Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Dividing Line Could Be Perforated

You've heard the jokes: "If pro is the opposite of con, what's the opposite of progress?"  "If he's having sex, he can't be a Republican...but that's his wife, so he can't be a Democrat either."  Even Reagan is famously quoted with another one: "The nine most frightening words in the English language are 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'"

Ah, Ronnie.  The man was affable and entertaining, whatever you think of his politics.

This country is pretty much a two-party gig.  You're either conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican.  The other parties really don't count - sorry Libertarians, that's just how it is and more on that in a minute.  For every American, you're supposed to somehow pigeonhole your entire schema into one or the other of these broader definitions and hope for the best. There are stereotypes that are supposed to be typical of each party, rich businessmen, ecologically conscious greenies, unions.

What bugs me is the divisive nature of politics, especially in light of the phrase right there on every American coin: E Pluribus Unum.  If you don't already know what that means, it's From many, one.  The implication is that though we are many and diverse people, we are one nation.

The chief difficulty in politics, I think, is the second guessing that goes on.  For every decision one person thinks is good, there's at least one person as highly placed and bearing as much authority, who thinks it's either a bad idea, or his own is better.  That sparks a debate.  Other authorities weigh in.  The media starts throwing gas on the fire, and the public decides they're all idiots not listening to their constituencies.

That last bit might be just me.  I can't easily talk politics with a lot of people, because while I'm generally liberal, I do have conservative leanings.  I think taxes are generally on the low side and we could all afford to pay a bit more.  On the flip side of that, I think the government is more than big enough and could afford some trimming.

Blaming Obama for the state of the economy is as dumb as blaming Bush for the Iraq war.  Sure, there are things the man is doing at the moment that aren't spot-on, but still.  The sitting President has to contend with the hand he's dealt, and the game's been going for quite some time.  Repercussions continue to ripple back and forth through the American economy, domestic and foreign policies from decisions that were made fifty years ago.

I said this during the Clinton administration, and again during the Bush administration, and now I'm saying it during the Obama administration: what if we put aside our political differences and simply let the government proceed?

There are a great many ways, I think, that we could make some progress.  The Office of Management and Budget tries to present a huge whopping budget that then gets picked apart by the two sides in Congress.  That's bad for everybody.  I know it's not the way things are done now, but just as a thought experiment, what if the OMB presented a budget and Congress picked out all the stuff they couldn't agree on, and pass what was left?  There would be a fine handshake moment, and then they could hammer out the other stuff.

Just for kicks, you know.  Rather than one side or the other holding the entire federal budget hostage, reach across the aisle and get some cooperating done.  Act like we're of one mind, at least on a few things.

From many, one.  And maybe, once we've had the heady experience of agreeing on some things, maybe we could do it again, and again, and again.

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