Sunday, October 22, 2006

Looking Forward to the Congressional Elections.

If there is one thing that the last six years of the Bush Adminstration's reign has contributed to society, it is surely a major revival of political interest and activity. Political talk and analysis has become ubiquitous, with everyone participating- from the learned pundits to the amatuer observers. The workplace, the bar, the coffeeshop and the internet are buzzing with debate. The tone for this dialogue was set by the president himself, who memorably proclaimed "You are either with us, or against us." Of course he was referring to foreign nationals, but it was only a matter of time before that type of pervasive attitude polarized the American citizenry.

The strategy of taking sides worked beautifully for the Bush administration right through the 2004 presidential election. Karl Rove proved himself to be a master strategist in the poilitics of division. He identified wedge issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, to energize a shrill minority that formed an uncritical support base. In the meantime, the administration threw all their energies into tax cuts for a small percentage of the citizenry, and a hyper-aggresive foreign policy that alienated the United States from the rest of the world. The Patriot Act and other policies of dubious constitutional validity contributed to a sense that anyone that did not accept the president's worldview was "the enemy" or "an evil-doer". Attempts were made to paint anyone who wasn't down with the program as "disloyal" or even "treasonous".

In such a climate, the opposition party and the media were so cowed that they generally enabled the executive branch of the government to seize unchecked power over the nation. Anyone who offered even token resistance was labeled as an extremist, or worse. Slowly though, a growing awareness of repeated mistakes and scandals began to erode the public faith in the president and the servile congress. Democrats, made bitter by their disenfranchisement began to go into attack mode, and the media began to hesitantly follow their lead. Former executive staff members and aides started to go public with critical accounts of the way Bush and Co. managed their affairs. As the situation in Iraq steadily grew more unmanageable, and as the economy only seemed to be improving for the wealthiest of Americans, the tide began to turn.

Now we face the 2006 midterm congressional elections. Republican organizers and strategists wring their hands at the plummeting poll numbers of their hopefuls. Prominent figures such as Mark Foley, Tom DeLay, Kenneth Lay, "Scooter" Libby, Bob Ney, Jeffrey Skilling, Jack Abramoff, David Safavian, Randy Cunningham, and Ray Blunt are the vanguard of a growing cast of Republicans poised to experience their downfall as a result of scandal and societal correction. Old school fiscal conservatives become increasingly disenchanted with a presidential administration that has doubled the national debt during the six years that it has held power. Neo-con foreign policy has shown itself to be mired in illusion and abject failure. Even Christian conservatives, who have been remarkably loyal to Bush and co. are beginning to lose their political zeal, as they begin to realize they have been duped by false promises to outlaw abortion and same-sex marriage. The media- which has been intimidated by Bush administration policies and aggression for years- is slowly beginning to perform its function as government watchdog.

The situation in Iraq spirals out of control. Bin Laden remains free five years after 9-11. Erratic gas prices destabilize the economy. Tax policies that aimed to benefit the wealthiest Americans have led to nothing approaching a trickle-down effect for middle-class Americans. Civil rights seem increasingly endangered by legislation and executive policies taht defy the Constitution and international law. North Korea and Iran are engaging in serious misbehaviour, and our dwindling resources seem inadequate to meet their potential threat. The arrogant hubris of our president has alienated the world community to the point that it is going to be difficult to coordinate any response to countries that endanger world security. Border security is imperiled by inaction, and made increasingly complicated by immigration.

Yet despite the dire predicament the ruling party has made for itself and the country, Democrats have no reason to feel justified in their gloating. Their fortunes only appear bright because disgusted voters have no other option to supplant the Republicans... other than throwing their support to the remaining major political party. Democrats have made a muddle out of weak opposition and an undefined agenda. Opponents of the current political power structure have every reason to be optimistic about potential change through the November elections. Meanwhile Democrats, despite their general impotence, look to benefit from the sea change. In a climate characterized by the Bush doctrine... there is no other "us" to ally with.

2 Comments:

Anonymous jefg said...

Part of the problem with politics today is the difficulty of anyone with an alternate view (to that party's platform) to be elected through the two-party system. Tough to get an endorsement, perhaps harder to be supported financially. This is true on the local, state and and national levels. While I've always felt this, it hit home last month when I sat next to a fairly new state representative. She was telling me that she was fiscally conservative, yet an environmentalist and pro-labor. And, she was elected as a Republican, and that on several issues she sided more with her Democratic colleagues. She asked me for my thoughts. My immediate thoughts were (1) I admire her independence, regardless of my position on the particular issues, and (2) she will likely have a problem garnering support from the party in her bid for re-election. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps today's voters are tired of lockstep party line ideas. Perhaps they will get behind someone with the revolutionary idea that one can be of one party, and not agree with all (or 95%)of its positions. Personally, I would support such a candidate, and I believe either party would be wise to recognize that voters may be eager to embrace the idea. Otherwise, the party is doomed to having it's power reduced to the sum of it's remaining parts, which may be rather limited (I think you know of which party I speak). Then again, the problem lies more with the parties than the voters.

I think it was Barry Goldwater (who, labelled a conservative at the time, would be certainly considered a moderate today...ex: he had no problem with gays in the military) who warned the country of the intrusion of the religious right into politics, saying it had no place.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

No third party will ever be taken seriously until the electoral college is eliminated. Primary elections also need to be re-evaluated. Why is it that all tax payers are obligated to fund primary elections... yet one must have a party affiliation to participate? The costs should be assumed by the parties themselves. This system invalidates independent thought.

I think your friend (as a "Republican") has no chance with a pro-labor and pro-environment stance. Why isn't she a Democratic candidate? Democrats have taken a page from the Clinton administration, and have moved toward fiscal conservatism.

Hell... times have changed. Nixon would be a left-of-center Democrat nowadays.

12:23 PM  

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