Probably the thing that has surprised me most after the election of President Obama is how large swaths of this country simply cannot accept the tenants of our representative democracy. Instead a large minority continue to demonize and mischaracterize the very progressive policies that people voted for even though conservative have failed America. We still hear after a president that doubled the debt, destroyed the economy and expanded imperialist America a large minority of people who still believe that the policies that caused those disasters where not to blame. In fact the day after the GOP takes back power someday they will repeat the same policies of Bush with more tax cuts, more deregulation and international interventionalism. Yet people will willingly follow the GOP into the abyss.
There are numerous components to the success of a president which automatically is related to the success of the nation. But two major reasons for success are policies and the attitudes of the people. Under Republican presidents we seem to have people willing to give them time to succeed. Reagan was three years into his presidency before a substantial recovery ensued. Well into 1982 the unemployment rate was almost 11%. However now people on both ends of the political spectrum are declaring Obama’s presidency a failure 8 months in for things changing too fast towards Socialism or not changing fast enough depending on you political slant.
The other major reason for success is policy. We have seen Republican policies fail no matter how much support they get from the people when they are implemented. A Democratic president has one year to implement their policies and then politics intervenes. No Democratic president since Carter has had a Democratic congress for more than 2 years. So with a Republican president you have the support of the people and terrible policies and with a Democratic president you have the right policies and tepid support from the people at best.
There are structural and political problems in our system as well that hinders any progress as a nation.
First and foremost the Constitution sets up a power structure where enforcement powers are far concentrated in the Executive Branch. We have seen over the centuries more and more power concentrate in the executive branch, especially powers associated with domestic and national security. The endless creation of enforcement agencies that occur after every major security threat is cutting the corners on our liberties from administration to administration.
Second, the Senate is build to resist any real change not only with it’s archaic 60 vote cloture rule that is abhorrently undemocratic but with it’s disproportionate makeup. It’s ridiculous for states like Nebraska, Alaska and Montana to have as much power as California, Texas or New York. That is the reason we have conservative rural states with conservative Democrats holding back healthcare legislation. When a gang of several people who represent less than the population of NYC are determining the healthcare legislation for the whole nation something is very wrong with our system.
Third, corporate person-hood that gives them all the rights of individuals like “free speech” which is only a term used to funnel corporate money into a corrupt campaign funding system. Until the notion of corporate person-hood is defeated the law will always support corporate sponsored government. That’s why McCain-Feingold is a failure and will probably be struck down in courts anyway. Corporate sponsorship of candidates is another reason that blocks viable third parties in our system today.
Fourth, no matter what Americans say we never want to sacrifice. Taxes need to be increased, especially the payroll tax ceiling. Otherwise Social Security and Medicare benefits must be cut. But raising taxes is political suicide in this country since the days of Reagan. Like usual even though all private healthcare premiums have gone up Congress in one of it’s bipartisan spineless acts has frozen premium increases so Medicare will be insolvent even sooner. So the Republican goal of starving the beast is still working.
Fundamental attitudes in this country need to change for real change to occur. Not just change during elections but after elections. Democratic leaders spurred on by progressives need more than one year to implement their policies. It took almost 30 years for Republicans to institute the policies that are destroying this nation and some Democrats have embraced conservative policies for personal political reasons. We need a few more election cycles to purge these conservative attitudes in congress. But while the right wing echo chamber plays on the progressive base feeds right into their hands due to inpatients with it’s leaders who will probably not get 30 months in power let alone 30 years. Nobody has all the answers but I certainly know deregulation, tax cuts and global interventionalism is not the answer.