Editor’s Note: This article was inspired by the disgust I felt with a Congress that had, at the time of its writing, a 17% approval rating, and didn’t even deserve that much approval.
In 2011, America witnessed the failure of democracy. There was a time when we could make fun of the Italians, who changed governments like Mitt Romney changes positions, and feel superior about the economic woes of the socialists in the European Union, but, nowadays, our government makes France look efficient, and we’re nearly as bankrupt as Greece.
The deficit-reduction Super Committee fiasco has made it obvious that both parties care more about ideology than fiscal responsibility or sanity, and have chosen partisanship over patriotism. We’re in a lifeboat lost at sea, the drinking water’s running out and those to whom we’ve handed the oars are fanatical about rowing in opposite directions simultaneously. If our elected representatives were Japanese, they’d fall on their swords.
America is so evenly split between Democrats and Republicans that Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was called a “landslide,” even though he’d captured only 53% of the vote. Democracies are supposed to serve the whole country, not just the ideologically pure at the fringes, but both parties now act as if their 50% gives them a clear mandate for uncompromising extremism.
In the interests of full disclosure, I’m a Democrat. Just as I never expect anything good to follow the phrase “Islamic fundamentalist,” I’m sick to death of hearing about “Christian conservatives,” “social conservatives” or any other kind of conservatives for that matter.
I can’t respect newly born-again fiscal conservatives who claimed deficits didn’t matter when they were being run up by presidents named Bush or Reagan. Nor can I take seriously calls for debt reduction from Republican “deficit hawks” intransigently opposed to anything that increases revenue. The idea that returning to the tax rates of the prosperous Clinton 1990s would be tantamount to class warfare against the wealthy makes me wonder what right-wingers have against the rest of us.
However, the two previous paragraphs epitomize the sort of partisanship — when combined with equal and opposite reactions from the Right — that makes responsible governing impossible. So, from here on in, I’ll forgo my leftish bias to offer a modest proposal: Throw the bums out!
And, by bums, I don’t mean Republicans or Democrats. I mean incumbents — all 435 congressmen, every senator up for re-election in 2012 and the entire executive branch. For what these people have done to our future, we should throw out the baby, along with the filthy bath water they floated in on. They’ve earned unemployment, unlike the millions of Americans who’ve been thrown out of work, due, at least in part, to the miserable job performance of our politicians.
Don’t vote the party line in 2012; enforce term limits by voting against all incumbents. And, if you’re voting for an open seat, vote against the party that previously held that seat. This would mean many conservative districts would elect liberals, and liberals would be electing conservatives, but at least these new public servants would be on notice that their jobs are extremely tenuous. With Congress’s approval rating stuck somewhere between that of herpes and toenail fungus, conservatives would enjoy seeing the last of Nancy Pelosi, just as liberals would revel at never hearing Michelle Bachmann’s voice again.
Senators not up for re-election could provide some needed experience, but could hardly be complacent about their chances in 2014 or 2016. Only a right-wing fanatic would lament the departure of a hypocrite like David Vitter, who claimed Bill Clinton’s adultery made him too immoral to be president, before the married senator showed up in a DC madam’s address book. He’d be missed almost as little as the self-loathing GOP homophobe from Idaho who was arrested for solicitation in an airport men’s room.
And fair-minded liberals should be relieved at the exit of ethically challenged Democrats, such as Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, just as many of us are now enjoying the resignation of Barney Frank, whose boyfriend once operated a male prostitution ring out of the congressman’s office.
And isn’t it time we had a presidential candidate who appeals to the majority of moderates in the sensible middle, rather than wins primaries by appealing to “the base,” which is politico jargon for extremist? We could really use a third party in 2012.
The Democratic incumbent has few successes to point to, and the Republican hopefuls promise more purist right-wing extremism, so how about a chance to vote for that rarest of moderates, the Rockefeller Republican? It’s not too late to draft a potentially self-financed, third-party candidate like Michael Bloomberg. New York’s mayor has already been both a Democrat and a Republican, and he’s admirably performed what’s often called “the toughest job in the world,” so he’s now an experienced independent who could appeal to voters in the heretofore-ignored pragmatic middle.
Back in the 50s, our parents were offered centrist candidates like General Eisenhower. So it might be nice to have someone like Colin Powell as Bloomberg’s running mate, to lend some foreign policy heft to the ticket.
With a new Congress and president, the American majority in the nonideological center might feel they finally have some say in their own government. At the same time, the bases in both parties would be unhappy. And maybe that’s what’s needed to put this country back on track — dissatisfied extremists.
Click here to return to the Mark Drought home page.