Reviving Liberal Republicanism in America

America's Need for Functional Government

America’s Need For Functional Government

 
 

The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision-making, primarily at the Federal level, and the big issues of the day are not being addressed, leaving our future in jeopardy.

-Michael Bloomberg[1]

If Lenin, Mao, Churchill and John F. Kennedy were to walk together down the streets of Shanghai, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Istanbul or Johannesburg (or even Almaty, Kazakhstan) today, they would not argue for a nanosecond about who “won" the ideological struggle among them. The world has become overwhelmingly a planet of people aspiring to live materially rich middle class lives, where substantial personal liberty if not democracy is increasingly the norm (with some recent, hopefully temporary backsliding), and where people realistically believe that working hard will likely lead to a better future for them and their children.  Today there are places all over the world that more resemble America in the Fifties (with local cultures and modern technology) than the overwhelmingly politically repressive, anti-capitalist places they were thirty years ago.

There are also fewer people killed in wars today than at any time in history[2], less crime in most of our communities[3] and fewer people crippled and dying prematurely from preventable diseases.[4] There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who have escaped extreme poverty in the last couple of decades.[5] These benefits have all occurred on America's global watch, and many of these benefits have come from ideas and policies of which America has been the chief proponent.

So why does almost no one in America, neither conservative Republicans nor liberal Democrats, nor most people in between, feel like we have "won" anything in the last couple of decades? [6] Is it because the press incessantly shoves sensationalized bad news and screaming commentators in our faces? (How many readers have heard of Charlie Baker or Larry Hogan, moderate Republican governors, re-elected to office in 2018, in overwhelmingly Democratic states?) Is it because our politicians have predominantly become preening whiners and bullies, incapable of working together in any meaningful way to address things our nation needs addressed, constantly focused instead on their own reelection? Or is it simply because once people have basic safety and food on their tables, their sense of well-being is more a function of the direction and rate of change in their lives than their actual level of well-being? In America things have flat lined economically for many during the last several decades,[7] while for others the perception that America's power is in decline is anxiety provoking.[8] For yet others such elementary things as the frustration with the decay of America's infrastructure has colored their perception of life in America.

This website argues that whether one is an advocate of big government or small government, America needs a functional government. The unwillingness of our politicians to find middle ground,[9] as has been the case for much of the last several decades, is doing this nation serious harm. Sure, we are muddling through, but it is wearing us down and making us weaker and poorer.

Families, businesses, sports teams and congregations whose members constantly fight with one another are weaker than ones that can put their differences aside and work towards common goals. Most of us know this from experience. So it is with governments. In America we live in a country where infighting has become the principal activity of the people who govern us. Compromise is viewed as weakness or betrayal. Good policy options are not given an honest hearing because too many of our legislators think it is okay to think "if the President is for it I am against it."

We need to find a way to stop this destructive nonsense. Our elected officials are put in office to solve problems, not simply to get reelected or to prevent the other side from enacting its policies. If a politician can't help solve our nation's most serious problems he or she should get out of public life and let someone else try.

Our political dysfunction and paralysis has led to an eroding standard of living for many in America and a lessening of our ability to assure for our citizens – and especially for our younger ones— that things will be better for their children than they were for them.  Since this American Dream is the essence of what has long made America so special, we run a real risk that if upward mobility for most Americans ceases to be a reality, America will cease to be, well...America.

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This website argues that the most productive place to find the middle ground that can make America's politics functional again is the rebirth of the liberal wing of the Republican Party. (Call it the moderate wing if you must.)  The rebirth of a significant place in the Republican Party for such views would again provide a mechanism for cross-party consensus to be reached on a range of issues that today our increasingly nasty partisan politics is incapable of bridging.

America is to be commended for how inclusive we have become over the last half century, and while it may not seem that way to people watching TV news and reading newspapers, the progress we have made is incontrovertible. (Which is not to say that we still don't have a long way to go.) Yet at the same time, and for reasons both related and unrelated, as a nation we are much more divided than we were fifty years ago.[10] America today is practically evenly divided on a lot of important issues. Many of these divisions are based on good faith, reasonable disagreements among Americans. But for too long our politicians, our media and too many passionate citizens have in effect analogized politics in America to a football game. One side wins and the other loses.  This isn't working well for us, and it's time to accept that reasonable differences of opinion have to be respected, and a middle ground found. Unlike a football game, where one side wins and one doesn't, life is full of examples where both sides win, such as a good marriage or a successful business partnership.

Think about this practically. Say if our current nasty political battles continue there is a one in three chance that really conservative folks are able to recast America in their image; a one in three chance that really liberal, social democratic folks are able to recast America in their image; and a one in three chance that America is pulled apart in the battle. Who would take a chance like that if he or she really loves this country, especially recognizing that there are huge numbers of people on each side of this ideological divide who would be unhappy living under one or the other vision? The middle is really the only place we can successfully gather.