Here’s what happened Tuesday in America:
An antiquated governing system flipped between two irreconcilable ideologies, because those ideologies are so far apart that compromise isn’t possible.
Many of you – I’m thinking particularly in Kenya – want to replicate America’s governing system. Don’t. It was great for the 19th and 20th century, but it doesn’t work in our high-tech, globalized 21st century.
Yesterday’s politicians and media analysts are absolutely right that “America is yearning for compromise” but they’re absolutely wrong that “now there’s hope the two sides will work together.” Our political structure has evolved to prevent compromise, so while we all want it, we’re not going to get it.
Since about a generation ago, “left” and “right” have moved too far apart from one another to be able to compromise within our system of government. This isn’t a failure of democracy, it’s a failure of the governing system to reflect democracy.
So gridlock will continue. Obama will stick to his positions and no substantive laws will be passed, or he will concede Republican positions. The two sides won’t each “give a little.” Neither side can: the positions are simply too far apart. So all legislative outcomes will simply be reflections of one side or the others ideology.
My ideologies and Ted Cruz’ are irreconcilable, but we are both gaining support. There is nothing left of the middle in America. I’m not sure this is in itself bad. The “middle” is often nothing more than a “muddle.” In many places in Europe widely divergent clearly opposing parties manage functional government through a parliamentary system. America is unable to.
Obama’s presidency is failing, because he still believes in legislative compromise. He still believes that he is the leader of everyone in America, and that idea means that he’s the leader of no one.
Whether it be on human rights, national security and wealth distribution, compromise isn’t possible: The difference in opinion is too great.
Today’s American elections are structured to achieve a knockout punch. Last night was a big Republican win. The Democrats will have their turn, again, and then the Republicans again, while America sinks further and further behind China and India and much of you in Africa.
“Sinks” in terms of economy, yes, but also in terms of culture, education and human rights.
The demons are three: an executive presidency, the rules of candidate campaigns and a little understood process called gerrymandering.
By the way, the American public as a whole is much more unified than our elections make it seem. In Tuesday’s election, “ballot initiatives” and “referendum” – policy questions put to the electorate as a whole – received massive support : redistributing wealth (“minimum wage”), protecting human rights (“anti-discrimination”), decriminalizing the poor (“legalizing marijuana”) among many others.
But under America’s system, today, these are rarely allowed to come before the voters and often then only as recommendations to their legislators rather than methods of creating law.
And under our broken system of government, the public’s will can’t be manifest well. So while the public passed those few referendum, at the very same time they elected powerful legislators who promised to oppose those exact same referendum.
So … nothing gets done. Gridlock or schizophrenia, doesn’t matter.
You in Africa have a unique opportunity to see how wonderful democracy has been for a long time in America. Use your fresh ideas to figure out a way to sustain it. We’re failing, here.
Jim, put aside your cynicism and give time to succeed or fail.
Aren’t you a barrel of laughs today. What a misuse of facts and suppositions. Obama is not a failed president. He has accomplished a great deal during his administration despite a 100% dysfunctional congress. Yes, there is a divide in American politics that’s an embarrassment. And both sides have pulled too far to their opposite poles. But there is a very strong middle ground of “Independents” who have left both parties, hence the passing of those referendum to which you refer. Our economy is strong. Unemployment is down, the stock market is higher than ever before in our history. The media allows lies by candidates, funded by big donors, to perpetuate, rarely but occasionally challenged via good journalists. There is a distinct anti-Obama campaign by the far right and it looks like you’ve bought into it. So you’re not so far away from a Ted Cruz mentality as you may think. It’s unconscionable to declare these opinions as facts to our friends in the African continent. Middle America is full of rednecks on welfare who fall for the tough love policies of the far right gun huggers. They hate government but they love their free money. And face it. They are not wild about a bi-racial, therefore Black, president. But the democrats screwed up too. They should have embraced this Président instead of cowering in the distance. Gerrymandering indeed helped to create this end result. But all is not lost. In the next two years Obama can and should flex some muscle and stop pleading with the crazies to come to the table. He has hardly used his Executive Order Pulpit. Now he will. Once we go back to electing leaders, not puppets, the crazies will sink. Even the richest Republicans won’t stand for doom when it’s on the horizon and affects their pocketbooks.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself!!! Why don’t you move to Africa permanently.
Well said, Jim! – Shelly Lazarus
Jim, I think you are being too grim! But I understand your discouragement!
I disagree that Obama is a failed President. Obamacare is covering millions of Americans, the country is recovering from the financial crisis, and the country is starting to accept gay rights. None of these are perfect, but he has had the helm; and done many good things despite bitter opposition from the right.
I think of him as a Lyndon Johnson without the personal skills. He presided over the Civil Rights Act and Medicare, mostly getting them passed through strong arm twisting and calling in favors. Obama does not have those skills, and he stands for the right things; but his intellectual nature gets in the way. Let’s hope he doesn’t back down now.
One last thing: The democrats are not cowering so much as losing everywhere, especially locally, and that has everything to do with who goes out to vote. For the most part, aside from the Republican’s shameful attempts to limit voting of minorities, people who would be helped the most by a more fair distribution of wealth are the people who are voluntarily staying away. Shame on them.