Billy Joel was right, but can the rest of America recognize that common sense and reality must prevail for constructive solutions to be applied to America’s problems? The ideologues of the left and the right create gridlock in government which has destroyed bipartisan cooperation. Is there a middle ground between conservative and progressive battle lines for the rest of America?
Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) who would abolish the U.S. Department of Education, through bill H.R.899 that states, “The Department of Education Shall Terminate on December 31, 2018,” may make reasonable people believe common ground is unattainable.
Massie stated, “Neither Congress nor the President … has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn [and] … parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school or private school.”
This dovetails with conservative opinions that the federal government must be deconstructed in order to “liberate” citizens. However, if the U.S. Department of Education were unconstitutional, it would have been abolished long ago in the Supreme Court.
Ronald Reagan recognized a need for federal help to foster good local education. A good public school system prevents intolerant groups from substituting their own parochial education system with taxpayer support. Representative Massie could call for improvements to education instead of being extreme but extremists get attention.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Stephen Bannon, the White House chief strategist who eschews the spotlight, joined a panel discussion and smilingly delivered nationalist and anti-media rhetoric to the audience.
He described the media as the “opposition party” to gathered conservatives and warned them, “If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken. Every day … is going to be a fight.”
The possessive and divisive words selected eloquently express the problem with conservative government. This country is “our” country and we should work together to make it a better country. If everything must be a fight, then we are reduced to victors and losers who must battle to the death according to the election cycle. That leaves little room for sympathy or forgiveness or understanding.
During the 2004 Democratic convention, Barack Obama said, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America … there’s the United States of America.” He was unsuccessful at fostering the bipartisanship he described but we need it more than ever to maintain a government that rules through fair negotiation.
Bannon, the controversial former head of Breitbart News, prefers to stay out of the limelight. He uncharacteristically used the conference to lambast the media as “corporatist” and “globalist” and with only one purpose which was to mischaracterize President Trump. His appearance at CPAC reflected the conservative establishment’s movement to the right because he was ostracized by the group in the past.
Breitbart News used to host a counter-event with controversial figures called, The Uninvited,” which was scheduled to take place in the same hotels hosting CPAC. The head of the Conservative Union told the crowd, “everybody’s part of our conservative family.” Everybody now includes the extreme and, at times, embarrassing fringe elements of the right movement that have been accepted since they were instrumental to President Trump’s success.
During the Obama administration, Republican legislators displayed an extreme partisan determination to hold the government hostage any time conservative demands were not completely satisfied.
Republicans have been radicalized by “Tea Party” activists and uber conservative businessmen who fund elections, which forces Republicans to reject bipartisanship or face replacement in the next election cycle. The United States has become more polarized due to a lack of respectful debate or thoughtful discussion of political issues.
It must stop. Rhetoric that disparages compromise as weakness reduces our world to one of the “us” eternally fighting the “them. We must find a way to foster bipartisanship because there is a political middle ground in America which would be a fertile plain to build our future.
We need video game-playing, cellphone-addicted and social media savvy but otherwise disaffected Americans to get involved. That is the only way to assure our government will promote fairness and justice, and it will only happen through shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.