Now that the esteemed Senator Ted Kennedy has been laid to rest next to his brothers in Arlington Cemetery, I feel compelled to comment on why I see his legacy as a reflection of what is most wrong with our political environment here in the United States of America.
Ostensibly a representative republic, We The People exercise very little control over who we send to Washington DC and seem oddly reluctant to bring in new blood to help move the country in more innovative directions. For much of our nation’s history, we had a steady turnover in Congress due to a large number of voluntary departures. As soon as it became clear that these clowns weren’t leaving of their own accord, it was our duty, and actually a protected right for every American as of 1964, to turn these folks out if they failed to live up to their oath of office. Yet for the last forty years, the average turnout for presidential general elections has been under 60 percent, and the turnout for primaries barely registers on the scale of influence.
This is how we created the government we have instead of the government we need.
As much as the Lion of the Senate actually did in his long and distinguished career, none of which I dispute was largely beneficial to the country in general, the journey itself seems mostly marked by a long and undistinguished series of failures to accomplish his stated goals due to a rigid set of partisan blinders as well as an almost willful inability to see beyond his party to do what was right for his country.
Ted’s time to head into the sunset was in the mid 1970s, after he decided to not run for president and long before he took a sitting president to the convention, thus ensuring the election of Ronald Reagan and all the crazy shit that followed. Ted’s partisan disregard for Jimmy Carter is largely responsible for our current state of affairs. I can already imagine the flaming that last sentence will bring to the blog, but I stand by that assessment and would apply it to every member of Congress, in both major parties, over the last forty years who kept their seat by maintaining the fiction of representative government. They played the game they always have in order to be reelected, sacrificing their morals and ethics as much as necessary depending on the individual member and/or issue.
A shell game at best.
The reflective desire on the part of the democratic faithful to canonize Kennedy, both while alive and after he died, is another symptom of our political disease. The republicans did the same thing with Ronald Reagan and an assorted crew of mediocre deities. In both cases, the action simply confirmed the opinions of each party toward the lack of sanity and reason of behalf of their political rivals. How could anyone with half a brain cell possibly think so highly of that SOB!? is the cry from the fringes of each party and has just enough truth for the moderates of both to ensure our partisan divide continues to widen while our country goes down the shitter.
On the flip side of the sainthood coin is the need to vilify each and every political adversary to point of caricature. Sarah Palin cast as the conservative witch that all good liberals must cast on the bonfire is a perfect example of that trend. No matter how many republicans on this site disavow her more inflammatory comments, the idea that they think she is the messiah of the republican party is a democratic prejudice that won’t go away. Every critique of the republican party is couched in the idea that EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN believes that Bush was the Second Coming and would usher in an era of the Christian States of America.
So what can we do about it?
That remains the challenge of the next generation. How can we fix our broken political system to actually deliver the return on investment in government that our tax dollars represent and our outcomes rarely reflect? I think it is incumbent upon the moderates of both parties, as well as the sensible independents that defected from both over the years, to meet every single fringe posting from their side with facts and shame.
It can only be done by the grassroots moderates of each party, because the fringe won’t listen to anything that comes from the opposing party. I have been at TPM since April of 2008, over a year of which I have been a registered republican, and have been able to make very few inroads with the Looking Glass Left despite the basic similarity of my positions as a former member of their clan. Mostly it seems they are pissed because I gave them such a jaunty name. Something with the same panache as the Rapture Right. Labels can be helpful in defining the fringe, but when we try to apply them to the majority, the process falls apart.
Which brings us to the most nefarious part of our journey today, the ever-expanding wardrobe of the Corporate Media Complex.
I have posted clips from the movie Network repeatedly. I would do so again here as being entirely appropriate, but for some people embedded video clips makes it impossible to see the rest of the post. A film that was an award-winner in 1976 may seem an odd place to find parables to today’s environment, but the simple fact is that we have known about this fantasy we have created for more than 30 years now. It has gotten worse almost in direct proportion to everything else that is fucked up today. Small, disconnected policy decisions made during a time of national crisis have been maintained in the absence of any credible evidence to suggest they should be maintained.
Further, both parties have spent us into bankruptcy based on mistaken interpretations of the actual threats we faced as well as the solutions we should implement to meet those challenges, real or imagined. Be it terrorism or communism or fascism or whatever-the-fuckism, Americans have been played the fool since at least the end of World War II, and most likely since the very beginning of the country as a group of enlightened aristocrats sought to carve off the most profitable piece of a well-established empire to call their own.
This is yet another one of those blogs that I have no idea how to end. The problem is much too big for my mediocre skills. I hope to spark comments, both pro and con alike, as well as any recommendations that seem fit to the occasion. Beyond that, I usually feel much more powerless to affect anything resembling real change absent some sort of divine intervention I don’t really believe exists outside of our own ability to evolve beyond our limitations.