The Moose shuns all exit polls and contemplates big thoughts.
America is a nation at war. Yet, our political process is failing us. In the remarkable days following 9/11, there was an opportunity to unite the country behind a politics of national greatness. Yet, that moment was soon lost as politics returned to business as usual. The partisan polarization of the past twenty years has sent our politics into a downward spiral. The bickering between the two parties and the special interest feeding frenzy dominate our political life as if our country had never been attacked and the nation was not at war. Republicans and Democrats continue to view each other as enemies not as worthy opponents with good intentions but differing philosophies.
Also absent in our politics are any notions of sacrifice or placing the national good before the special or parochial interests. This has become an odd war in which our political leaders act as if nothing has changed while they also tell us that we are involved in a titanic struggle. While a generation ago during the Cold War, President Kennedy challenged us to ask not what our country can do for us but rather what we can do for our country, today we are told to ask not what we can do for our country but what our country can do for our stock portfolio.
As a Republican, John McCain put it, “My friends, we are at war. Throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice. At the beginning of the war I said it would be long and difficult, and would require a great deal of sacrifice on everyone’s part. But about the only sacrifice taking place is that by the brave men and women fighting to defend and protect the liberties we hold so dear, and that of their families.”
With the deficit exploding and the cost of the war totaling into the hundreds of billions of dollars, Congress and the Administration cut taxes disproportionately for the wealthy. Congressional appropriators shower special and parochial interests with billions and billions of dollars in pork barrel spending. For instance, according to the Congressional Research Service, the number of Congressional earmarks found in the 13 annual appropriations bills only continue to grow. In 1994 there were 4,126 earmarks. In 2004, there were 14,040! Consequently, future generations will be forced to shoulder the burden of the deficit while our current leaders are satisfied to delay the day of reckoning.
Access to Congress is sold to the highest bidder with those Americans who cannot afford big contributions or well-heeled lobbyists are left out of the deliberations. Major public policy, such as by Vice President’s energy task force, is made without any public scrutiny or transparency. With one party-control of the legislative branch, Congressional oversight is almost non-existent.
America deserves better than this. For the past twenty years there has been a steady deterioration in the character of our political life. Politics has become a blood sport in which the objective has become to score points while blocking nominees or legislation in the pursuit of partisan advantage. Meanwhile, serious problems ranging from global warming to the fiscal state of nation deteriorate because our leaders cannot work together for the national interest. While politicians wear flag pins in their lapels and boast of national pride, their actions are deeply unpatriotic.
What is desperately needed is a new politics of progressive national greatness that places the national interests before special and parochial interests. This is politics that will demand serious sacrifice from both our leaders and citizens. We cannot afford to luxuriate in either massive tax cuts or parochial government spending when we are in a time of war. We must set aside crude partisan calculations and do what is right for the country.
We will need both innovative ideas and leaders who are willing to forge bi-partisan alliances that confound the usual ideological divisions of left and right. On behalf of our national interest, we must be willing to reform the tax code, entitlements, the budget process and our electoral system. Our troops on the front lines are sacrificing their very lives for the national interest. Is it too much for our leaders to put country before narrow political gain?