Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 28, 2017

Our ailing political system

Whether the issue under discussion in Washington DC is health care, immigration, climate change or any other of some complexity, our national political system is showing itself to be essentially useless for addressing needed changes and action. While all of the reasons for this are too numerous to list here, one stands out above all of the others and it pertains to two “lessons” learned and embraced by one of our political parties during the last half century. While these lessons have proven to be effective in winning elections for that party, they have also proven to be poisonous for our nation as a whole. So, what are these lessons and where did they come from?

The first came from Richard Nixon who showed his party members the importance of “winning at all costs” – even if treasonous behavior is required. During the election year of 1968, his representatives in South Vietnam convinced the leadership of that country to not sign any peace agreements with North Vietnam at that time and assured the South Vietnamese leaders that they would get a “better deal” in the future under a Nixon administration. Thus, President Johnson’s efforts to end the war in Vietnam during his last year in office were thwarted and the war continued for more than another decade – with the additional loss of more than 25,000 American and 100,000 Vietnamese lives. It appears now that the subsequent Watergate break-in in 1972 was part of Nixon’s efforts to conceal his traitorous route to the White House. In spite of getting caught in his cover up efforts, Nixon taught his party the importance of “winning at all costs”.

Later, the Republican Party was again taught this and another lesson by Ronald Reagan who also resorted to treason in order to get to the White House. Like Nixon’s, Reagan’s treasonous action was again to interfere with the ongoing foreign affair efforts of a sitting president. In the election year of 1980, President Carter was trying to arrange the release of the 55 American hostages taken during the 1979 Iranian revolution. Through his representatives, which included George W. Bush and Robert Gates, in secret meetings they convinced the Iranians to hold those hostages until Reagan was in the White House. To the continuing embarrassment of President Carter, the Iranians did that and Reagan won the election. In return for this favor, President Reagan managed to provide the Iranians with advanced weaponry by way of a secret and illegal scheme that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair – all of which Reagan confessed to in 1987. Thus, Reagan reinforced the first lesson of Nixon – win at all costs even if that requires treasonous behavior against the sitting President of the USA and, therefore, the USA itself.

The other useful lesson that the Republican Party learned from Reagan was to promote the concept that “government does not solve problems, government is the problem”. This distinctly deceitful tune is still a favorite of the GOP today and helps one understand why today’s GOP does not care to govern even when voted into power. They now want to be elected mainly for the purpose of undermining and discrediting the US government. They have no intentions of running it effectively. We are presently seeing the proof of this. After complaining about Obama’s health care system for 7 years, the GOP now controls all branches of government in DC, including the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and one could say the Supreme Court. So, what are they doing about their promised changes in our health system? Nothing – other than continuing to complain about the Democrats and hoping they can somehow avoid the responsibility of legislative changes on this issue.

Today, we have only two political parties that have a reasonable chance of winning national elections. While both parties have serious shortcomings, one is absolutely cursed by its adoption of the two guiding principles described above – which makes effective governance impossible. Thus, as long as the Republican party controls our mechanisms of government, its two mantras of “win at all costs” and “government is the problem” will continue to promote near-treasonous behaviors and willful failures in Washington DC. It is true that the public has lost confidence in government – just as Reagan had hoped. Thus, we now have a new Republican President who is an “outsider” in the extreme with little knowledge of and respect for American governance. He presented himself simply as a “winner” in the Republican nominating process and was selected over all of the other offerings of his party. As he now trashes both the time-honored institutions of our country and the people that serve in them, he does not worry about stepping outside the boundaries of our legal system. And, why should he? After all, isn’t that how both Nixon and Reagan got to the White House? Meanwhile, almost all of his Republican colleagues in DC watch in apparently approving silence. While we are beginning to see a few words of pushback by his Republican colleagues, we have yet to see any action.

Thus, in the GOP of today, winning is apparently more important than the retention of credibility and a respect for our institutions of government. When asked at the end of 2008 “what will be your highest priority going forward now that Barack Obama has been elected to the Presidency?” the Republican Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell said “it will be to ensure that Obama becomes a one-term President”. It is not surprising to me that McConnell has never apologized for that distinctly un-American, anti-democratic comment. Apparently, McConnell thinks he lives in an autocracy in which the two lessons of Nixon and Reagan apply: that is, disrespect government and win.

So, what’s to be done about this? For those Americans who wish to retain their democratic system, the answer should be obvious. We need to throw the autocrats out and replace them with proponents of a free and open democracy. And, we should not fear for the wellbeing of those dismissed autocrats. Opportunities for people of their political persuasion are abundant in our current President’s best friend, Russia, and that appears to be one of the very few places on Earth to which President Trump is trying to build bridges.

For anyone interested in learning more about some of the relatively new history of American foreign affairs highlighted in this post, I recommend a book entitled America’s Stolen Narrative by Robert Parry for starters. In view of the embarrassment associated with some of this history, it might be a while before we see it in the standard textbooks of our public schools. I fear that pending additions to American history will get even worse as it begins to include the deeds of our now controlling Republicans who want to ensure that our government remains inactive and essentially useless. Perhaps the most tragic of these outcomes will be the GOP’s current efforts to prevent all attempts to resist global warming. Sad! Exceedingly sad! Especially for future generations.

It is imperative that we get these stories into our history books ASAP for the excellent reason pointed out by Robert Parry in America’s Stolen Narrative. “He who controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future.”

 

 

 


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