The United States and likely other countries as well will suffer unnecessarily for many years to come because of the 15-year legislative stall caused by a small number of far right conservatives in the Republican Party. Mariner includes specifically the republican leadership across the terms of two Presidents, republicans who were afraid of losing their incumbency (Boehner finally ended his own). However, across both parties and both houses of Congress, as a third of the US Federal Government, there is an absence of statesmanship. Outside the dysfunctional government, the extremely wealthy have had fifteen years to diminish democracy, leaving a sense of helplessness in the lives of citizens. Then Citizens United became the keystone for plutocracy and complete oligarchy handed to the wealthy on a plate of jurisprudence by the Supreme Court – another third of the US government.
To this group of ‘leaders’ we have entrusted our society, our lives, and sadly, a future of unpreparedness as planetary and cultural change looms like a Japanese tsunami. Years ago, we were aware that we were experiencing oddities of behavior in Federal and state governments, in business, in stagnant salaries. We sensed signs of change; life seemed not as much fun for most of us; satisfaction with life had too many disruptions.
Still, too many Congressmen denied scientific indicators; too many Congressmen did not want financially comfortable situations to change; too many Congressmen had no foresight that we were quickly moving into a new cultural and economic era. Have we a plan? Has the world a plan? What does this change look like?
During the administration of George H.W. Bush, the Saudi Princes visited the President at the Whitehouse. Thoroughly covered by the press, arrival reminded one of a family reunion; the President held hands with the King of Saudi Arabia. More precisely, it was a bunch of folks heavily invested in oil. Shortly afterward, in 1991, with little dissent from Congress, the US engaged in an open military suppression of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The US already was engaged in limited conflict with Saddam, an incursion that pitted most of Iraq against Shia Muslims. The US was now irrevocably involved in a religious war whose combatants on both sides also wanted to be rid of Israel – another US gesture in 1947 that made Jewish-Muslim conflict permanent. History has shown over and over that religious wars and civil wars are nasty and vicious. But the US, for whatever reason, voted to touch the tar baby. In the end, the tar baby turns out to be ISIS and indirectly a latent war between the US and the Middle East.
Nevertheless, in the tradition of Western meddling since Constantine, for the next fifteen years the US and its western allies continued in grand style to disrupt endemic, parochial activity in the Middle East that, if left alone, would be a horrible war but one that would have unblocked cultural advancement that still has not happened because of the West’s meddling – for 250 years. The result of Bush’s Presidency in America was large deficit spending on several wars, a faltering economy and increasing crime.
In Bill Clinton’s administration, Congress collaborated with Bill and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to overturn Glass/Steagall. This allowed the investment banks to have access to savings accounts and to insure the banks’ losses through insurance subsidiaries – the very thing that caused the Great Depression. It was a grotesque windfall of profits for early investors, including most of Congress, but greed eventually caused the 2008 recession when banks could not cover the trillion dollar debt from high risk investments. Dodd-Frank, a bill proposed by President Obama in 2009, plugged the gap but Congress was split on the constraining legislation. The net result of the recession was deepening US debt, further disruption of society, and a working class stripped of the few assets they had.
Then came Citizens United. The amount of money contributed to democratic elections had no limit. A new category called Political Action Committees opened sacrosanct democratic voting to plutocratic control.
It will take more than a new President to steer the ship of state in the right direction – it will take a new Congress and a new Supreme Court.
There was a time when Congress worked. The attitude of Congressmen was to fix the most glaring cracks among the entire polity both conservative and liberal. Both houses of Congress had a collegial tone; decisions were not locked tightly in a few House and Senate leaders; tit-for-tat was de rigueur. Remember names like Fulbright, Inouye, Dirksen, Stevenson, Bayh, Dole, Margaret Chase Smith…. and many more. They were of their time. They knew the nuances of their culture. Undue lobbyism had not set in. Significant financing and political support still were found at home in their own states.
Times have changed. The term “establishment” in the 2016 elections represents Congressmen whose tenure reflects a past age, or who have been prejudiced too much by lobbyists, who spend all their time raising money for expensive campaigns instead of working on the most glaring cracks of the polity. Many Congressmen grew up before computers were common; many more grew up before the Internet, before wi-fi, before 4GL and social networks. They may know about the devices and services but they have no idea how the last two generations have changed the culture.
You, the reader, must give serious consideration to who your next Congressmen will be – even if they’re comfortable old shoes. Is there someone on the ballot that has the wherewithal to manage today’s world and today’s culture?
Congressmen consider their term to be a life’s career. 98% of Congressmen will return to office. Many things cause this: elections are too expensive; gerrymandering restricts candidates; hometown rules protect the incumbent; Citizens United has poisoned voter influence. Nevertheless, the reader can pick the candidate that best fits today’s very different culture.
The US needs a new Congress, not just a new President.