We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
These words began our great nation. While the Declaration of Independence began the great experiment which we call the United States of America, it was with these words in which the nation was truly born. It united the 13 individual states into a single, federal government, creating a unified, United States. It was not a perfect document, but it was a living document which could have its issues addressed in time. And in time, we the people addressed its issues.
The fledgling governments foundation is built on a simple premise, compromise. The structure of government made roadblocks easy to put in place, difficult to overcome. This required all sides to work together in order for the government to even work. This has had its moments of trouble, but for the majority of history, the United States system has worked in a uniquely American way. Nobody got everything they wanted, but by working together we all got something we wanted.
Then came Newt Gingrich. The Republican from Georgia, when he stepped on to Capitol Hill of the first time in 1979, he changed the rules. By the time he took office, the Republicans had been out of power in the house for decades, after the disastrous “Do nothing Congress” of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. He decided on focusing on all efforts to create a permanent, conservative Republican majority. While the Republicans for decades had been dealmakers on the hill, playing both the liberal and conservative halves of the Democratic party to push their agenda forward, Gingrich would have none of it. He courted the conservative Democrats to abandon their caucus. He forced his own party to the right. By the time he took the Speakership in 1994, the Republican party was gone, replaced by a closed circle of fanatics which viewed compromise as a weakness.
A major political party was in effect taking a stand against the very structure by which the United States government worked. By labeling compromise, the cornerstone of the United States government, as the enemy, they have in turn labelled the United States their enemy.
They have fought for decades to undo the great experiment, to eliminate the founding principle that all men are created equal. At every turn, they sought to turn the politicians in their caucus from simple civil servants to members of some élite club or fanatical cult. Before Newt, people on the hill were friends. Even the godfather of conservatism in the United States, Ronald Reagan himself, was good friends with the Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. They were politically bitter enemies, and would fight tooth and nail, but when it came to doing their jobs, they would both compromise in order to do what is best for the American people.
Now we have a party on the hill out of control. Even their current Speaker of the House John Boehner is unable to get a basic deal together. Anything which compromises on any level is to be attacked. And that Boehner even suggested it has caused rampant speculation that he might lose his speakership in the next congress. The fact that there is nothing left to cut does not matter to these fanatical cultists on the right, they still demand more cuts.
Newt’s concept for a one party permanent majority falls apart when you study the dynamics within the right-wing. Contrary to Newt’s vision, there is no singular right-wing, where you go down a checklist and either are, or are not, to determine ones political stance. There are different topics, and that is where the problem becomes. You can take three different right-wing darlings, and you will find that each of them actually has less in common than you would imagine. One might be a die-hard Catholic, who does not care one wit about economic policies. The other could be a full Ayn Rand Objectivist and cares nothing for religion. You can convince both to vote against the same bill, but you will be hard pressed to get both to vote for a bill unless they compromise.
That’s the little key Newt forgot in his rush to fanaticize the GOP, it is far easier to vote against a measure than to vote for it. Because the party has only held onto power through gerrymandering which results in hyper-partisan districts which in turn elect hyper-partisan members of congress, the system of government, the very core of our country, is grinding to a halt. The more hyper-partisan, fanatical and cultish the members are, the less they will vote for anything not ideal and perfect. After all, to them the only time government should exist is when they get everything they want. They are literally the do-nothings who know-nothing.
Now we have a government which is dysfunctional, not because the founding principles do not work, but because we have an active force attacking that very foundation. The Republican Party lives in a state of denial and is no longer a functioning member of government. When you have fanatics who would rather tear down our government, claiming it is the problem, you cannot expect those same fanatics to function within government. The question is, why would you hire a politician who does not believe in politics?
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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