The 2012 Race, the Origins of Modern Partisanship, and the Resurgence of Local Governance

The past week was very interesting in Presidential politics. The darlings of the rank and file Republican Party, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, have concluded it is not time to run for President. Herman Cain (who was recently labeled a racist by a Democrat strategist on CNN) has become the sweetheart of the white-supremacist, right-wing Tea Party.

The popular press is lauding liberal Democrats for having finally found their own voice in the Occupy Wall Street protests. And Missouri’s Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill, did not even show up for President Obama’s (who polls below 30% in MO) fundraiser in St. Louis. And a rumor is circulating that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has told Obama he cannot win passage of the jobs bill as proposed and will only take it in pieces to the Senate floor, thus distancing himself from the President.

Does anyone need to know anything else about the 2012 elections?

The problem for decades in Washington has been that lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, have spent their way to political success. Now that there is no more money, nobody knows what to do. In fact, there is only one Congressman, Darrell Issa (R-CA) who has started (not inherited) a successful company that sold a product and wasn’t just in the service industry, law, accounting, insurance, medicine, banking, you get the idea. The genesis of American capitalism is an agrarian society taking the risks necessary to make something from nothing and selling it. He is likely the only one that has made the sacrifices necessary to build something from nothing, and make a profit. The concept is that without actual profit you can’t spend money. Everyone else, Democrat and Republican more resembles the Occupy Wall Street group who want to tell everyone where money should be spent, decisions based on personal interests and taxes, not capitalism. The situation is exacerbated by the contempt and lack of cooperation between the congressional parties, as well as between members of Congress of both parties and the executive.

For some time, the question of when that animosity began has gone unanswered. Certainly there have always been hard-fought ideological battles in the halls of government. But there have also been famous relationships between party leaders, relationships that helped bring these leaders and the country together. When did our modern politics deteriorate so much? Recently a longtime friend and Washington insider suggested that it began with the defeat of the nomination of Judge Robert Bork, the highly respected and superbly qualified candidate, for the Supreme Court.

Within 45 minutes of the nomination’s announcement, the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) took to the Senate floor with a strong condemnation of Bork. In a nationally televised speech, Kennedy declared, “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”

This was closely followed by the so-called Biden Report (that’s right, our Vice President and then-Head of the Senate Judiciary Committee). Bork later said in his best-selling book The Tempting of America that the report “so thoroughly misrepresented a plain record that it easily qualifies as world class in the category of scurrility.” For the next several months it was very ugly. When Judge Bork was finally defeated, the Republicans had blood in their eyes for payback.

It has been going on like that ever since. They killed one of ours, so we killed two of theirs, so they killed four of ours, and we killed eight of theirs, etc. The political killing has been going on now for so many decades, just like the Middle East, nobody can remember who started what and nobody trusts anyone in the other tribe. We “ordinary people” just keep getting kicked around by both parties.

Other countries would send in their military or ask the UN or USA to send theirs, but in the best tradition of what makes America great, the people have risen up, emulating our ancestors, and formed their own militia. Without arms but loaded with a healthy belief in America, the Tea Party is here to stay, and it is no wonder the political establishment is afraid.

It is worth noting that while Washington continues its dysfunctional behavior, city and state governments are starting to act responsibly. This has happened in spite of party divisions. That success is a reflection of just how strong the people in this country are. Very plainly, the cure from our woes will come from the American people on a local level, not the federal bureaucrats.

And yet, in spite of the accomplishments, the level of the Tea Party’s disgust with Washington politicians is a real reason for concern. I am not suggesting that some national politicians don’t deserve contempt, but I am concerned that injudicious expressions of anger may be our undoing, as it was in the 2010 Nevada Senate race. Somehow we have to find politicians with new answers. We need men and women who will unite the people, just as Ronald Reagan did with his Big Tent.

In a recent article discussing his hope for Governor Christie announcing his candidacy for President, Clark S. Judge, a speechwriter for Presidents Reagan and Bush, discusses how important it is to find a candidate who will embrace and energize the three legs of our electorate coalition — voters who give priority to economics, those most concerned about social issues and those who focus on national security . The article is worth reading and thinking about.

I hope the Democrats have found their voice in the Occupy Wall Street protests. I am happy with the voice of the Tea Party and hope we can find a candidate who will unite the people around sound principles. Sound principles mean economics based on capitalism, national security based on “don’t f__k with us”, and compassionate social policies that help people who can’t help themselves and people down on their luck but that do not support them forever.

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