The elections are over, “the people have spoken,” and as far as I can tell, we’re still a heavily divided country.  Partisanship has reached a fervor not seen in US politics before.  It’s beginning to match the rivalry you normally see reserved for Yankees vs. Red Sox or Duke vs UNC.  Remember the bank bailouts?  They’re once again making near-record profits, and all indications point to them still not making small business loans.  For the last 2 years the Republicans have whined about how the Democrats haven’t been bi-partisan, haven’t reached across the aisle, yet they’ll be even less accommodating in the house for the next 2 years.  Who are the ultimate losers in all this?

We are.

Not the politicians.  Not the corporations.  The average Joe and Jill.

Partisan politics is great for stump speeches, to rally your base, and to be able to point to your record the next time you’re up for re-election, but in the vast majority of elections 40% still voted for the other guy.  When someone is voted into office, they take an oath to serve the whole city, state, or country they serve, not just the people who just happened to vote for them.  It’s gotten to such a level of “us vs. them” that it’s not even an extreme ideology to claim “he’s not MY president” – I’m certainly guilty about saying that of Bush, although that’s as much from me thinking Cheney really ran the country as anything else.  There’s been so much joking about certain southwest states seceding it’s not even a joke any more, and you’d probably get support in the thousands of people in those states (and a larger number in the other 48) of those who would truly and actually want to see it happen.

So what can solve this problem of division?  Well, throughout history a common enemy was always a good rallying tool, but this “war on terrorism” is just another point of contention.  Your average Republican just wants to throw more money at the Pentagon and use fear to get votes.  Your average Democrat is spineless enough to cave into the fear to not lose votes.  Meanwhile anyone perceived as having any kind of ties to anything middle-eastern is seen as an enemy and if they weren’t an enemy before we’re well on the way to making them a new one.  Besides, war should always be the absolute last option, the option you try when you’ve exhausted every other one.  If any politician wants to get my vote on national defense they’d have to outline a solid plan of upgrading the power grid, safeguarding our ports, and setting up a new government agency to deal with cyber-attacks.  I’m sure your average Tea Partier or conservative would decry that as simply more government spending, though, but while making those claims the military would continue to throw billions at aircraft carriers, tanks, and jet fighters.  Because those are so useful against Al-Qaeda. 

Heck, on the subject of “the party of small government” here’s a nice little factoid:  under the modern Republican demi-god, Reagan, the government grew at a faster rate than the Carter administration.  The G.W. Bush administration created one of the largest government departments our country has ever seen.  I guess when you combine that with not putting the cost of Iraq or Afghanistan on the books, they should change that slogan to “the party of small government, except in times of war.”  Oh, wait, they’re the hawkish party too, aren’t they?

The 2 party system is certainly part of the problem.  I sometimes doubt we even have 2 parties, just 1 group of politicians who join one club or the other to help move their career.  We need a viable 3rd party, or even a 4th one but that’s not likely to happen with the way Washington is currently run.  Politics is without a doubt an insiders game, and one of the biggest promises Obama gave was to change that, but it certainly hasn’t happened and won’t as long as campaign funding is allowed in the current form.  The solution?  Make corporate political donations illegal and have a manditory public fund for legitimate candidates.  Lower the cap on individual donations so politics doesn’t remain a rich-people-only club.  Make any kind of political media 100% transparent in terms of finance.

When politics is so partisan that Republican leaders are saying their primary goal is to make Obama a 1 term president, we’re all losers.  We the people should be their primary goal, and we’re all in this together.  When our country is divided, the only winners are the corporations, and as time marches on more and more of them are owned by non-Americans or ship their money overseas.

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Zarberg is a member of The Political Observers, a sub-group of our writers who are devoted to topics that are political in nature. Zarberg provides a liberal viewpoint in his articles.

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