourselves into a shell. Why rule the world when we can step aside and become irrelevant?
    You say you didn’t hear a single candidate dispute Paul’s facts? Why dispute facts that Paul himself can’t fit into a sensible argument?

  7. Leo

    Dear Weldon VII:
    Is it your point that we should “rule the world?” If so, why? The place is really screwed up. Look around.

  8. James D McCallister

    I only heard part of the debate on satellite radio… and I have to say that, indeed, Rep. Paul seemed (and has seemed throughout this torturous process) to be the only one willing to say what’s going on, ie, there is funny business with the Fed manipulating the money supply, we don’t have any business whatsoever engaging in nation building, our unwavering support for Israel is untenable, the immorality of our unwavering support of dictators so long as they are “our” boys is untenable, et cetera, et cetera. (Actually, all of that stuff is fine if you are in favor of continued global hegemony by this little empire of ours, like most of the corporatist candidates being put up for your consideration by the parties and the MSM.)
    Kucinich does the same brand of truth-telling from the left, yet both are excoriated by the ossified partisans of the world who can’t think outside the chalklines scratched into the asphalt around their narrow, partisan worldview like some of the posters on this blog.
    And it isn’t a right/left issue: Partisans of both (all?) stripes are held sway far less by facts than by spin, propaganda, and the likes of crocodile tears being shed by soon-to-be award nominated thespian Hillary Muskie Clinton, a vote for whom is a vote against democracy and in favor of American monarchy (as was voting for Bush, or Gore, for that matter, another political legacy).
    And as for McCain… again, I couldn’t see him, but applying the old Nixon/Kennedy bit of perceived wisdom about hearing vs seeing the 1960 debate, McCain sounded quavering and elderly and positively Bush-like in stumbling over his words, ie, not a strong leader. I have the utmost respect for his war service, but between his age, involvement in the Keating scandal, right wing views on abortion, etc, there’s no way I could support a McCain candidacy no matter how experienced he is in matters of conflict and militarism. (And please, please, US Govt and MSM, enough with the little speedboat movies: Quite a few of us know all about what did and did not happen in the Gulf of Tonkin.)
    And I’m sorry, but Huckabee is not a serious candidate. This country’s not going to elect a cracker Baptist preacher, no matter how much more sincere he comes off than the crass, smirking faux-Christian currently squatting in the Oval Office, he who still maintains his resolute 25% support, mainly from that same intellectually malleable demographic that Reichmarshal Rove tricked into believing W was a man of faith.

  9. Lee Muller

    I listened to the debate on the radio while at work. The crew covering it was appalled at McCain’s arrogance, and the way he lied about all his previous votes on taxes, amnesty for illegals, wholesale H1B workers, etc.
    If he would say that he was wrong, but had changed his mind, and why, people might accept it – but not his constant lying.

  10. Liro

    I don’t have to look too far to see “what’s WRONG”..! The example from our State Governor (1-11-08)is clear enough.
    If I had no idea that he is Republican I would know immediately. This garbled and self-contradictory piece has the insidiousness of push-polling.
    He will not be voting for Obama because:
    “There are too many vital
    issues”….including “traditional values”(?)regarding which Obama apparently has a “fundamentally different” point of view “about the right direction for our country”.
    Nice trash job! Innuendoes abound.
    After a lengthy (and self-glorifying) list of racial outreach efforts we come upon this:
    “…I write because it all pales in comparison to the change that may be before us.”
    What is that change? The illustration that is given is NOT what would readily leap to mind, but a denigrating mental image intended to shove would-be Obamas back into place (?)
    “Within many of our own lifetimes a man who LOOKED LIKE BARACK OBAMA had a difficult time EVEN USING THE RESTROOMS in our State”

  11. weldon VII

    If a race between Kucinich and Paul is what getting past partisanship would give us, that explains why partisanship is an honored tradition.
    When two plus two never adds up to anything but four, thinking “outside the chalklines scratched into the asphalt,” especially when the lines on asphalt aren’t chalk and never have been, couldn’t be anything but a temptation to drive recklessly.
    And, no, Leo, the point is not that we should rule the world. The point is that we do and have for quite a while.

  12. bud

    I don’t agree with Weldon much but he’s right on target with this comment:
    “If they don’t know what they’re doing, we don’t want them doing much, and partisanship helps ensure that. If they bite each others heads off, they can’t lead us down the wrong path.”
    That’s why a split government probably isn’t such a bad thing. We were a pretty united, non-partisan country back in early 2003 and where did that get us? A disasterous quagmire of a war that has claimed 4,000 American lives, upwards of a half-million Iraqis and perhaps a trillion dollars in treasure. Maybe the best hope for America is more, not less, partisanship.

  13. bud

    Of course the Republicans need to be stopped. That is pretty self-evident to me. They want to gut social security, increase the budget deficit by shoveling more money to the rich, launch expensive, counter-productive wars, gut any hope of meaningful health care reform. Since the Republicans have become such extremists on so many issues it is imperative that we stop them. If some German citizen had said let’s stop the Nazis back in 1935 he would have been considered a partisan, but he would have been right. Same thing applies today. We absolutely must stop the madness of the Neo-con Republican party. If that makes me a partisan so be it. I’ll wear that as a badge of honor.

  14. Lee Muller

    Social Security is already gutted. It was bankrupt from day one. That is why it has required continual tax increases to keep it from shutting down. Then, after the 1980 elections when all the politicians said it was solvent, the first thing they did in 1981 was enact a larger tax increase than necessary so they could use the temporary cash surplus they could borrow to finance their deficit spending.
    Anyone who wants to keep Social Security is unfit to hold office.

  15. Lee Muller

    If you are going to smear people as being “Nazis” and “fascists”, at least acquaint yourself with the historical fact that Nazis and Fascists were socialists, admired by American progessives of the 1920s and 1930s, and lauded in the New York Times, New Republic and Harpers.

  16. Doug Ross

    > Anyone who wants to keep Social Security is unfit to hold office.
    Amen, Lee… Had Bush had the political will to fight that battle instead of giving up with a whimper, I’d have had at least a tiny bit of respect for him.
    Let me control my retirement. Let me own the money I contribute. I’ll chip in a percent or two for widows, orphans, and disabled. But give me what I earned.

  17. Herb Brasher

    I’ll chip in a percent or two for widows, orphans, and the disabled.

    Doug, your generosity is overwhelming.
    As an evangelical who believes in the sinfulness of man kind, justice cannot be left up alone to the kindness of the individual, even the American individual. Which is why, biblically, governments were instituted by God, to hold back evil-doers and help promote justice. So keep paying those taxes, a la Romans 13.

  18. Liro

    If some Americans admired Nazis and Fascists, did that make it O.K.?
    Some Americans still do admire extremist views.

  19. Syd

    Ok, Lee…since you’re pointing historical fingers maybe you are the one who check his facts.
    1. Nazis and Fascists are exactly the opposite of Socialists on the political spectrum. Hilter and Mussolini were corporatist and nationalist, but hardly socialist.
    And even more glaring…
    2. How convenient that you fail to mention that it was Republicans like Preston Bush (W’s grandfather) who were in business with the Nazis in the 30s, not the Progressives.

  20. Doug Ross

    The fact that you can link a passage written in the Bible 2000 years ago to the United States Federal Income Tax system and Social Security System is, uh, a stretch. I suppose Jesus was big on No Child Left Behind also?
    Mandatory charity via government enforcememt with non-compliance punishable by a prison sentence? I must have missed that book in the bible. Was that in Bush 3:16?

  21. Liro

    Hitler did not run as “A Nazi”…he did indeed run as a Socialist because there was room there to get into power.
    The Nazi thing “blossomed” when he got into occult Nationalistic mythic folklore…you may compare it to “MANIFEST DESTINY” ….but with a Germanic tilt.

  22. Lee Muller

    Read the socialist of the 1920s and 1930s, supporting Fascism and Nazism. It was the leftist academics who supported Hitler and Mussolini, both in their home countries and in Europe and America. As one of Mussolini’s cabinet members crowed, “Fascism came from the Left!” He was correct.
    The spin of fascism being the opposite of socialism comes entirely from Soviet propaganda, after Hitler attacked the USSR. Prior to that, Stalin and Hitler had been allies, with Germany building their secret tank and aircraft factories in Russia, until they could rebuild their military enough to openly manufacture the next generation of weapons on German soil.
    Hundreds of FDR cabinet appointees were supporters of Mussolini, and many New Deal programs were copied directly from those of the Nazis.
    I can refer you to glowing praise for these dictators in progressive magazines of the era.

  23. Lee Muller

    Bible lesson for Herb:
    Jesus did not tell his followers to pay taxes. He told the Jews to, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. To a Jew, nothing belonged to Caesar. Jews were supposed to not even use the Roman money with the graven images on them.
    Paul says that good government are instituted by God and should be obeyed. Bad government is the work of the Devil. Just seizing power, like Stalin or Hitler, does not confer Divine Right to rule up a despot. Neither does lying or bribing to steal a democratic election make the elected ruler legitimate, much less an agent of God.

  24. Herb Brasher

    Lee, you have a good knowledge of many things, but biblical exegesis is not one of them. Nor is it Doug’s strength, either, My, how you guys can twist and turn to get out of clear biblical principles.
    Doug, I expected better of you, whom I thought acknowledged the authority of Scripture. Please pardon my misconception. Anyone who puts down a command of Scripture as being 2000 years old, and therefore irrelevant, doesn’t seem to respect it. I fail to understand the logic in that–if it isn’t modern, then it has no weight. Pretty proud peacocks, aren’t we, in this 21st century? Yessiree, we have come of age; we are the wise sages of the centuries.
    Lee, Jesus’ words are a clear command to give to government the taxes that government demands, a teaching that is echoed by both Paul (Romans 13:6) and Peter (1 Peter 3:13-14), as those who have apostolic authority (appointed by Jesus). Couldn’t be clearer.
    Interesting that Jews supposedly wouldn’t touch Roman money. It seems rather comical that the Jewish leaders could concoct an accusation against Jesus before Pilate that He didn’t pay taxes, if they wouldn’t touch the money themselves (Luke 23:2). They were, in fact, lovers of money, and hoarded all of it they could (Luke 16:14). The fact is that first-century Jews, like anyone else, would touch anything that satisfied basic human need.
    Paul does not make a distinction between bad government and good government. The government was Rome, and the emperor was Nero. Not exactly your ideal libertarian candidate. The fact is that every despot, whether Babylonian or Assyrian, or from Timbuktu, is seen in Biblical teaching to be appointed by a sovereign God, who directs the affairs of history. Some posters here won’t give the message of biblical prophets a second thought, but those who claim to be Christian, well, Jesus acceptance of their authority ought to be the end of the matter.
    True, there are some factors that mitigate the above (emperor worship a la Revelation 13–the state does not have the last word), nor is it necessarily wrong to work towards a change in government.
    The Old Testament always provides for some degree of re-distribution of income in response to the need for providing for the poor. It does not just leave it up to the good will of the rich. And Jesus does not contradict Old Testament law. He may redirect its application at times, but He does not contradict it. But any re-distribution of income is anathema to human nature, which is probably why there is no evidence that the Jubilee year as proscribed in Leviticus 25 was ever actually put into practice. Which is one reason, I suppose that the apostle James warns against the oppression that rich people carry out on the poor
    But I’m not really worried about anybody getting rid of taxes any time soon, not even Huckabee.

  25. Herb Brasher

    In case anyone is actually reading what I write (which may or may not be the case), please note that all I am not trying to endorse any particular candidate, but simply point out to those who acknowledge Biblical authority (of whom there are quite a few in South Carolina), that liberty is not the only ingredient in Biblical ethics and values. Corporate responsibility is equally an important value, if not more more important.

  26. Doug Ross

    I have no problem appreciating and accepting the power of Scripture. It is the fact that mere humans think they have the insight to apply their interpretation of Scripture with such self-assured authority to everything that I find comical. What you think the Bible says about taxes doesn’t mean ANYTHING except to you and anyone you can convince to follow your interpretation. I choose to listen to God’s word in a different way. Since I believe everything belongs to God, that means nothing belongs to the government.
    It’s not exactly a new train of thought to abuse the word of God to support the bad actions of a government. God doesn’t care one bit about the policies of America.
    I’ll trust the Holy Spirit, thank you.

  27. Lee Muller

    Jesus was trying to be trapped by the Pharisees into committing sedition against Roman authority, but he was too smart for them. He said to, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” He didn’t say what actually was Caesar’s.
    If you conducted trade in or saved Roman coins, you owed Caesar a slice. Good Jews did not use Roman coins. Jesus did not approve of touching Roman coin, which is why he ran the moneychangers out of the Temple.
    Mr. Basher implies that whatever government is, is right. Well, that is not true. In a government of the people, we have not only a right, but a duty, to decide when government is outside its rightful bounds, and when politicians are abusing their office, and to turn them out by election or petition of recall.
    Under dictatorships, the people have no electoral power, and must resort to revolution and assassination to remove bad people from power.

  28. Herb Brasher

    You guys simply refuse to address my point, don’t you? Which was that both the libertarian idea that wealth will somehow trickle down to the needy (as Doug will share a few crumbs from his windfall after Social Security taxes are eliminated), and the idea that passing out entitlements will motivate to self-improvement are both equally naive, and fail to take in account human nature.
    Perhaps both of you could comment on the year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25, and to what extent it reflects the will of the Creator in furthering the well-being of society?
    All private property was to return to its original owner at the end of every 50 year period. Surely there is some sort of principle imbedded in Biblical teaching that it is not God’s will for the rich to get continually richer at the expense of everybody else?
    Why is corporate responsibility so anathema to you? Why is personal liberty the only foundation and ingredient of all legitimate values? Why have we so often wedded Christianity to selfishness in this country? And I do not understand why it is considered un-Christian to pay taxes.
    Doug’s words, “I’ll trust the Holy Spirit,” are, as far as I can see, nothing more than a meaningless smoke-screen.

  29. Doug Ross

    > as Doug will share a few crumbs from his
    > windfall after Social Security taxes are
    > eliminated),
    A few crumbs would be several thousand dollars using my suggested 1-2% I would be willing to contribute for those who are truly in need. In addition to the several thousand I voluntarily donate to other causes outside the government enforced “donations” to other people’s retirement funds, how much more do you want me to “give”? And why should I be forced to give more money than someone else just because I have worked hard for the past twenty years to get what I have?
    You have no idea what I do with my money other than the forced 7.5% the government requires. Assuming I am selfish is a very un-Christian attitude, isn’t it?

  30. Doug Ross

    And Herb, should I assume that you are okay with tax dollars being spent on providing abortions to women and non-abstinence sex education to middle school students?
    How about tax dollars used to enforce the death penalty?
    If you don’t support the government being involved in those activities, then how does that differ from my opposition to the way the government has created a retirement welfare system?
    If your taxes were suddenly increased to 50% of your income tomorrow, would you pay it or question it? What if the government wanted everything you make? No problem? Your interpretation of “Render unto Caesar” doesn’t appear to have any limits. Mine does.

  31. Lee Muller

    Money wouldn’t need to be “redistributed” by force in a free economy, because the lower-income workers would be making and saving more money.
    The lower 50% of wage earners pay ZERO income taxes now, but they pay 15.3% of their incomes to FICA taxes, which they will never recoup. If they had that money in private IRA accounts at an average return, they would have over $500,000 cash of THEIR MONEY at age 60, instead of an empty promise from do-gooder liberals, many of whom have huge taxpayer-funded pensions that have insulated them from the failure of Social Security.

  32. Herb Brasher

    Doug, I could only deduce what you meant by what you said. My apologies if was an unnecessary attack. However, what both of you have written only underlines what I said. You may be generous, but your system depends on the average better-off person being generous, which is naive, and contrary to human nature.
    If every person were a wonderful, hard-working, generous from the heart individual, your political views would work. As they are, they don’t take into account human nature, including American human nature which knows how to twist things around to personal advantage at everyone else’s expense.
    And yes, Scripture leans very much in the direction of “paying your taxes regardless of what the government wants.” Jesus words of paying to Caesar what is Caesar’s” cannot be circumvented by Lee’s tricks. What he meant is clear: pay your taxes (and Paul says basically the same thing in Romans 13:6, and he does not give us the choice of whether we agree with Nero’s policies–which were not exactly pro-Christian), period. And pay to God what belongs to God–His image is stamped on every one of you, so we owe our money to Caesar, and ultimately everything we are and have to God. That is what Jesus meant.
    The New Testament is not easy on materialists. In fact, the emphasis is that we ought to give most of it away, lest we be led astray by it. If the New Testament is preached with the right emphasis, it doesn’t even support American consumerism.
    All of this may be mitigated by other principles that come into play, but you cannot get out from the main principle by quoting some extreme examples (i.e., “what happens if the government demands it all?”). Maybe offer to pay double (like Jesus said, “if the soldier wants you to go a mile, go two”)?
    Let’s face it. Libertarian principles are not necessarily Biblical. Neither are extreme Socialist ones. The answer is balance, as much as we can get it, which is why I like Brad’s Unparty idea as leading to some workable compromises, and ultimately to holding our society together. It is something I can latch on to as an evangelical as being even somewhat in balance with what I know to be true about human nature.
    And then there is the whole issue of who the government really is. You guys talk about it as if it were some evil scheme of the devil. In actual fact, it is the people of the United States. It is corrupt, to some extent, because the people are corrupt. But you don’t seem to recognize the inherent corruption in your own political thought, which would, I think, make things much worse, because it would have no checks and balances.

  33. Doug Ross

    I believe that both Lee and I agree that a privatized Social Security system would be better for everyone, not just ourselves. The current system allows a person to pay in 15% of his income for 40+ years and potentially get back ZERO (dying before age 65 with no spouse or a deceased spouse). How is that fair?
    My alternative is to let the government use 4-5% of the 15% to administer welfare for widows, orphans, and disabled. Eliminate the income cap (currently about 97K as well). Then allow each individual to OWN the remaining 10% to be tax free in an account that can be used after age 65 with no limitations and which can be transferred without taxation upon death to heirs. This encourages many positive things: work ethic, saving for the future, personal responsibility. It also removes the ability for politicians to raid the Social Security trust fund. I can’t figure out why this concept is treated with such hand wringing and class warfare. It’s the best way to get people OFF of government dependency. I would be willing to give up all claims to any money I have put into the broken system over the past twenty five years in return for having 10% of my income for the next 25 years under my control.

  34. Herb Brasher

    Thank you for your kind comments, Doug; I’ll admit that they were more congenial than mine at points.
    I wasn’t trying to present a plan to reform social security, and I won’t try and comment on yours. Which is just as well, I think because there is little chance of anything of that nature ever being passed.


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