Friday, May 4, 2012

Maybe Now?

I said in my inaugural essay this would be a once-in-a-while thing didn’t I?

Maybe, at long last, there’s going to be a shift in the ongoing national “dialogue” that actually begins the process of a genuine “course correction” for the Republic.


Some articles have appeared recently in the media that finally address the glacial slide to the right we’ve endured since 1980. The first was an op-ed piece in the April 27th Washington Post by nonpartisan congressional historians Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem. OK, it doesn’t sound nonpartisan but if you read the article, you’ll see that it is an accurate description of the GOP’s evolution over the past 30 years. Since then, both Paul Krugman and Timothy Egan writing in the New York Times have referenced the article to make their individual points about some current issues and how they’ve been affected by Republican intransigence in the House and Senate. This humble writer found it heartening to see serious pundits stop beating around the bush in the name of even-handedness and call things for what they are. But it has to go further and people like Chris Matthews, James Gregory, Chris Wallace, Brokaw, Couric, Gwen Ifill, Blitzer, et. al., have to pick up this ball and start running with it.


If we're ever to have a genuine national "dialogue" (as opposed to dueling monologues) on the problems of partisanship, government size and function, social and economic policies, then journalists, commentators and -- especially this year -- debate moderators are going to have to start asking Republican candidates and office holders one simple question: "Do they believe that Democrats, liberals and progressives have a legitimate say in governing the country?" It's a simple "yes" or "no" question. (Just like O’Reilly always asks!)
If the answer is yes, then the right wing media machine can be confined to where they belong – the unproductive, name-calling fringe -- and responsible Republican legislators can be free to engage in the process of governing with some political cover for their constituents at home who disagree with a vote or position they take. And ideologues of all stripes will finally be held accountable for their intransigence and refusal to compromise. If the answer is no, then the general public will have a clear picture, at last, of one of the root causes of a great many of our current problems.
Ideological purists, who see no legitimacy in other schools of thought, cannot govern a pluralistic nation. That’s what we are and will continue to be long after they give us citizen-tracking implants and fill the Rio Grande with crocodiles. And the Republican who points out Obama’s legislative failures when he had a majority in both houses only proves the point: this is a Republican problem. Democrats accept differences in thinking and political discourse. They have it within their own party, much to the frustration at times of their base. They understand what it means to advance an agenda through compromise with -- and accommodation for -- competing points of view.
That is called governing. It’s actually the point of winning elections.

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