The 2012 presidential conventions have done nothing to convince me that there is hope for any real leadership coming from either of the old, effete, mutually antagonistic, political parties. Democrats and Republicans, but especially the latter, are controlled by people who believe so deeply in the infallibility of their ideological positions that compromise on any issue is virtually impossible. Indeed, the current crop of devout Republicans considers compromise to be treason.
How can this nation address its festering problems under these conditions? Compromise is a process of finding solutions, or at least trying them out. What we have now is stalemated trench warfare between the duopoly that allows little chance for cooperative problem solving.
The zealots on the right seem to believe that they have all the answers. Just apply their life philosophy of trust in God, which is adherence to their interpretation of what God is and how God wants mankind to behave; along with every rat-for-itself free-market capitalism, and minimal government, that being just enough government to enforce their view of how we all should live, and, voila!, America is restored to economic health, and imperial grandeur in accordance with God’s plan. Wonder how they got the blueprints for that.
The zealots on the left counter that government should look after the people, especially the most vulnerable. They believe in a much broader role for government in providing for the general welfare and spreading the wealth — no matter who does or does not create wealth. The question of paying for this solicitous approach to governing has defied credible mathematical answers, however. There are not enough rich people to fleece that can cover the $16 trillion dollar tab being run up to take care of everyone and satisfy subjective notions of economic justice.
Somewhere in between, or maybe even outside the boundaries of conventional left/right thinking, there are solutions, but we will never find them in the current miasmatic political atmosphere. I have the growing unease that there is no real leadership guiding this nation any longer. President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney or Elmer Fudd, it doesn’t matter who we elect as president; no one person is going to fix this economy, keep the seas from rising, find sources of affordable energy or lead us to solutions to any of our problems when the machinery of governing is frozen up by the frigid fulminations of the uncompromising, ideologically pure.
Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does political power. While there is no leadership coming out of Washington, D.C., there are a multitude of factions that without regard for the common good or the welfare of others manipulates rudderless government to extract benefits for themselves. What leads America is money. Money is power, and too many of those who have it or want it do not feel obliged to be concerned with anything but their own interests.
So, what we have instead of leadership that serves the common good are packs of wolves protecting their territories and looking to feed off others. Whether it is big corporations, big labor (especially public employee unions), health care or academia, they are all looking out for No. 1. Everything is now a profit center. The special interests either do not understand or appreciate the interdependence of it all.
National community has been reduced to rote jingoistic platitudes. Listen to the speeches at the duopoly conventions — mostly emotive appeals for the candidates, and recriminations and denigrations of the other side. No credible solutions or entreaties for cooperation — just the stark choice between barren ideologies.
What a sorry state of affairs. We are rotting away from the inside out. This nation retains its singular position of preeminence in the world not because of its intrinsic greatness but because of the relative puniness of every other nation. This cannot last. We need great leadership. Unfortunately, since the duopoly parties will not cooperate, no one can effectively lead the nation. We might be tempted to give all the power to one party to break the deadlock — Americans seem determined not to accept a third party.
So, imagine both houses of Congress and the White House controlled by either today’s Republicans or Democrats. We would have leadership and movement in a particular direction all right, but it would not appeal to every American. Where would single-party dictatorship lead us? Who would benefit, the few or the many? Who would suffer, the few or the many?
We need shared power and diversity of thought in government because no one has all the answers. Because the universe is not static, no ideology is infallible. Compromise is not only necessary, it is wise. Those who reject compromise in favor of the certainty of their own beliefs will not provide the leadership that will benefit the common good, only their version of that good.