DEMOCRACY in the USA is facing a fundamental and frightening challenge: One group in America is effectively and with great determination blocking the proper functioning of the national government. This group, whose effort is funded by billionaires (like the Koch brothers and a few industries such as coal and energy), is basically anti-government.
Driven by a desire for protect their profit margins, these obstructionists focus some of their efforts on attacking environmental and health care programs. They want to exploit the natural resources of America but are unconcerned about protecting them. They propose no positive program for conservation which one would expect from political Conservatives. Basically theirs is the totally negative platform of “NO.” These Obstructionists have become latter-day “Nay-sayers.”
At their core, the Obstructionists are not only opposed to a black President or Latino migrants, they are against “Big” government which they fear has become too powerful. Their un-tinted glasses tell them that in future elections a majority of the electorate will enact programs to which they, as Obstructionists, are opposed. So they see no alternative but to say “No” to any increases in the budget or any new programs which economic circumstances might warrant.
Nothing has worked to make the Congressional “Tea-Party” members shift their opposition. Reason and compromise are not in their vocabulary, nor are such words as cooperation, compassion, equity, fraternity, harmony, moderation or tolerance used in their rhetoric. The result is stalemate at the heart of the kind of democratic government envisioned by our Founding Fathers.1
The obstructionists in Congress should re-examine the Compromise of 1790 where the disputed location of the national capital (Philadelphia v. the more southern Potomac) was up for barter in return for the federal assumption of state debts. This historic compromise demonstrated that a majority of congressmen were willing to bargain for the sake of national unity.2
It was Edmund Burke who stated in 1775 that: “All government — indeed every human benefit and enjoyment — every virtue and every prudent act — is founded on compromise and barter.”3
Today there is no such willingness on the part of Congressmen and women to make compromises in the national or public interest. Indeed, “the public interest” is no longer being used as an expression in US politics. The consequence is that millions of Americans are being deprived of essential support as well as enhancing a variety of amenities. Sequestration, as the across-the-board budget cuts are known, is causing wrenching disruptions — even undermining the functioning of the American judicial system.4
Shame or opprobrium, as would have been used in such circumstances by an active press or a “bully pulpit” president such as Teddy Roosevelt, are lacking. But times have changed and voters may care about the political deadlock but are not about to march on its behalf.5
In fact, the electorate seems fatigued to the point of disinterest. The press, hounded by the increasing economic power of the internet, is not blasting the Obstructionists as it once might have done. And then, one sector of the press is directed by Rupert Murdoch, whose record in this realm has been highly detrimental. Murdoch’s unexpressed hope is for his minority of Fox News fans to impose their will on the majority.
Ultimately, if not seriously attacked, obstructionism of this kind is a recipe for disaster. I see no way out of this nightmare scenario except for the launch of a national campaign to drive the obstructionists out of the Congress come November 2014. Particularly when characters like Liz Cheney, the daughter of the notorious former vice-president, come out of the woodwork and brazenly try to run for a seat in the Senate on a platform of “no compromise.”
I think a yearlong campaign of this kind needs to take the lead from politicians of the stature of Mayor Bloomberg and Bill Clinton. The time has come to call an end to OBSTRUCTIONISM before it is too late to preserve democratic government in the United States of America.
1for more on Values and Virtues, See Yorick Blumenfeld, Towards the Millennium, (1996) pp. 206-225
2Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty, (2009) p. 143
3in a speech on conciliation with America, March 22, 1775
4“Justice Sequestered,” The International Herald Tribune, editorial page, July 23, 2013.
5The lack of public protest will be examined in a forthcoming blog.