United We Don’t Stand

November 11, 2010

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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.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Squeaky
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 12:30:11

    Zarberg, I get scared when I read something you write and I agree with more than I disagree.

    While at our very cores you and I are as opposite as Bush and Obama, I like a lot of what you say. You know I’m a conservative…hard core at that. I am also a bit of a tea partier. Yep, small goverment, blah, blah, blah..that’s me.

    That being said, I like your additions to the defense spending…power grids, ports of entry and and insulating against cyber attacks are all sensible decisions. I can’t speak for everyeone on the right, but my perspective of smaller government revolves mostly around nanny options. When it comes to defense and keep us safe, I’m ok with some growth. I’m not sure if that means I have a liberal streak or you have a conservative streak—maybe it just means we’re both using common sense.

    I’m guessing that when you refer to huge growth in Reagen and Bush years they were defense spending. Is that accurate?

    You’re correct, our country is completely divided with no good end in sight. The dems and repubs seem to both be circling the wagons and getting back to what they do best. While that may be what the base for each party wants, it certainly won’t bring us together. There are a lot of people that claim to be moderates…but very few that really are. Kos is probably actually a true moderate. You and I are far from it.

    I keep hoping for a story called Barack the one term president, but we’ll see. I have high doubts that it will happen. Keep thinking conservative!



  2. Zarberg
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 12:53:47

    One of my biggest pet peeves with conservatives is their blasting so-called “nanny” options and saying government should have no role in our private lives, yet being for the government saying who we can and can’t marry (the gay marriage issue). Both sides do things like this, but I find the republican style of “get rich at anyone’s expense” more reprehensible than the democrat’s spinelessness.

    As for Reagan, I’ve seen evidence that he grew the government outside of military spending too. http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2008/07/20/rethinking_the_reagan_supremacy/


  3. Evan @40Tech
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 13:51:29

    That’s one of my biggest gripes about the Republican platform, too – small government, anti-nanny, except not really – they want to legislate all the moral issues, and throw their small government beliefs out the window when it suits the right players, like big business.


  4. Squeaky
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 15:13:24


    “The annual increase in real (inflation-adjusted) federal spending declined from 4.0 percent during the Carter administration to 2.5 percent during the Reagan administration, despite a record peacetime increase in real defense spending.”


  5. Squeaky
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 15:25:04

    Ok, so we can see that we “stand divided” over the nanny state issue. You have sources that say Reagan spent higher, I have sources that says Reagan decreased spending…more division.
    You support gay marriage, I don’t.
    I don’t support abortion, you might.
    I support the Pledge of Allegiance in spite of it using the name of God, not sure where you stand.

    Either way, the point of your article is that we stand divided in to at least two separate groups. I don’t see that changing. Putting together a 3rd party would be great, but only if it were a true moderate party. If we had a quasi liberal party or a quasi conservative party it would only result in being a spoiler and not healthy for anyone.

    As for division, I think we’ll have it to the end of time.


    • kosmo
      Nov 11, 2010 @ 15:44:48

      “I have sources that says Reagan decreased spending…”

      Acutally, that’s not quite what it says. Take a closer look at your quote from above:

      “The annual increase in real (inflation-adjusted) federal spending declined from 4.0 percent during the Carter administration to 2.5 percent during the Reagan administration”

      The spending didn’t descrease, it just increased at a decreased rate.

      In other words, let’s set Ford’s last budget at $1000
      FORD 1000
      C1 1040
      C2 1081.6
      C3 1124.864
      C4 1169.85856
      R1 1199.105024 (rate of growth slows from 4% to 2,5%)
      R2 1229.08265
      R3 1259.809716
      R4 1291.304959
      R5 1323.587583
      R6 1356.677272
      R7 1390.594204
      R8 1425.359059

      See what I mean – Reagan isn’t cutting spending, it’s just growing at a slower rate.

      Although your source and Zarberg’s source completely disagree on whether Reagan slowed the growth (illustrated by my example) or increased the rate of growth. There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.


  6. Martin Kelly
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 23:14:07

    Guys, I do not think all is lost. The parties change over time, the arguments change and the definition of conservative and liberal change. JFK could not get nominated for dog catcher as a democrat today, he was far to conservative. Nixon would have lost to Dan Quayle because he was far to liberal.

    Using Kos’ quote above, JFK really hated poor people and was a hawk since more than 50% of his budget was military with less than 30% going to social programs, the exact opposite was true for Reagan. The problem is that the programs in place are not chosen by the president. Although he can get surrogates in congress to get some of his ideas considered, he (hopefully someday she) inherits programs that are already in progress, and only part of the new agenda are implemented. I have a lot of confidence in the future. The Tea Party affect will mellow with some positive lingering results. The progressivism of Obama will leave a legacy, but will not overwhelm the basic tennets of American individualism.

    In the end the dialogue that we all have is what is important and will make us all better, stronger and more intelligent.


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