The latest breakdown in talks between the Obama Administration and Speaker of the House John Boehner is yet one more clarion call to the rest of us that our elected leaders can't lead, and won't. When we have a succession of meetings on such critical issues, where the Majority Leader, President and Speaker all walk out of meetings like petulant children, it tells me that the job's too big for them, the problems too complex, and the inability to find common ground through compromise simply too overwhelming.
What we're getting now is promises not to talk with one another, vague "plans" that leave critically important decisions to the future while our problems continue to mount, and an abject failure by our "leaders" to actually do their jobs. This can't continue, and We The People shouldn't allow it to. It's supposed to be our government. While too many young Americans are bravely dying on the battlefields of the War on Terror, our elected officials are cowering in the corner afraid to lose their perk-heavy jobs in the next election.
Grover Norquist, agree with him or not, seems to have succeeded in herding much of the Republican Party with his "No New Taxes" pledge, hog-tying them to a position that does little actual good except for providing some good theater while they squirm upon realizing what they've allowed one unelected ideologue to manipulate them into doing in return for political contributions. Sadly, it's about all they've done lately, and it's hogwash. It's not going to solve our problems, and it may exacerbate them. Perversely, by signing his pledge, they've prevented a comprehensive, well thought out plan from being considered, in essence abdicating their sworn responsibilities while focusing on political expedience rather than what's good for the country.
What we need is a new, more meaningful pledge, but more about that in a minute.
One can claim, of course, that a vague and ill-defined plan is better than no plan at all, and that some sort of mealy mouthed compromise that pushes real decision making out until after the next election is a better outcome than total failure. And to some extent that's true. But the complexity of the problems we face does not create a situation where simple or delayed solutions can succeed in solving them. That our "leaders" let these problems build to the extent that they have only reinforces the reality that they are neither leaders, nor brave enough to step up and tackle the real problems this nation faces. They're not acting like leaders, they're acting like little boys playing imaginary firemen with a garden hose. And that is the nub of the problem we face in this country. Our politicians are more interested in positioning themselves for reelection than in doing what is right for the country.
Given responsible leadership in both parties, uncowed by a loud, unbending and numerically insignificant minority called the Tea Party, we might have a prayer of seeing serious men and women set aside political differences to truly tackle the issues which we face as a country. Sure, some compromise is better than others--that's just politics--but because our "leaders" seem to always begin from how can they protect this perk or that special interest program, or their own power rather than by asking "what's truly good for the nation," we'll probably always get sloppy joe legislation rather than a well-marbled piece of prime legislation worthy of its price. After all, isn't the real objective, as they see it, to get reelected again...and again...and again?
Sadly, the interests of the American People no longer align with the interests of their elected representatives. For Congress, the priority is to keep their positions, their pensions and their perks. For much of America, the priorities are to just GET a job, keep their homes, and put food on the table. What soup they're serving in the Senate dining room doesn't concern them.
We need a change, and I'm not talking revolution. It's simply time we realized, as a nation, that the goal of electoral survival inherently conflicts with the need to get a responsible deal done that looks like a serious and well-thought out piece of legislation. A good way to start would be for all Senators and Congresspersons to sign a pledge committing them to not running for reelection in the next cycle, and for once, to focus solely on truly doing the People's Work until their terms end. Agreeing to not run again for their offices would unfetter these quaking, timid soles from the perceived risk of actually losing the next election, and allow them to focus, for once, on doing what's right and good for the country, with no fear of political repercussions. We're at a dangerous economic crossroads in this country, and we need elected officials who behave just as seriously as the problems they're supposed to be solving.
The likelihood of that happening is probably zilch, but one can dream, and a movement can start here and now. Why not here? It would certainly be better than the nightmare we're being forced to endure every day. And if one man, Grover Norquist, can scare the bejeezus out of a bunch of electoral wannabes by getting them to, in fact, compromise their official oaths in favor of his own oath, imagine the fear of God that the American people could put into our Congresspeople by demanding that our elected officials show at least a fraction of the bravery of our young men and women who they so willingly send into war, and pay the penultimate, in this case, sacrifice--their jobs.