Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thoughts On Our Current Political Climate

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Liberty -vs- Tyranny


Editors note: Given the issues we face today as a nation Rational Nation USA is re-posting this article. Originally posted on October, 22 2011 it defines the nature of, and danger in wedge politics.

Politics is a strange business. Politicians are without a doubt a breed apart from the rest of the nation. Well, maybe when a person enters politics in the beginning they are just like the average person and want to make a difference. But, inevitably it seems that they lose their principles. Influenced by special interests they become part of the problem they initially hoped to change.

Maybe it's just the times we live in. But doesn't it seem that we are a nation that has become so polarized by competing ideologies we are no longer able to discus issues of national concern in a civil and respectful manner? It is sad that politics, and political discourse has sank to the level of a sporting event. In the process the nation and its people lose the values the nation was founded on.

Americans have always had competing views. From its birth as a nation the United States of America has dealt with differing political philosophies. Throughout her history she has always found a path to resolve any challenge facing the nation. Yet today we cannot find the wisdom and courage to resolve the issues the nation faces at present.

Should it be any different today than it was during that hot sweltering summer of 1787 in Philadelphia when great men drafted our Constitution? The document that united us and has withstood the strain of over two and a quarter centuries. Our constitution is perhaps one of, if not the greatest political document in history. It set a nation on the path of governance whereby the government was responsible to the people. Rather than the other way around as it had always been up until that time in history.

There are those who will argue that the Constitution was flawed. And it was. The singular glaring flaw, one that still haunts us today, was the blight of institutionalizing slavery. It was a contradiction of the very principles Thomas Jefferson so eloquently spoke to when he penned The Declaration of Independence. But (as in all things), it is important to understand the political realities of the time when the nation was being formed. When drafting the Constitution compromises were made so that the United States of America would become a reality. For the delegates to the constitutional convention, as well as most of the people, establishing the United States was the highest priority.

As 2011 approaches the end of the year we are witnessing the greatest internal threat to our nation since The Civil War. The polarization of our people through the divisive use of wedge issues in politics is tearing at the very fabric of our nation. Our politicians {as well as corporate America and other special interest groups} seem only too willing to stand by and let it happen. Perhaps the interest of ideology and irrational self interest are more important to them than pursuing (rational) interests that will help strengthen the nation both economically and politically.

I am a conservative with strong libertarian leanings, and a fair amount of classical liberalism mixed in for good measure. As my readership knows Ayn Rand has held strong influence as well. Many Americans I believe share some of the principles and values discussed here at Rational Nation USA. I am equally as sure that the majority of Americans want our politicians to find a path that benefits the nation and all people, not just the few who hold the power.

If this country is to resolve the issues that have us bordering on becoming a second class democratic republic, as well as a second class world power, our leaders in Congress, the Senate, and in the one in the Oval Office had better get it together. For if they don't this heretofore nation of liberty and prosperity shall cease to exist as we have know it.

Ayn Rand said, "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." Putting this in the context of governance,... As long as our government protects the rights of the individual as enshrined in our Constitution and The Bill of Rights we should all be okay with opposing views on present day issue. In fact we should encourage opposing views. It has been said that the word {written} is mightier than the sword. And so it is. Through the use of words to describe rational concepts minds are changed, and so is society as a result.

If conservative and libertarians are to win the day then they must do so on the strength of their ideas. Ideas presented in such a way that people can first understand them. Then, if they determine the idea is a rational one be willing to ultimately accept and support it.

It serves no purpose, other than to divide, when politicians, the news media, and bloggers {on both the left and right}, use wedge issues to drive their point home.

The refusal to consider any opposing view with a active mind is not the mark of intelligence or wisdom. Rather it is the mark of a fool.

At the end of the day the future rests in the hands of those living in the present. What kind of future do you want for your children and grandchildren? It is up to each and every one of us to make it a better one.

Rational Nation USA leaves you with the following to consider. Written by Octopus a contributor at The Swash Zone in response to comments on a liberal blog.

This hyper-partisanship has damaged our country in ways too numerous to count. Let me elaborate. Hyper-partisanship translates into hyper polarization. It colors how we relate to one another. It turns neighbors and normal decent folk into the “other,” the enemy, those hateful liberals or those despised conservatives. It is a function of “identity” politics whose aim is to divide persons with common economic interests into warring factions. Divide and conquer. And a great many of us, liberals and conservative alike, buy into this bullshit and later pay a heavy price.

Hyper-partisanship colors how we think. It gives rise to ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING, where a party, a group, a person are either all black or all white with no shades of gray. Very few people in life are either all good (saints) or all evil (devils); yet hyper-partisanship demands that you think this way.

No matter what a person may achieve, the game of politics commands you to ignore the accomplishments and focus on the flaws; or spin good deeds into failures or characterize all deeds as evil deeds, despite evidence to the contrary. Demonize your opponent, that is the way the game is played.

Suddenly, one of our readers says: “Hey, wait a minute! I’m pissed off at something but I don’t know why.” It is this hyper-partisan programming pulling, tugging, sucking you under until you gasp for air. Time to break the cycle.

We are living in an era of non-stop character assassination and defamation, of political hostage taking, and legislative gridlock at a time when millions of people are suffering. There are powerful corporate interests that want us to be this way – divided – so they can cash in their chips and turn into serfs. Unless we break this cycle and say “To hell with you, I am not buying this bullshit anymore, then they win, and our country will wither away as dry wind-blown leaves of Autumn.

Sorry folks! Either we get our act together, or we will have no future at all.

And this.

All of us guilty of allowing ourselves to get sucked into the vortex of hyper-partisanship, and I admit to being as rabid as any … especially when baited by “libtard” epithets or facsimiles thereof. Sometimes I run hot or cold trying to end the cycle of mutual recrimination.

Case in point: Almost two years ago (October 26, 2009), I posted this article: DEMOGRAPHIC CLUSTERING AND THE SELF-SEGREGATION OF AMERICA, which touched on some these points. The comment thread is even more revealing than the post (and you will recognize the names of our conservative friends). Here is a quote from the article:

“Over time, according to Bishop, a preference for living with like-minded neighbors in extreme homogeneous communities incubates ever more extremist views. Voters in landslide districts tend to elect more extreme members to Congress while moderate candidates shun public office. Among highly polarized lawmakers, debates degenerate into shouting matches as legislators engage in obstruction and gridlock. That is how our most urgent and pressing issues go unresolved.”

When I look at the current political situation, it seems the article was prescient: We are now more polarized and gridlocked than ever before, and the current slate of candidates are even more extreme to the point of caricature.

Recalling some of RN’s recent comments, he distrusts the corporate plutocracy as much as we do – for the same reasons – and you would think we would have common cause; yet, identity politics and old habits always get in the way – witness the hyper-sensitivity that always accompanies hyper-partisanship.

I am wonder if it would be worthwhile revisiting this subject again and see where it takes us.

Conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals can and should remain true to our principles, so should modern liberals to theirs. However, it is time to back away from the wedge issues that both sides of the debate have used to polarize the nation.

I think Jefferson and Rand would understand.

15 comments:

  1. Good politics does not equal good government. We have no further need of politicians, but a desperate need for Americans who are familiar with the US Constitution and want to serve us as The People, and not speak down to us and treat us as morons and simpletons. "You have to pass it to find out what's in it", is NOT proper Constitutional governance.

    Les, I fully appreciate your call for unity. I do. And I am choosing these next words carefully because I've no wish to disrespect you as an elder and as a fellow Conservative. However, you are deluded if you think there will ever, ever be unity between Conservatives and Socialists.

    Again, I say that with respect, and am not seeking a confrontation with you.

    I shall never ally myself or compromise with liberalism. So, honestly, please consider me out of this discussion and consider me now off the grid. Long Live the Republic. I know you are an atheist, but may my God bless you, Les. You have a solid mind and a great spirit. But you are incorrect here. I simply cannot walk this path with you.

    Chakam at The Conservative Guild Saturday 5:36 pm EST

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  2. Les, I am sorry to hear you taking flak for trying to find common ground to move this country forward. Last time I checked, we are all Americans and we have a long history of disagreeing, but when the chips are down we come together for the common good. I don't think we need to embrace socialism to accept crony capitalism is bad. We are not closet Marxist, if we want the government that serves the people instead of special interests.

    We must stick to our principles, but we can also seek that which unites vice divides. Count me in and Rep. Paul is looking better all the time since Mr. Cain has had a severe case of the foot in mouth disease.

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  3. ecc102 - I agree, good politics does not assure good governance. Which is precisely why we, as citizens of this great republic have the opportunity replace those who govern poorly every two and four years.

    The fact that many people are not familiar with the Constitution and proper constitutional governance is the failure of the public education system. Perhaps more on this later.

    We the people either elect our officials {who speak down to us} by not casting a ballot or by taking the time to understand and then casting a ballot based on understanding of the issues. It is my belief that what we have in mass is the former.

    I am thankful you appreciate my call for unity. And I am pleased you have chosen your words carefully. Although I am perplexed at why you believe I am deluded, as the selection of this word is merely in the genre of divide and conquer. So, what do you exactly wish to divide, and exactly what do you wish to conquer?

    Nor shall I align myself with the modern virulent forms of liberalism. However, if one takes the time to read and understand the definition of "classical literalism" one may just find it more representative of a true conservatism that not.

    It is unfortunate IMHO that you have chosen to "opt out" of this this discussion and have put yourself off the grid going forward.

    I note the fact that I am a atheist has no bearing on anything. I appreciate you saying I have a solid mmind and a great spirit. I can only hope I live up to the billing.

    As to whether I am wrong here or not... I acknowledge this determination is best left up to the perceptions each of use choose to have.

    I do not ask that you "walk this path" with me Donald. I only ask that you not close your {very} sharp mind to the possibilities that others may have valid points.

    I am saddened that Rational Nation USA will not be graced with your perceptive. I do understand and respect your decision.

    Be well, and keep the faith.

    Long Live the Republic.

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  4. Sandy Salt - Thank you for your words. However, do not be sorry for the reality I am taking flak for attempting to find common ground.

    Each individual has the right, indeed the responsibility to find their own course. I have only the highest respect for Chakam's openness and honesty. He is a man you can trust

    Yes Sandy we are all Americans, even those who are just entering adulthood and are clueless, as we all once were. And yet we seemed to have turned out okay. Even in spite of our dysfunctional government. Oh yeah, almost forgot... We are responsible for that. Aren't we?

    We definitely do not need to embrace socialism, nor sacrifice our values. But we do need to take positive and decisive steps to correct those forces that are now destroying America.

    Sometimes, through no fault of their own they look in the wrong direction.

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  5. The fact that a sane and reasonable guy like Huntsman can't seem to poll over 1% is exceedingly troubling, in my opinion....Where we go from here is anybody's guess.

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  6. Will - So true, however, my man remains Ron Paul.

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  7. Any room on that bandwagon? The Cain wagon has been hitting so many bumps in the road that it is tossing people off left and right.

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  8. The preeminent political scientist, Theodore Lowi of Cornell University, once said: “The first problem of human kind was survival, and the next was government.” Since the beginning, human beings have struggled with how to organize themselves to insure survival in hostile environments.

    Our earliest ancestors were hunter-gatherers who understood the benefits of forming social groups, which were far more capable of bringing down big game than solitary hunters. Lest we forget: Our progenitors were NOT the top predators of the valley. To withstand predators far more swift and powerful, they discovered safety in numbers … notwithstanding the benefits conferred from divisions of labor.

    I think it is helpful to use a long historical lens, one closer to geological time than Fox News time, when discussing matters of survival and government.

    Most of today’s “isms,” the ones we either cherish or dismiss – whether talking about democracy, monarchy, communism, socialism, or hysterical paroxysm – are merely human constructs … and very recent ones on the historical timeline. The words 'Democrat' and 'Republican' would be meaningless and incomprehensible to our forbearers of ten thousand years ago. Undoubtedly, there will be new isms in the future, for better or worse, and the same old circular, unfulfilling arguments.

    I found an inherent contradiction in the above post:

    If conservative and libertarians are to win the day …

    [versus]

    It serves no purpose, other than to divide … Followed by the refusal to consider the opposing view with a open mind
    .”

    In opening up this dialogue, my purpose was to put the emphasis on “cooperation and consensus;” yet I find a “conquest” motif here. Do we engage with people to "win" or do we engage with people to "cooperate" as an enhancement to survival. If you think my comment was about “winning,” then nothing has been gained, and everyone loses. I equate “winning” with oppression and tyranny – usually accomplished by point of gun - and I can’t see how this squares with fundamental ideas of freedom held by both liberals and libertarians (notice the semantic similarity).

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  9. Octo - My reference to win the day is to say if the principles true conservatives and libertarians hold are to prevail {at least partially} then we must keep an open mind and not discount everything liberals offer as possible solutions.

    If the effort is to defeat the opposing views simply to defeat them, rather than to first understand and consider, then at the end of the day it is MHO all parties lose more than they gain.

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  10. If a willingness to the Bush tax cuts expire so our government, of the people, by the people, and for the people, can pay it's bills. Keep us safe and keep it's promises, makes me a "socialist", I wear that word proudly.

    And I will proudly contribute my fair share to this system so my fellow American eec102 and his family can live safely and securely in the greatest Nation on Earth.

    May God bless you and may God bless America my conservative friend.

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  11. RN,

    In the above post, you included this quote:

    Hyper-partisanship colors how we think. It gives rise to ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING, where a party, a group, a person are either all black or all white with no shades of gray ... yet hyper-partisanship demands that you think this way.

    And the same goes for the concept of winning. In a democracy, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but in all cases we affirm these words after each election: "The people have spoken." Winning does not mean "conquest," and "conquest" is a form of all-or-nothing thinking that is oppressive towards other viewpoints. My enslavement will not make you free because, sooner or later, someone will enslave you too, and then none of us will be free.

    These days, however, I wonder if people still honor the concept of democracy, the sanctity of voting, of abiding by the result. These days, when people disagree with an election outcome, they claim the 'people' are stupid or have been misled ... any excuse to claim the result is somehow illegitimate.

    Democracy denotes an orderly contest according to rules set forth in the Constitution, not a form of conquest by fiat. You cannot have a democracy without a choice between two or more political parties - and alternative visions of governance. You cannot have this: Democracy for me but not for thee.

    You use the words "winning and "prevail" as if democracy were a fight to the finish, a veritable war - not a civil enterprise between fellow citizens. And if your concept of democracy is one of "conquest" - that one of us must necessarily win and the other must necessarily lose - then there is nothing more to talk about.

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  12. Winning the day also means winning the argument between two or more competing philosophies of governance.

    Humankind has always faced competing philosophies and individuals and groups {parties} have identifies with whatever philosophy and system they deem reasonable and or desirable {for whatever reason} in their view(s).

    At the end of the day in our constitutional democratic republic when the votes are cast and counted we need live by the results.

    However, that should not mean the people should not continue to analyze and question the government that reports to all the people.

    The power of concepts, words, and the pen are mightier than the sword. As they always have been and as they always should remain.

    Unless people stop thinking for themselves and become sheeples to the ruling elite there shall always be differences of opinions. It is as it should be and differing views should be respected and considered before dismissing them.

    Again, at the end of the day when the votes are cast and counted Americans live by the rule of law. Or at least they should.

    Debates however will continue. It is the nature of the human race....

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  13. There is a difference between discussing the merits or lack thereof versus winning in the sense of conquest. Very often when I have these discussions, I get the sense of an us versus them agenda behind the rhetoric.

    If you want a debate, then how about discussing the merits of policy issues, say, expansionary monetary policy to offset coordinated fiscal contraction, or balancing the budget with a mix of austerity and revenue, or fixing inequalities in the tax code.

    However, when I hear mumbo jumbo about "the principles true conservatives and libertarians hold" (as if liberals or independents are bereft of principles and therefore immoral, inferior, and unworthy), I feel as if I am talking to a religious cult which views non-believers as the Anti-Christ.

    The words "win" and "prevail" have only one possible connotation with only one possible outcome: Us or them, "think as I think or condemn yourself to perdition." It is the language of elimination and exclusion, and there is nothing about it that connotes democracy, pluralism, mutual respect, or anything I care to talk about.

    You can't bang around words without forethought as to their meanings, and I do not respond to equivocation or sophistry.

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  14. Look. Lets start from the beginning.

    From previous discussions, we learned that there are mutual and shared concerns about corporatism, about distortions in our political system created by the Citizens United decision, about the decline of the middle class and the rise of a super-elite beyond the reach of law, about preserving the social safety net for ourselves and future generations, about outsourcing and the decline of the American manufacturing base, about economic inequities that have evolved over time, about reaching across the partisan divide to form a consensus on problems of vital concern.

    These are issue-specific. There is no need to proselytize, or lapse into polemics, or toss around platitudes about principles that have no bearing here. This is not about conversion into any cult or sect, or any invitation to do so. This is a limited coalition based on common cause … with a very practical set of goals in mind. No more than that. Are you game, or not?

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  15. Well Octo I find nothing in your last comment to disagree with. There are, as you point out many area's of of common interest that should serve to unite and on such platform moving forward should be possible.

    Of course liberals and independents have principles, I do not recall saying they were bereft of principles. There certainly are many liberals and independents with sterling character that hold principles and values that are as solid as a conservative or libertarian.

    The tone of this post is as critical of neo cons as it is of ultra liberals. Because in general {at least in MHO}Both are quilty of the divide and conquer mentality.

    Each has their own set of values and principles which they choose to live by. As it should be.

    Who was it that said, and I paraphrase... I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death defending your right to say it.

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