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Friday, December 23, 2011

Like it or not, Congress is a reflection of America

According to a gallery in the Washington Post,  Congress is currently more unpopular than public caning, polygamy, and Hugo Chavez.  When one gets specific about the cause of the gridlock and foolery that makes Congress so unpopular,  I suppose one can spread the blame across bipartisan lines, but one party, the GOP, does hog the deserved credit for intransigence, petulance, and all those characteristics that result in the juvenile snit fits that dominate the news.

When the public blames Congress and holds it in such contempt, it is really blaming itself and revealing the attitudes and thinking that elected the representatives and senators to the offices they hold.  Those elected officials are carrying out what they think is the mandates that put them in office.  The politics in the halls of Congress is the politics of the people.   And only those in the throes of grand mal denial can say that it is not their wishes and political preferences that is, in fact, on display on the floors of the Capitol chambers.

The evidence is overwhelming.  Begin with the campaigns of Republican candidates for president and the so-called debates they engaged in.  Those strange gatherings had little argumentation of policies involved, but more resembled group therapy sessions in the dementia ward. At times the palaver that was to pass for debate reached the intellectual level of a name-calling session at an elementary school playground--dominated by the special needs class.  But that may be because the participants were trying to reach a television audience that is most entertained and engrossed by reality television shows in which people compete in contests to debase each other.

The campaigns and attitudes and postures have brought republican government to the point that its general running is a slow grinding away like a care with sand packed in its crankcase and often a complete failure.  It is the result of an election process in which the big money that politicians grovel for comes from the smallest minds.  Cable television and the Internet have taken the lowest, meanest, and most debasing aspects of our culture and inflated it into the general standards of human thought and behavior.

A good friend of mine, a highly honored professor emeritus from Michigan State, died last week.  He asked me once how I could possibly spend any time writing and reading blogs.  A colleague of ours intervened on our behalf and said that blogs and other Internet sources needed to have the influence of higher education present.  Both of those professors, however, came to the point where they encouraged students to use the search engines of the Internet to locate sources, but they would not accept Internet citations.  They required that all sources had to be verified as published by reputable organizations and that the Internet versions were precisely what the hard copy versions printed.  When it came to the notion that the comment sections of  news publications and blogs showed a stimulation of thought and productive discussion, both men laughed and scoffed.  Nothing is gained, they insisted, by the exchange of petty malice and ignorance.

Those men pointed to blog comments as the expression of our culture that the politicians hope to ingratiated themselves to.  And in seeking the approval of those vocal factions that dominate blogs, our government has been brought to the brink of failure.

I agree with their point.  Some blogs are thoughtful, useful, and valuable, because they acquaint one with significant sources and ideas and do, indeed, try to stimulate awareness and discussion.  But then, they allow comments which inspire nothing but a despair and sense of hopelessness about the mental capacity of the people to do more than choose up sides to cast insult and abuse and repeat the ignorant cant they prefer to any legitimate form of discussion.

Shortly after losing an election, a very seasoned politician and I had a discussion about how the kind of stuff printed in blogs represented a mindset that voted him out of office.  He had often spoke about personal attack and unconscionable propaganda threatening the democratic process.  This politician said that he was convinced that if the political climate was to be saved from total disaster, the changes would have to occur at the local level of the political parties.  The parties would have to reform themselves at the municipal and county levels to have any hope of changing the general political culture.

Like it or not, the legislators in Washington, D.C., represent what the folks back home want from them.  It is simply not true that otherwise good-purposed people are transformed into partisan monsters once they reach the belt way.

We may despise Congress, but we have created it and made it what it is.  We are the ones who have shaped all of politics, which we claim to disapprove of.  As my late colleague put, people hate Congress because it does not perfectly mirror what individuals want, and what most people want from politics is to create and vanquish enemies,  those people who hold different viewpoints and aspirations.

As the trite old expression goes:  You don't like Congress?   Look in the fucking mirror.


larry kurtz said...

Heard on NPR this morning: "Republicans in Congress would rather see the US fail than see President Obama succeed."

David Newquist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Newquist said...

They have put that attitude into practice since the first month he took office. I just read the novel and seen the film version twice of
"The Help." The attitudes of the Republicans are alarmingly those of the segregationists of the 60s in Mississippi. I am among those who find vestiges and revival of that old racism in the treatment by a number of Republicans of Obama. When John Boehner this summer walked out of negotiations and would not even return the President's call, it was a tactic of treatment that treated the President like a White House boy. And Mitt Romney's constant ad hominem drumming is based upon the message that there is an inherent inferiority in Obama. If Romney could, perchance, get in the White House, his first act probably would be to have all the toilets removed and replaced. The press is too cowed by the Tea Party faction to openly discuss this level of treatment by the GOP.

cp said...

I have to say I don't agree. When 85% of Americans agree with raising taxes above $1M income and it's an absolute no starter, it tells me that Congress is working for those that are paying the bills. (Not their constituents.)

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States