Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Pox on Both Parties

David S. Broder wrote in WaPo To understand why the level of public disillusionment with politics is so high in this country right now, it helps to go back a dozen years. The Democrats took power in 1993 with a young and obviously talented Bill Clinton succeeding George H.W. Bush, who seemingly had played out the string on the shift to conservative government Ronald Reagan launched in 1980.

Actually GHWB lost because he went back on his word of "Read my lips. No new taxes"
Clinton took office as a plurality president, but with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate seemingly primed for action. His first year did not go well. His first budget -- with a tax increase for top-bracket earners and benefits for lower-income families -- barely survived in Congress. He found himself snarled in unproductive fights over gays in the military and other side issues, and in the fall, his big initiatives -- reorganization of government, approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement and passage of health care reform -- were piling up in Congress.
NAFTA did pass.
By the spring of his second year, the most politically important of those priorities -- the overhaul of the health care delivery system -- was hopelessly mired in committee, unable to muster enough support even to bring it to a floor vote in the House or Senate.
He tried to do too much, and wanted a government takeover of the Health Care system.
The problem that Clinton had recognized as most disturbing for families, for business and for all levels of government was left to fester, unsolved. In November 1994, with thousands of disillusioned Democrats boycotting the polling places, the Republicans won nearly everything, retaking the Senate, capturing the House for the first time in 40 years and boosting their strength in the state capitols.

The lingering effects of that failure in one-party Democratic government are still felt. While Clinton was able to win a second term and to avoid conviction on the Lewinsky scandal impeachment charges, he was never again able -- while campaigning for himself or others -- to persuade voters to entrust his party with the reins of government.
For good reason.
At some level, the message that many voters took away from the experience was that Democrats may talk a good game, but they don't deliver.
Exactly true.
It has not helped that the subsequent Democratic nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry, were people who had built their careers in the Senate, a place where the public knows that talk is cheap and action rare.
The American People know that a Governor is a much better choice for President than a Senator is. The Senate is filled with 100 people who think they should be President; the state Governor's mansions are filled with 50 people who have shown that they know how to run a government (write budgets, work with the legislature, etc).
Fast-forward now to 2005, five years after the voters (with a nudge from the Supreme Court) entrusted Republicans with complete control of the elected branches of the federal government. What do they have to show for it?
A very good economy, a failed state that allowed terrorists to have training camps in their country and who planned an attack on the US has been liberated, 21 million citizens of another country have been freed from a dictator, and they have had one election, written and approved a constitution, and are about to have another election under that constitution.
Well, as promised, taxes have been cut, more for the wealthy than for others,
Then why do the wealthy now pay a greater percentage of the total income taxes collected by the government.
but that promise has been kept. The overall economy has grown, but -- in part because of tax policy -- the gap between the rich and the rest has increased. The nation, caught unawares, has suffered a grievous homeland attack, and the chief instigator of that Sept. 11 savagery remains at large. We have invaded two countries seeking out terrorists -- and years later, violence continues to cost the lives of Americans trying to pacify both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Would you prefer our forces fight those terrorists on US soil?
President Bush's chief domestic initiative -- reform of the Social Security system -- suffered the same fate as Clinton's health care effort: so little agreement within his own party that he was never even able to bring it to a vote. The self-described "compassionate conservative" has been so lax in his budgetary policy that deficits have reached dismaying levels, and compassion was compromised by gross incompetence in the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Most of the "gross incompetence" was on the part of the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana.
Meanwhile, after 11 years of unbroken majority, congressional Republicans are displaying the same personal arrogance (in grabbing for favors) and the same penchant for petty scandals that plagued the Democrats after their 40-year run.
That is true, and we need to do something about it.
There is one difference. Congressional Republicans by and large have maintained greater cohesion and discipline than did the Democrats under Clinton. But the price has been subservience to White House whims and wishes. This has been the most compliant congressional leadership in modern times, one that until very recently
When the Hammer (Tom Delay) had to step down.
was unwilling or incapable of asserting itself against even a minor presidential preference.
What is wrong with that. Weren't both elected to work for the American people.
Now, with Bush weakened by the war and other problems, Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to scramble for safety by voting their districts, not heeding partisan commands. It is not an edifying spectacle. And the result may well be what it was for the Democrats in 1994, when the cry, "Every member for himself!" turned into a rout. Leaving behind one big question: When both parties have lost public confidence, where do voters turn?

David R. Remer blogged It is the quintessential question for voters given their disappointment and disgust with both party's. But, let's review voter's choices.
  1. Continue to vote for the two major parties in a revolving door of bad government in the hands of one party to bad government by the other party. In 2006, they can vote to keep the corrupt and horrible mismanagement of the public's resources or turn management over to the Democrats who can't agree amongst themselves on any issue including whether to criticize Republicans.
    Or perhaps the answer is in the Primaries. Republicans can run candidates that understand we really do want smaller government, and Democrats can run candidates that have new ideas.
  2. Don't vote at all. This option however, for all intents and purposes, is the same as option one above. For if only loyal voters of the Democratic and Republican party vote, we will just get more of what we are all dismayed and disgusted over.
  3. Vote for a third party.
    Like what Sharon is trying in Israel.
    Voting for a third party for federal office however, will not put that third party candidate in office. For if voters chose to vote third party, a percentage would vote for one of the two Reform Parties (it has split into two factions), the Green Party, or the Libertarian Party, that is if these parties even put forth a candidate for Senator or Representative in their district. The net result however will be a small percentage of votes for each of these 4 third parties thus splitting the disgruntled electorate's vote into numbers too small to win against a Democrat or Republican.
  4. The last option, to vote out incumbents of any stripe, at first appears to make no sense for the same reasons as the 3 options above appear to be futile. But, what if voters who used to vote for Democrats or Republicans but just can't justify doing so anymore, were to, instead of voting for a Republican or Democrat, vote against whichever one is in office? And what if the third parties supporters, instead of not voting because their candidate does not have a chance, voted for any challenger of any party? And what if 1/4 of the eligible voters who have never voted before, showed up to vote against the incumbent and for any challenger. Well, that would constitute more than 25 million votes against incumbents across the land.
Since only 2 million anti-incumbent votes would have unseated the Republicans from the majority party in Congress in 2002, and only 3.5 million anti-incumbent votes would have put Kerry in as President today, instead of Bush, the impact would stunning. Suddenly, the Democratic and Republican parties would have a whole new voting constituent out there they would have to appeal to in order to hope to keep their incumbents in office. And to appeal to these voters, they would have solve America's problems like deficits, border security, education quality, providing affordable and sustainable safety nets for our elderly, disabled, and unemployed, and getting control of inflationary health care costs and lowering the hurdles to health care access.

And wouldn't America be a better nation and her future more secure and hopeful if our government's elected officials had to demonstrate success in these areas in order to insure their party's candidates could remain in office?

Doug blogged In 1992, they turned to Ross Perot, who turned out to be a megalomantic and false prophet and, at present, it seems unlikely that a viable third party will arise any time soon. More likely than not, the answer to Broder's question will be record-low turn out in the mid-term elections in 2006.

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