The Right Answer!
"A cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system. Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians. I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest."
New York Times September 29, 2009
People can often overcome political differences, because they like one another and give each other credit for good intentions. But it is the media environment where both sides treat each other with suspicion. There's no more sort of 'noble opponent,' where we differ on things, but we all have the same goals. But is there really any sanity, or at least any moderate views, left in American politics? According to political scientists and psychologists, the answer is yes. You're just not likely to see it on television -- or in Congress, but if you look at the American public as a whole, there is a "vast middle" of unengaged people who aren't very polarized. People are mostly quite social, as proved by the immense popularity of social networks. What is most important to most of us is our relationships. We are affected by others’ behavior toward us and what they say about us. We adapt to others and they adapt to us. We develop a way, or ways, of relating to others in different situations. We can see our lives from one point of view as adapting to and influencing others. I may learn something of great importance from you or impart some information that is helpful.
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” - Gandhi.
The united part in the United States seems to be endangered as we watch partisan politics play out in Washington. Our legislators believe that voting with their own political party and against the opposition is more important than seriously considering the merits of the bill. Are they not putting partisan politics ahead of the national interest? We have become a nation of people so disrespectful of others' beliefs that we have lost the habit of respecting those with whom we disagree. Rather, we prefer to demean others so as make ourselves look better. The hostile climate and the nasty tone of debate dominates today’s policy-making environment. Statesmanship has given way to anger and scoring. The losers are the American people. So given our differences and our psychological impulses to divide and conquer, is there hope for a return to national political cooperation and goodwill? Can political parties and the media ratchet down the drama to better reflect the electorate?
The answer lies in the explanation of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) why she was supporting the Senate Finance Committee version of the health care bill. As she remarked so succinctly: “When history calls, history calls.” While admitting she had qualms about the Committee’s bill, Snowe — unlike all her Republican colleagues on the Committee — clearly understood that her job was not to obstruct the law-making process, but to negotiate ways to make it happen. She understood that, among other things, as a U.S. senator she had to find a way to help 45 million U.S. citizens get health insurance, as opposed to denying President Obama a political victory. Let us wish there are many more Olympia Snowes ready to step into the breach. To quote John F. Kennedy:
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."