Purposeful division, repetition of rhetoric, obstinance, and the constant stream of red herrings has brought meaningful policy development to a grinding halt. It’s clear that the modern right sees political gridlock as the most powerful means of combatting public enemy number one, our government. "No" has become the only answer, which when combined with the tidal wave of rhetoric and indoctrination from right-wing media, enacting meaningful policy is all but impossible.
But the problem goes beyond tone. The problem goes beyond lies and half truths for political gains. The modern GOP plays the game outside of the rules. For example, they invoke the filibuster not just more than ever before in history, but much much more. Since the onslaught of the fine tuned machine that is the modern right, we have had two democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Both administrations have suffered under the weight of non-issues that consume the media and their presidency. The right isn’t fighting against policy, they aren’t arguing against a position, they are deliberately and methodically undermining sitting presidents with verifiable lies and fabricated scandal. For President Obama it’s the birthers, and those who believe he is a muslim, a terrorist sympathizer, a socialist. This is not the game of politics it's purposeful distraction. The left has come to the rough and tumble game of politics with their helmets strapped on, ready to play, and the right takes the field with tanks and bombs and guns. We’re playing different games.
As a result, policy suffers. More times than not we engage in their conversation and never get around to having ours. We debate what isn’t and never engage in what is. We present, and represent the birth certificate while tax cuts and bad policy drive the deficit higher and higher.
If ever we do manage to have a discussion on policy, on an issue, we often fail to get to the root of the problem. Our 24 hour news cycle tends to focus on the politics. We don’t talk about the rising costs of healthcare, we talk about death panels. We don’t talk about the evidence that there are no weapons of mass destruction, that there are no ties to Al Quaida, we play “axis of evil” quotes on a 24 hour loop.
Solving problems is difficult, particularly when the problems are large. Solving problems without understanding or acknowledging their origins is nearly impossible. Ignoring the source of the problem leads to a national amnesia that perpetuates the problem. The deficit must be solved and if we are to believe the midterm elections of 2010, the republicans are the ones to solve it. But if we were to stop for just a moment to consider the deficit’s origins, we might recall that the cause of this problem is largely republican policy. But we don't pause, we don't consider, we are hurried along by the rhetorical machine of right wing media.
The right will engage in the most foul and underhanded politics to undermine any legitimate conversation. But if ever the origin of a problem is diagnosed or illustrated then the left is playing politics. The problems now are the problems of those in office, they simply can’t be related to any prior policy or any prior administration. Problems don't have origins, but they do have current officeholders to bear the blame.
With such rancor in the debate, with such beyond the pale engagement in partisanship, conversations on the issues are hard to come by. Solutions even more so. We have known about the problems of the rising cost of healthcare for decades but have remained paralyzed. We have known about global climate change for decades but have remained paralyzed. We have known that the baby boomers would eventually retire for decades yet we failed to prepare. We know about so many things, but knowledge is pushed farther and farther away from government by rhetoric and hyper-partisanship.
Merriam-Webster says that policy is “prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs” it is “a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions.” As a nation we have come to display so little prudence or wisdom in managing our affairs. As a nation we don’t discuss alternatives or shed light on given conditions, we fail to truly consider the present or the future. Instead we manufacture pseudo-science to deny problems that could cost us more than we can even estimate. We proclaim our exceptionalism while denying honest criticism that might improve our nation making it truly exceptional now and into the future.
I get politics. I understand it’s a dirty business. But at some point love of country, some sense of right and wrong, some sense of morality must compel our officials to shift their focus to policy. If they won’t, what will it take for us to shift our focus away from partisan politicians to those who would engage in policy?
The modern right baits the trap and the left walks straight in to refute the lies. Can’t we just walk another direction, away from the lies and towards things of value and benefit? How long will we reward the spoiled children of the right before we set them in the corner to contemplate their behavior? So long as the left engages with the purposeful ignorance on the right how can the true conservatives find a place for their voices? The idle days of rhetoric and politics have passed us by. We must stop talking about being exceptional and actually manifest as the exceptional nation we must be. We no longer have the luxury of taking "no" for an answer. With all that we face how can we choose to do nothing? Our problems are real and they demand that we make the right policy decisions apart from the din of political absurdity.