Sunday, December 2, 2018

Lack of Consensus is Not the Problem With Politics




Articles abound blaming the lack of consensus for today’s malfunctioning politics and they are right, but only to a point. We yearn for the good old days of cross-party consensus on such issues of common interest as...

  • Income inequality
  • Job loss
  • Infrastructure meltdown
  • Social isolation
  • Outright fraud and corruption
  • Immigration

…and others too numerous to mention. We piss and moan, wring our hands and point fingers at one another, all too often fracturing long-term relationships and staying away from family get togethers. It’s a national disease as most of us retreat to those who ‘think like we do’ on Facebook and Twitter. If consensus is dead, we, killed it quietly at home watching Fox News or MSNBC.


When was the last time you sat over shared coffee, quietly discussing opposing political views and arriving at consensus on those areas where you found agreement? When was the last time you actually listened to another point of view without ‘pre-loading’ your response? When was the last time you left such a discussion by learning something you hadn’t thought of before? 

I am guilty of the same. It took me a long time to realize that those who oppose me have a lot to say with which I agree, alongside that I don’t. The Dalai Lama said it best, “If you distrust your wicked government, look inside yourself because it is a reflection of you, who allowed it.
“But I didn’t allow it,” you will insist, “it was thrust upon me by those idiots on the other side.” Really? And how many votes did you change on the other side by listening and quiet conversation on those values you had in common? Yeah well, that’s nearly impossible today because we made it impossible.

The far greater threat to our democratic republic at the moment is the money in politics that all but drowns out the voices of consensus. 

A majority of Americans want single-payer (Medicare style) health insurance, gun control, good schools, fair taxes and some controls over corporate greed at all levels. They are getting none of these because of the unlimited legal corruption of politics. 
It’s legal because your and my Congress made it legal on their own behalf and the Supreme Court backed them up. Whether or not it’s moral is another question.

You and I may not have much money, but we have a vote. Corporate America has no vote, but it has almost unlimited money. So, as corporations often do, the created their own specialty loophole and found a way to pay Congress for its vote. 

Pretty neat. Other governments call it graft, corruption and fraud (and we castigate them for it). In this fine democracy we call it PAC advertising and lobbying, but it stinks the same and has the same purpose.

Hence, we do not have single-payer health insurance, gun control, good schools, fair taxes and even a modicum of control over corporate greed at all levels. Because those dudes we elected to represent us have been paid not to let us have them. Legally paid I guess, but morally corrupted for sure. 

And you know what? They're not really happy about it either, but the Faustian bargain has been made.

The blame falls equally on both political parties. That’s why this has remained unresolved under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Harry Truman’s buck doesn’t stop at the Oval Office anymore. It’s been fast-tracked.
In election after election, both parties promise change and fairness. Once elected, they are willingly paid to govern both unchanged and unfair. Reflect upon this:

When Florida Republican David Jolly came to Washington after winning a special election in 2014, he was surprised by what he was told was his No. 1 priority--fundraising. Jolly told 60 Minutes he sat behind closed doors with party leadership, where he was told he had six months to raise $2 million. He said he was told, “Your job, new member of Congress, is to raise $18,000 a day. Your first responsibility is to make sure you hit $18,000 a day.”

To accomplish that, he said members of Congress are given lists of names and scripts. Because members aren’t allowed to fund-raise on Capitol grounds, the campaign arms of both parties have set up call-bank headquarters near the Capitol, where members can duck in to spend a few hours on the phone.

A cute little work-around, that. Your average elected official spends 30 hours a week—raising money. Small wonder the government is gridlocked, as it’s busy with other more important work—begging the cash to get re-elected.
Something more to think about:

It costs $20 million to support a Senatorial campaign. That, for a job that pays $174,000 in salary. Wow, that’s not much return on investment, so there must be something else going on. 

What do you suppose that ‘something else’ might be? The ability to continue funding the next election cycle? The promise of a fat corporate job after retiring?

Far be it from me to speculate, but those just might be smoking guns.

So, brave hearts, don’t give up on politics. Simply accept the fact that the enemy is not a lack of consensus. We still have consensus on many issues by both Republicans and Democrats. But we’ve been brokered out of bipartisan agreement by a co-conspiracy between corporations and our elected representatives. 

Lack of consensus is not the enemy.

The enemy is Big Money.