Yesterday was a good day. I’ve been a fan of the Dallas Cowboys since I was 12 (yes - it was the cheerleaders), and they won their first game of the season vs. the team that undid them last year, the NY Giants. :-)! The Cowboys won because both the offense and defense played well; last year it was one or the other, and they sucked.
I also watched one of the best orators of our time, President Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic Convention. He is masterful. I watched him on FoxNews, and was impressed by how differently they heard his speech vs. those at MSNBC. Their interpretations also differed during the Republican Convention, except the other way.
This is to be expected - elections are a zero-sum game, you either win or die. Fox advocates the right, and MSNBC the left. Their “journalists” interpret the candidates based on the outcome they seek vs. the true nature of the candidate, their platform, their patriotism, or even their record.
The Constitutional framers designed our government (division of power, House vs. Senate, debate procedures, etc.) to create a stilted enough process where as little as possible could get done, where megalomania was less likely, and where government has as little influence on citizens’ lives as possible. This is a good thing - we want government to do just enough so that our country is safe, our infrastructure is reliable, and we have a basic safety net to protect us in tough times.
Because of the complex and convoluted design, effective governing requires that the White House work with Congress; it requires that the House work with the Senate; and it requires that members of the House and Senate work with each other.
When this doesn’t happen, we are destined for dysfunction. Witness the last couple of years.
I have always thought that the Democratic Party is at best a random collection of special interests who hardly agree with each other much less anyone else. That they can never be organized or cohesive enough to stay in power on a sustained basis. The Republican Party on the other hand has always struck me as being both focused and unified - a powerful combination.
I didn’t realize until now that Democrat dysfunction embodies a fundamental principle of democracy - pluralism. Whereas Republican cohesion demands homogeneity. In the former, there are many roads to Rome; in the latter, it’s Caesar’s way or nothing.
When the Tea Party started to coalesce in 2007, they were idealistic about effective, constitutional governing - I liked them then. The 2008 elections were a landslide the other way, and they realized they needed to retool. Their new strategy: gain strength and inertia by co-opting the far right; focus the message (spend less, tax less, grow military, fear God); and, most critically, forget winning elections, just win primaries.
They realized that heartland Republicans vote against what they don’t like vs. for what they do like (witness how fervently they’ve now embrace Mitt Romney, a candidate they disliked intensely during the primary; but they hate Barak Obama more). They also realized their distributed, grassroots nature is ideally suited to placing their candidates in positions to win primaries. Once their person was the mainstream party candidate, all Republican voters would flock to him/her - they didn’t need to worry about the last mile.
This is how they took over the Republican Party in 2010. Ironically, the very adaptability and situational awareness that led them to this strategy has made them ABJECTLY INFLEXIBILE. They will now NOT compromise.
The result - Congressional dysfunction.
It took years of bad performance before the Dallas Cowboys made some tough changes, invested, and are now more balanced than they’ve been in a long while. This balance will hopefully lead to sustained success.
President Clinton’s speech yesterday extolled the Republicans of his time as much as it extolled President Obama. He harkened back to a day when governing took precedence over party, and when compromise took precedence over ego.
Governments are effective when politicians balance leading with winning.
The "new" Republican Party is incapable of this thinking; those that do believe that governing requires compromise know they will be replaced by “righteous” Tea Party candidates in the next Primary unless they toe the line. There is no balance, and there is no compromise.
This is the first national election in which I will be able to vote. As a Canadian, I was always a conservative voter - abortion, gay rights, national healthcare, role of religion in politics, and other social factors are broadly adopted and not up for debate. I care about these issues, but I care also that we have a government that will create a sustainable future for our children. I always believed that the Supreme Court would help protect the former, and a good Republican government the latter.
I must admit, I now have a hard time voting for a party that is so intractable, so absolute, and so opposed to balance and cooperation, that it would allow us to fall rather than compromise.