I was more than a little surprised Saturday night. We had our yearly French bread picnic, a gathering of our friends over a table of meats, cheeses, fruits pickles and other condiments all paired with loves and loaves of thinly sliced French baguettes and red wine.
While hunched over our plates of goodies the talk turned to politics. My wife wisely asked me not to pursue it any further, but her best efforts were defeated. Once out of the box, the talk of politics always takes on a life of it’s own.
I got the usual astonished “You’re a Republican?” comment. I always do. People sometimes fail to realize that in an effective 2 party system each party will have elements of conservatives, liberals, progressives and regressives.
However, the surprise really came when we all turned out to be Republicans and we actually agreed on a lot of points. As it turned out we all seemed to be financially conservative and socially progressive. A group that doesn’t fit the current Washington Republican profile. It’s a calm, thoughtful group and well worth listening to. I certainly learned a few things.
We collectively wondered why all these extremists were also suddenly calling themselves Republicans? Who invited them to the Party? When did that start to happen? The Ann coulters, Glenn Becks of the regressive “wacky” fringe seems to be steering the Republican ship lately and it’s damned disconcerting. It used to be a party of wiser, possibly more experienced, mostly more affluent serious minded individuals who knew the way to progress was making the right deal.
But the party doesn’t seem to be very good at dealing anymore, not since the Regan Presidency. I won’t blame Regan, but I might be able to lay some of the reasons at the doorstep of Newt Gingrich. In a effort to energize the party in the 90‘s he may well have fathered an unfortunate unwillingness to compromise. Senators from both sides of the aisle who used to lunch together regularly now may not even talk to each other. Representatives who were loud but reasonable now just seem to be loud. It used to be such a civil party, a party whose members would instinctively understand the folly of shouting “Liar!” at the President of the United States on the floor of Congress. Gingrich was great at uniting a team but may well have done it by creating a common enemy, and there by subverting the works of an effective government.
I can’t say our little group all agreed with me there, but that was what I was thinking. It makes me wonder if we ask the right questions of our representatives. Should we ask “What to you stand for? What will you die to preserve?” or should we question them about what they are willing to give up, and for what?
It seems to me that we as voters pay far too much attention to rhetoric over substance, we listen to the brave and fierce words but rarely look accomplishments. How many of us know who were the members of the bi-partizan commission to make the budget recommendations? Whether we agree with all the recommendations or not, that was a pretty brave piece of work. However, I haven’t seen any citations for governmental excellence in cooperation and progress.
Of course I fully realize the futility of asking the entire American voting public to “pay attention.” That would mean distracting us all from the day to day challenges of our own lives, lives that are pretty complex right now. It would mean putting down the battles that we all seem engaged in, and having a hard look at the bigger picture.
We’d have to ask ourselves hard questions like “We understand that the national debt is huge and dangerous, but where did all the money go? The economy had doubled since 1980, where’s the money?” and “Since we as a country make more money than ever, why am I paid less?” We might even have to “follow the money,” to solve some of the problems we have. Maybe that’s beyond our competence, I guess we’d rather choke a teacher, bash unions or blame the “cheaters.” Although, I don’t think that was where most of the money went.
Like all money that disappears, it went in dribs and drabs. A little here and a little there, adding up to a sizable accounting. All for good reasons, each expenditure and failed opportunity for revenue another paving stone on the road to now. A couple of wars, some tax breaks, a thousand dollar sledgehammer or two and there you have it. All hopefully paid for by an ever-expanding economy that never quite trickled down. One wise soul in our little group suggested that the next war we fight come with a World War II era “War tax” to fund it. Any bonds today?
Making mistakes is not the end of the world, neither is messing up your credit. These are all adult problems had by most adult countries and eventually get solved in adult ways. Usually by adults who cooperate and learn to think in new ways while learning from their mistakes. Rarely are they solved by fighting amongst ourselves or forcing others to “share the pain.”
I have to lay many of these mistakes at the feet of my own party, it’s time we grew up and learned to talk, deal and be civil again.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011