Monday, August 31, 2009

The Importance of Real Debate

One of the saddest things that have happened over the past several years is the total and utter lack of a real debate over issues in Washington, D.C. There was a time when the leaders of both parties could sit down, have a bourbon (or two) and hash out a solution to a problem Did that solution always work? Hell, no. But both parties were on the same page, and the debate was open and honest. For me, the last time this happened was during the debate on education which lead to the "Leave No Child Behind" bill. Ultimately, the bill was flawed and has been a disaster, but the debate was honest.

In the wake of Ted Kennedy's death, its appropriate to note the lack of a true debate in Washington over health care, torture, or the economic stimulus package. And apparently, the climate change bill is also going to be a rough one. The problem is, essentially as I see it, that the two parties live in two completely alternate universes. So instead of arguing the how - as in how do we fix this problem - the Parties argue whether or not a problem even exists. Health care, for instance, is tremendously overpriced in this country (we spend more per capita than any other country in the world, by far), and that has lead to bankruptcies and poor health. But instead of arguing how health care reform should be structured, Republicans argue that there is no problem, or worse, make up things about health care reform.

Where are the arguments about streamlining the health insurance market? Where are the arguments against burdensome regulation, or tort reform? In short, where is the honest conservative argument about health care? Or torture? Or climate change? The Republican argument seems to be to deny the existence of any problem. And ultimately, these made up facts have become an identity and not a philosophy. And that's a shame because conservatives have good points to make. For instance, the deregulation of the trucking industry was, all in all, a good thing. Welfare reform has been largely successful (I think). In other words, the conservative voice, or the good government voice, has been an important part of the Republic.

What's more, I deeply fear the insanity of identity politics in this country. Every day I see more and more harbingers of political violence in this country. Listen to this:

Now, Glenn Beck is a total nutcase, but he's alleging a coup by election - in other words, Obama has taken over the government by winning an election - something that has been done by both parties since 1801. Beck is practically encouraging the violent overthrow of the United States! We have pastors praying to God for Obama's death, and their parishioners are carrying assault weapons to Obama's events. Only 42% of Republicans are certain that Obama is a citizen of the United States!

True, the Democrats have, in the past, demonized the right. As the years rolled on during Bush's tenure as President, we became more and more strident against him. Though, to be honest, he did a lot to encourage our ire. But that outrage and anger took years to develop, and the anger was over policy - Iraq, torture, climate change, Katrina, etc. And it took even longer for our leadership to even acknowledge the anger we felt - this, by the way, is a continuing theme: Republicans fear their base, and are responsive to them (no matter how crazy the base gets), Democratic Leadership thinks the base voters are a bunch of dirty fucking hippies and ignore them. *bangs head against wall*

Ultimately, the change occurred because the Republicans realized that they could win more debates by being ruthlessly partisan, no matter what the facts were. And politically, that's the right move. What drives me nuts here is that the Democrats having faced this exact problem for the past thirty years have yet to realize that they need to be partisan in return. But despite what the Democrats do, something has to break with the Republicans - they can't keep doing this.

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