This week’s post is the first of occasional forays into the random thoughts and ideas that pop into my head while consuming political news. America’s political stratosphere is dominated by extreme partisanship, absurd ideas, bizarre theories and irresponsible behaviors. Most of the nonsense is not worthy of an entire blog, so from time-to-time Noshes and Nourishment will be my forum for sharing some of it with you.
Two Different Forces
I’ve been a practitioner or observer of politics for nearly 50 years. During my time, two radically different political forces have emerged: one of thoughtful people who are focused on common-good governing; and the other representing those who seek personal power and/or ideological purity.
Both factions have their share of conservatives and liberals. The majority of those in the governing coalition are Independents, Republicans and Democrats seeking to build a cross-party consensus when dealing with contentious issues. The power coalition, on the other hand, is dominated by the far right and the far left…people who see compromise as evil. To them, even a conversation with the “other side” is traitorous.
This is not a partisan observation, but a statement of how I see our present-day politics. You can find dozens of people––both Republicans and Democrats––who sincerely want to govern, and dozens from both parties who disregard the goal of governing if it interferes with their political ideology.
I support the thoughtful camp. They debate legislative proposals amidst substantive disagreements. Their goal is to refine the competing positions to a point where the pure political gold of consensus can be mined. Disputes and disagreements are often intense, but the goal is always to mine the gold.
Lacking Ideas, Republicans Resort to Lies and Conspiracies
The Republican Party today seems bereft of any ideas other than opposing President Joe Biden. If Biden is for something, they are against it. Congressional Republicans choose conspiracies and lies over facts when the facts undercut their message. Character assassination of fact-bearing experts becomes their weapon of choice.
Take the case of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Republican Senators Rand Paul, Roger Marshall, and Josh Hawley have attacked Fauci in public hearings. Senator Ted Cruz called him “The most dangerous bureaucrat in the history of the country.” Congresspersons Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan join Fox News and other conservative outlets in a relentless attack on him. Fox News commentator Jesse Watters called for conservatives to ambush Fauci “with the kill shot…Boom! He is dead. He is done.”
So, this well-respected scientist, whom former President George W. Bush called an American hero, has become a polarizing figure. His life has been threatened and his family harassed. What was this 81-year-old renowned scientist’s crime? He publicly disagreed with President Donald Trump when Trump spoke untruths and pushed bizarre theories about the reality and severity of the pandemic.
The fact is, Fauci opponents cannot tolerate a smart, honest and competent man who contradicts their lies and exposes their stupidity. What ideas have these opponents put on the table? Only one: Whatever Fauci says and whatever Biden proposes are wrong.
Miscellaneous Thoughts and Ideas
*Erin O’Toole, the ousted conservative leader in Canada said on his departure, “Ideology without power is vanity. Seeking power without ideology is hubris,”
*Mitch McConnell, the Republican Minority Leader of the Senate, labeled the Democrats’ proposed voting legislation “A power grab.” So, this is my question: Is it a power grab when Republican- controlled state legislatures pass laws limiting voting access, and propose legislation that would give Republican legislators the right to overturn elections?
*In my public policy days, one of my rules of political combat was to step into my legislative opponents’ shoes and try to understand what was motivating them when we were in disagreement. Did they think I was wrong and that they had a better idea? Or, was it because my position threatened their power? Or, was it simply because I was a Democrat and they were Republicans? My response should be tailored to meet their reason for opposition. This thought came to mind as I was pondering the Russian position on Ukraine.
I am not a fan of Vladimir Putin. I think he is a brutal thug who imprisons or assassinates his opponents and is a danger to the free world. But, if I climb into his shoes today, I can see a legitimate cause for his worry. The West––and particularly the United States––has troops and weapons stationed in former Soviet satellites. I am sure this feels like a threat. What do you think our response would be if Russia posted troops in Cuba, Mexico and Canada? I suspect we would react with defensive urgency.
America should be among the leaders in forging an international response to Russia’s Ukraine aggression. However, our plan of action should consider the perceived threat that the Russians feel, and not become an attempt to force the West’s will on them. That approach did not work well in Vietnam or in Afghanistan.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.