Monday, November 14, 2016

Is Our Political System Breaking?

There’s a lot of talk about our divided America.  We are polarized.  I suppose this should be nothing new to us considering that our national history includes a civil war.  Can’t get more divided than that, now can we.

Differences will always exist.  It’s how we manage or negotiate our way through our differences that counts.

We have always been a nation of immigrants—different people joining us from various regions of the world bringing along with them their unique heritage and cultural traditions.  Yet somehow we all become “Americanized” and identify ourselves as Americans.

So what is it about America that unites us as Americans?  And, whatever it is, are we in danger of losing it?

Is it our freedom, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  Or is it our covenant together?  As a people we have agreed to live by, and work with a social, political, and legal system that our constitution has created.  Yes, it is this constitutional system that unifies us, a diverse people located in various regions according to States, yet federally unified by constitutional law and order.

Sadly, there are signs that we may be in the process of breaking this covenant and losing our unifying power.  Example: the most dramatic and expressive sign that we are beginning to lose our core unifying factor—our constitutional covenant—is the refusal by Senate Republican representatives to hold confirmation hearings for president Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, just because it was an election year.

It didn’t matter who Obama nominated, what kind of character, person, or judge he was or would be or might have been; it was a political power move, pure and simple.  The Republicans wanted to nominate their own Republican version of a Supreme Court Justice to fill the empty seat and thus chose to lock out any and all nominee possibilities from President Obama, simply because Obama is a Democrat.

This is a naked abuse of power—pure political maneuvering, a manipulation of the process for pure political advantage.  The constitutional mandate setting the rules of the game, no longer applied.  This is the evidence that we are losing something very precious in America, the thing that unites us as a people—our constitutional covenant together.  Our politicians are no longer playing by the traditional and historical rules of the game—and they are breaking these traditional rules with bold and bald face arrogance about it.  This move alone sets a very, very bad precedent for future political “fights” down the road.

There is a dwindling sense of honor and respect for the guy on the other side of the aisle.  He or she is no longer “the enemy” in figurative terms, but is now becoming an actual enemy.  Gone is the attitude, “Okay, my honorable and respectable political opponent who is also my friend, you won this round, perhaps our side will do better next time around; congratulations on your victory.”

No, now the attitude is more something like this: “You, my political opponent, are my enemy and will never be my friend; as such I will do anything and everything I can to ensure your defeat, even if you win!!  Me and my party will not cooperate, we will not compromise, and we will not support or work with you in any fashion whatsoever; we will negate, neutralize, and obstruct anything you may attempt.  We denounce your party’s political cause(s)—even if it overlaps with our own cause or actually may help the American people as a whole.”

The damage is being done right before our very eyes.  The breaking of our covenant together, the refusal to respect constitutional mandates in favor of political expediency and gain (the extreme application of gerrymandering would be another example of this).

Thus, it is not just that Donald Trump won the election that gives his political opponents concern; it is what was said and done during the whole election season—one bad precedent after another.

It is what is happening to our political mechanism as a whole that is setting people’s teeth on edge.  There is a sense that something has broken or is in the process of breaking, within our political machinery.  The constitutional machinery is not running smoothly, the people feel a disconcerting vibration within it, as if something has cracked or as if a piece of it has snapped and is grinding down toward irreparable damage.  This, I believe, is at the heart of peoples’ dismay about the election.  They are jittery, nervous and upset, worried and concerned, fearful and angry because instinctively they feel something has cracked, and the American constitutional system itself is in danger of breaking apart.

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