Dividing America

It has become a common thought. Nothing can get done in America because the country is so divided politically. President Obama has pointed to the Tea Party and said their lack of compromise is the reason. He has often implied the Tea Party is holding the rest of the Republican Party hostage.

This idea might not be original to Obama though. Books have been written on the subject such as Our Divided Political Heart. And commentators have also elaborated on our political division today being unique such as Michael Barone.

Obama references this as the reason he must go around congress instead of allowing them to do their job normally. The implication is because of the presence of a few extremists he is forced to go to extreme measures to get anything done.

In other words, anyone who does not agree with his actions must be an extremist. But he presents himself as not an extremist, but as a man forced to go to extremes in order to enact sane policies.

The problem with this is there are millions of Americans, including me, who do not agree the policies of the president are sane, obvious or appropriate for this country. The majority of us are are not members of the tea party, even if our political leanings would be closer to them than to the president.

The rhetoric about a divided America, from the press and from the president, has been an excuse for holding an uncompromising position. It has been utilized to marginalize opponents. It has been the justification for doing an end run around the normal checks and balances of the United States Constitution.

To hear all this noise you would almost think political division in this country is a new development. It isn’t.  The two party system has been around a long time.

Why don’t we remember that past administrations had to deal with opposition rather than demonizing it? Many reasons, but a major one is we no longer have a neutral press which holds both sides accountable.

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2 thoughts on “Dividing America

  1. I’m still deciding whether the problem is a political divide or relative paralysis coming from all parties. We don’t have anything close to the violence or intransigence of the 19th Century elections. I don’t believe anyone is holding Congress hostage. They don’t seem to be very focused on doing their job of making law, compared to fundraising and positioning for good soundbites. Few in the legislative branch strike me as courageous or perceptive, which is regrettable considering there are complex problems that ought to be addressed. I don’t really know why they are so risk-averse. Incumbency in gerrymandered districts is a huge advantage. The president used part of his postgame analysis speech to say Congress should be doing more on the bigger problems; immigration, jobs etc. When you look at how many days off they take, and how few bills have been proposed, that’s hard to argue with.

    My problem with all that’s being written about the president’s horrible, immoral, illegal “end run around Congress”, is that he hasn’t actually made one. He says he will take actions he can and has the power to through executive orders, and in that he’s no different than any previous president. So far he has used that power less often than his predecessors dating back to Truman, and significantly less than presidents like Wilson, who wrote ten times as many as Obama.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Compromise only works when it comes from both directions so when compromise fails its hard to point the finger of guilt at either side. Our current claims of paralysis are from the political divide, but more directly from the lack of discussion between viewpoints. Instead they talk to whichever half of the press agrees with them.

      I tend to agree we see little innovation. We also see a lot of time off. Lots of bills are proposed, but relatively few out of committee.

      About the legality of executive orders, you are right it doesn’t actually amount to an end run around congress. With a few possible exceptions his executive orders have been in his sphere of responsibility. But the tone is taken from him threatening to go further.

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