Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Tea Partier —- whatever. With all the candidates and non-candidates, all of this party loyalty is a bunch of hooey. Our political parties are much more alike than different from each other.
In a nutshell, what with all of this horse trading, taking immoveable ideological stances, then sacrificing such party lines in the end, is really all about maintaining the political status quo. Our House representatives, senators, governors, et cetera ad nauseum, are first and foremost out to save their own positions in a governmental bureaucracy so tangled and rife with special rights and benefits, not to mention the “extras” that come with positions of persuasion and power. Period. The efforts to save Medicare and Social Security, raise the debt ceiling, create jobs, regulate the financial industry, repair our infrastructure, make inroads to cleaning up our environment and make and abide by new immigration policies, is truly just the side-show. These issues are the “teasers”, but when push comes to shove and a vote is taken in Congress, these issues often fall to the wayside in the hopes of preserving the richly rewarding status and material benefits of being an elected official.
Surely the need to please the electorate also has a role in consummating specific legislation. This is a given in the type of elective democracy we have in our country. The voters are equally torn as their leaders are: it is a real dilemma to decide whether or not to make substantial, necessary changes or hold fast to the old system and the entitlements therein. Nevertheless, time and time again I have observed the top guns come out vociferously and unflaggingly for their own specific ideology, only to fall to compromise and deal-making in order to eventually pass a watered down version of the initial law. That too is due to the preferences of the voting public and also a result of a country ideologically split right down the middle.
Some examples are in order. In today’s political arena, one main topic of discussion is drastically cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits. The objective is to reduce our debt, a much-needed strategy. Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare is considered rash. Yet the GOP wants to present a united front for Ryan’s plan specifically and a united party front generally, even though there has been dissension among their own ranks, not to mention their voting constituents. Last weekend, Newt Gingrich dared to criticize Ryan’s plan as “right-wing social engineering” and was summarily called on the carpet by his fellow Republicans to tow the party line. He promptly apologized. Yesterday, Senator Scott Brown also had some negative comments about Ryan’s Medicare plan and has been lambasted by his party colleagues. Whether we designate this lack of party unity as Republicans eating their own or just objecting to change, the mission is clear: keep the status quo. Also, it is obvious that the GOP voting public does not want their Medicare and retirement benefits tampered with.
All of this party infighting sounds quite familiar. This is pretty much what President Obama had to contend with to get health care reform enacted. Same story for avoiding a government shutdown, DADT, and many of the other hot-button political issues of the day. Just like today’s infighting of the GOP on budgetary matters, the President had to cede some of the more liberal policies of health care to the more conservative demands of the Blue Dog Democrats. Even this bastion of change, Barack Obama, had to back off and reconcile his “radical” ideas closer to the status quo.
It is ironic that the Republican party is now going through this same process of division regarding deficit reduction. Their old-timers, a la John Boehner, are going to have to make some room for the brash freshman class, who want deeper change. This article explains concisely the divide in the GOP. If you choose only one link of mine to read, this is it. It is hard to miss the irony of this party division that the GOP is currently experiencing which mirrors the same discord within the Democratic party when faced with enacting legislation. Regarding the raising of the debt ceiling and deficit reduction, the pendulum will settle somewhere in the middle. Both the Republicans and Democrats are playing chicken with domestic policy, each one waiting to see who will make the first move and how severe that move will actually be.
The political atmosphere is clear. Although the people and loyal members of both major political parties are tempted by the need for drastic change, the factions within each party are going to deliver a much more benign agenda. That is the only way they can somewhat please the American voters and placate their own ambition to maintain their jobs and perquisites of public office. We, the people and their leaders, are faced with a tug of war where different factions within the same party (both of them) must choose between caving in to the new class of politicians or submitting to the old accoutrements of “gubmint.” Americans’ hairs stand on end when they are faced with not receiving the Medicare and Social Security benefits for which they have paid for dearly over many decades. Changes in these programs will ensue, but very gradually. It is fascinating that both parties not only have their more aggressive, change-seeking elements, but they both also have their reactionary camps that want above all, to keep the status quo.
Plus ca change, plus c’est meme chose. C’est la vie, non?