As of late, the country appears to be evenly divided, politically - Left vs Right. And within those wings, there appears to be even further factionization. Is there still a so-called mainstream in this country anymore? Who are the power-brokers, pushing and pulling the people, and in which direction, for good or for ill-gotten gain?
REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTIONISTS: The Far Right seems to have a stranglehold on the Republican Party and on Congress. Congressional obstructionists made it their crusade to simply oppose each and every legislative initiative of the Obama administration. In spite of Obama being elected twice on a moderate/liberal agenda of increasing economic prosperity, opportunity and equality, the obstructionists were able to defeat said agenda. The Republican leadership - Boehner, McConnell, Ryan, Cantor and their ilk - didn't build anything in Congress. The Right Wing tail wagged the Moderate dog. With deceit and hyper-partisanship the obstructionists brought only shutdown and gridlock.
INEFFECTUAL DEMOCRATS: The Democrat party, led by Obama, and hampered by a divided Congress, were ineffectual in the face of strong minority opposition. The Obama administration's chief domestic victories were pulling us out of an economic free fall and the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Those were done when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Since then, President Obama, a champion of post-partisanship, along with the Democratic Senate leadership, have been unsuccessful in crafting legislation on social matters that would garner moderate and bi-partisan support.
THE REFORMERS: Wall Street's power over the election and policies of both parties is pervasive. Campaign money is corrosive and corrupting. Progressives are railing against Wall Street malfeasance and advocating for reforms in financial regulation, fair housing, livable wages, workplace safety, worker benefits, union bargaining, education funding, research and scientific development. They are led by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. In the face of growing economic inequality, the calls for more progressive candidates to right the Ship of State are rising.
THE DE-EVOLUTIONISTS: Then there are the De-Evolutionists, They are a conglomeration of so-called "Righteous Republicans," the Tea Party and like-minded independents. Led by folks such as Ted Cruz, they live in fear and ignorance, their bigotry fanned by disingenuous agents of greed and racism. They think the government is their enemy. They believe Obama is coming for their guns, their faith, their families, their land, their businesses, their freedom, their privileged rights. They don't trust religious tolerance, government oversight, alternative lifestyles or scientific fact. They are vocal, energetic, organized and powerful. They are easily manipulated for political gain. They oppose everything that doesn't conform to their version of values and theirs alone. For them, The Other is to be scorned and battled. They believe themselves to be oppressed by Liberals, Gays, Blacks, Government, Immigrants, Lame-stream Media, Intellectuals, Muslims and one particular "Kenyan." In my mind they are deaf, dumb and blind and very dangerous. And these anti-government thugs certainly have no business IN government.
THE MIDDLE: As always, there are still mainstream Americans who hold positions somewhere between two polarizing extremes on issues like reproductive rights, income inequality, marriage equality, immigration reform, drug legalization, economic opportunity, education disparity and health care access. These are folks who may have a strong opinion on each of these, but who recognize the rights of others to hold an opposing opinion. These are folks who won't vote against a candidate based on a single issue. Instead, they'll look at the stances of both candidates and choose the one closest to their personal beliefs. They don't demean or belittle those who don't believe as they do. Rather, they use reasonable and rational arguments to influence and persuade.
THE DISENFRANCHISED: This country still has too many citizens who are basically disenfranchised from the American Dream. White privilege is real and has a lasting influence on who gets economic opportunity in our nation. Racism is real and has expanded to include hatred of Muslims and immigrants. There is an active campaign to make voting more difficult for minority populations who are fast approaching majority populations. The rich are becoming richer as the nation's working people are falling further behind in income and benefits. There is still a disparity between the wages of men and women. More and more voters are falling into poverty because their minimum wage jobs do not provide a sustainable living. Too many of us are poor, ill, hungry, homeless, aggrieved, infirmed, under-educated, over-worked and oppressed.
THE APATHETIC: They don't care enough to follow the news. Or they think everything will be just fine, or at least, just as it is, without their participation. They don't know who represents them in government. They don't bother to vote. They pretty much just concern themselves with their own concerns. Whatever.
THE ANARCHISTS: Sadly, many Americans believe that all is lost, that all politicians are corrupt, that government, per se, is pointless and useless. They don't vote. If they do, they vote for extreme candidates who have no chance of winning an election or a mandate from the people. They don't want to be licensed, or regulated, or taxed, or tracked, or proselytized. They want to be left alone. So be it. But, many are very vocal in their criticism of this nation's actions. I say, if you want to cry out about the problems, then please join us in finding the solutions.
So, having said all this, what's my point? We are at, once again, a critical crossroads. These mid-term elections are important - very important. We can't let the nation swing dangerously to the left or right. We need to find the middle ground where everyone's concerns and needs are confronted and addressed, where tolerance, understanding, opportunity, equality and freedom prevail. We need to stop being such a divided nation.
We need to elect government representatives who are ready, willing and able to tackle the issues with intelligent investigation, reasoned debate and reasonable compromise. We need to embrace our diversity and enhance our prosperity. That means reform. Fix what's broken. Mend what's frayed. Let be that which is working.
First and foremost, we need to vote out any elected official who refuses to modify any of their positions even in the face of persuasive arguments for a contrary view. People with unflinching, uncompromising, entrenched beliefs have no business governing in a nation with such a diverse citizenry. Part and parcel of governing is compromise, considering the concerns of all voters.
The Founding Fathers formed Congress as a deliberative body. Committees investigate problems, research issues and gather expert testimony. Legislation is crafted and drafted. Members debate the merits on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Amendments are offered. Modifications are argued. Contested bills go to a joint committee of Congress for reconciliation. Bills are passed by a majority vote. Legislation is signed into law by the President. Congress appropriates money for government programs. That is how Congress is meant to work. And it works well when members of Congress are beholden to their constituents and not to their campaign donors.
I will support the candidates who are willing to identify the obvious ills of our nation. Those who offer a thoughtful solution. Those who are willing to consider other approaches and are courageous enough to compromise.
Our government is a representative democracy - with elected officials conducting majority rule while protecting minority rights. It is not meant to be a cabal of the rich and influential. Legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the President should protect the health, wealth, security and well-being of the citizenry. Laws should not vaccinate corporations from diseased practices of malfeasance, corruption, destruction and exploitation.
We need to wrest control from the cynical wealthy and powerful who are running this country and put the governing of our nation back in the hands of We, The People - elected representatives whose only agenda is to better our nation and the lives of its citizens.
Vote. Because with this right, comes duty. Thank you.