A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Humbly Repent of My Wayward Ways

Up until a couple of years ago, I was a big fan of divided government, that is, one political party in the White House and the other party in charge of Capitol Hill. But then something happened-- I caught a strange virus. I started to believe that having only one party in power might prove to be very productive for our government and, therefore, by extension the American people. So, we had six years of Republican rule in both the legislative branch and the executive branch of government. Now we currently have the Democrats in charge. In watching both parties going wild with total power in their hands, I write this post to publicly repent of my wayward ways. I have returned to the true faith of believing once again in divided government and the holy process known as gridlock.

The Founding Fathers of the country believed strongly in checks and balances because they knew that human beings, even decent ones, could not be trusted with too much power. The problem is those checks and balances are threatened and seem to basically disappear when there is a majority party with all the power and a minority party with none. The fox ends up watching the hen house.

When the Republicans were in charge they spent money (in the words of John McCain) "like drunken sailors." That, among other reasons, is why the American people booted them out of power. Of course, the Democrats, in what appears to be a game of "I can spend more money than you," are going to outdo the other party, which I did not think was possible.

But the problem is not only fiscal irresponsibility, I am disgusted with the under-handed and back-door tactics of both the Democrats and the Republicans. When the Republicans were running the show in Washington, the Republicans in the House effectively excluded the Democrats from the legislative process, refusing to allow Democratic amendments to bills to even come to the floor for a vote. After the Democrats won back the House in 2006, the new Speaker, Nancy Pelosi promised that the Democrats would not shut out the Republicans the way Republicans had done to Democrats. Of course, Speaker Pelosi has done the same thing. She has not allowed over 200 amendments offered by Republicans on health care reform even to be discussed and voted on. And then she has the nerve to refer to the Republicans as the party of "No," which is how the Republicans referred to the Democrats on Social Security reform after the 2004 election, even though they too had blocked any Democratic involvement as well. There is plenty of gall to go around in both parties.

And, of course, there is the smoke and mirrors that both parties play with future financial projections. The Bush Administration used ghost numbers to say that their spending when compared with the rate of growth in the economy would not add to the federal deficit. Yeah... right. And now President Obama and the Democrats are calling health care reform deficit neutral, citing the CBO (Congressional Budget Office), which unfortunately accepted the all elusive "we are going to cut costs by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare." That is simply another way of saying, "We are going to cut costs, though we have no idea how."

Moreover, some Democrats have been working on a separate bill behind close doors that will not cut payments to Medicare physicians, which will clearly take away any suggestion that health care reform is deficit neutral. They want to be able to pass this in a separate bill, so they can say that health care reform will not add to the deficit, even though this separate bill, which is still about health care, will. What amazes me is that politicians on both sides of the political aisle think that the American people are so stupid that they will actually accept such blatantly deceptive nonsense.

I believe there are good and decent people in both parties who want to do the right thing even though they may disagree with each other on what the right thing is. I also believe that both parties have scoundrels, but I won't name any names. The dilemma is that too much power has a corrupting influence and it seems when either party is exclusively in charge of Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue, things end up looking like the obscene political version of Girls Gone Wild. And I have not even talked about the continual flow of Democrats and Republicans that have ethics problems.

So, once again, from this day forward, I will embrace the belief that the best government is divided government. Such a government will hold both parties in check, keeping them from doing too much damage, and forcing them to work together, which will mean that both parties will get a little of what they want, and both parties will have to give up some of what they want. Both parties have some good ideas and both parties have terrible ones. Hopefully, if each party is keeping each other honest, since we cannot trust each party to keep themselves honest, mostly the good ideas from both sides will be passed into law, and nonsense will be left on the cutting room floor. If that happens, over time the biggest winners will be the American people.

Come 2012, I will be voting a split ticket, which won't be a problem for me since I have never been a straight party-line voter. Will I vote for President Obama or his Republican challenger in 2012? I am not yet sure. But whoever I vote for when it comes to President, I will vote for the other party in the congressional races. We simply cannot trust either side with unencumbered power.

I realize that some people reading this post will think I am presenting quite a cynical view of politics. I prefer to see it as the only realistic perspective on representative government.

"Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish" (Psalm 146:3-4; NRSV).

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian


Brad Call said...

I think your "cynicism" is well-founded. My only response to your comments is that you have a way-more-than-me faith in the voters. I think there ARE some good and decent people in both parties, but the good and decent ones often either remain silent or get shouted down by the shallow and unthinking ones. Oh, wait... now I think MY cynicism is showing.

Michael said...

I don't think it is cynical at all, Allan. Many feel exactly the same way. My practice has been for the past several elections to vote for no incumbent. It will not be until there is a substantial turnover in the Congress that members of Congress will finally understand whom they really work for. Whenever an incumbent is returned to office, it is partially an affirmation of what they've been doing (the other part is the inherent advantage of incumbency: name recognition).

It is said that Pelosi and Reid are both in political hot water back home, as well as a few other incumbent Democrats. While this might sound like a good thing, what will happen if they actually lose their seats and Republicans get a majority back is that Republicans will read it as a license to run roughshod over the Democrats, like the Democrats are doing now.

My opinion is that we truly get what we ask for. The really good and decent people would not subject themselves or their families to the kind of scrutiny that comes with a political campaign.

PamBG said...

I wonder if there would be any way that a multi-party system could work in the US?

Put me in the camp of wondering whether you were insufficiently cynical. Everything is corrupt, including the church. And yet we are called to hope. Wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Chuck Tackett said...

Hey Allan - Most politicians certainly do treat us voters as if we are stupid yet we continue to send nearly all of the same people back to Washington. I don't know if are stupid, or hopeful, or gullible, or whatever else you can think of. Americans seem to place a whole lot "faith" in the words of people.

I'm not talking about counting on a person's integrity but believing that if a person says or writes something, it must be true, particularly if that person holds some authority.

Obama says we all need to work together and he receives the Nobel Peace Prize without ever having to actually do anything. Rush Limbaugh says just about anything and the talk radio right goes biserk because if Rush says it, it must be true and those who disagree are lazy or socialists or elitists or any other tag we like to give people so we can disregard them.

As one comment noted above this is equally attributable to the Church. We talk a lot about Love and caring for our neighbors ... yet our actions often point to a different faith, a faith centered on "I" and my schedule and my...

We as Church is often a second or third thought and our acting together as community (not a denominational community but an actual community of Christ followers) is incredibly difficult.

Satan must really enjoy our antics. Do you think he is civil Allan? (couldn't resist, sorry)

Chuck Tackett said...

Sorry to rant so long bit I wanted to correct something I said.

It's not so much that we think that the words must be true. It's that we confuse talking with action.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree to a large extent. The problem is that we don't have politician who are willing to take the hit to do what is right, and what really needs to be done.

But there is the great divide on issues as well. And not too many Ted Kennedy's who are good on comromise. Which I tend to like to try to get things done.

I do think we need someone to take on the establishment and take the big hits to push through the health care legislation that is needed. Canada now celebrates the one who took the heat to get that done. I find the mess here in health care just a part of living in a sinful world, and complexities largely tangled in that.

Country Parson said...

If I had my druthers I'd prefer a parliamentary system that provides both single party leadership and ample opportunity for votes of no confidence as well as a functioning shadow cabinet. Failing that, I prefer to see the Democrats in power and the Republicans as the loyal opposition.

mw said...

You are forgiven my son. Welcome back to the Dividist fold.

For penance, say three Hail Madisons, and reread Federalist (Ambition must be made to counteract ambition...) #51.

Your post will be included in the Thanksgiving Edition of The Carnival of Divided Government