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The Virtues of Compromise

The Webster Retort, Nov. 17, 2006
By Stephen Webster

The Virtues of Compromise

Okay Democrats. You won. Big time. I will admit to being somewhat pleased about this, even though I have about as much use for party politics as I do string cheese. I was in the “Anyone but the Fascists” camp, right along with the large majority of America. So clap yourselves on the back. Throw a victory party. Pop the top on an expensive beer. You deserve it.

But for the Love of Future Elections, do not make the same mistakes as your counterparts.

Let’s make no bones about it: this mid-term election was a referendum on the Republican Party. As corrupt, arrogant and dangerous their form of governance had become, it was not a brand of evil too unfamiliar to the American public. For a moment, let us remember 1993.

Just before the GOP’s “Contract with America” (which they quickly discarded), Democratic leadership was just as bad. A long period of time in control of the Federal government lends its self to this downward spiral we witnessed within the Right. And in 1993, it was just as ugly.

Thought the perversions of Mark Foley, the GOP’s top pedophile, were pretty absurd? Don’t forget about Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts. He paid a male prostitute for “favors” and got so sucked into the relationship that he began using his Washington D.C. apartment for sexual misdeeds. He eventually went so far as to hire this “gentleman” as his personal assistant in Congress. Now, there is nothing wrong with that except that prostitution is against the law. Should a member of the citizenry be caught up in such a thing, the law would step in. But Congressman Frank? Efforts to expel him from Congress failed. The Democratic majority couldn’t even muster up a slap on the hand by way of a censure.

Thought the corruption of Republicans Bob Ney or Duke Cunningham was bad? You’re right. And they are just as guilty as Democrats Robert Torricelli or Daniel Rostenkowski. Torricelli resigned less than a month before the election because of controversy over gifts he accepted. Rostenkowski, a Democrat from Illinois, was indicted on 17 felony charges. He served 17 months in federal prison for misuse of public funds.

How about Albert Bustamante? The Good ‘ole Boy Democrat from Texas was convicted in 1993 for racketeering and bribery. Mobster charges. Sounding familiar? There’s a thousand others on both sides of The Great Divide.

The point is, no matter which major party you chose to stick with, any time we give absolute control to one “allied” group of individuals, it will be abused. This is why we have a system of checks and balances. True, Bush and his cronies and all their merry men made a hard push to completely topple those checks, using a state of war to justify their attempts at tyranny at home. And given, the American political system only has two major parties, thereby giving many voters only two viable choices. So, the outcome of the elections should not have been unexpected.

Let’s be real for a moment.

If you think the Democratic majority will do anything to help Middle America, you might be right, for a little while anyway. They will throw out a token minimum wage increase, offer a little Federal help for college tuition, and maybe even succeed in shifting the tax burden back upon those who can afford it. That would be nice. That would be a good start. But there is so much more.

Here’s my ten cents on what else needs to happen.

Everyone: Let’s make future Federal elections public property. Yes, you read right. Let’s smash the power of money. With a public elections system, a guy with some good ideas who makes $30 thousand a year can compete on even footing with a guy with equally good ideas who makes $500 million a year. There is a large-and-growing group of politically minded individuals who are running a campaign called “Just Six Dollars”. They estimate that $6 would be the cost per-person if America were to do this. You can check them out online at www.just6dollars.com. I think it would be the first truly significant step we can take as a nation to take power from the rich and return the power to the people.

Oh, and another thing: let’s put term limits on the House and Senate. Curmudgeons are curmudgeons. If we get stuck with a few, at least we only have to tolerate them for a short while.

Dissidents: Let’s work on boosting up our third parties. Face it: we’ve been stuck with the Republicans and Democrats for a while. They’re not going anywhere for a while longer. But if you are like many Americans, you feel as though partisan politics has become a major impediment to actually getting anything positive accomplished. It destroys attempts at cooperation. It hinders open debate. It is a disease, and the Greens, the Libertarians, the Independents and the Centrists are the cure.

If you’re on the fringes of either party, recognize: they do not support you. Go further out. Be a free thinker. Stop following a party line. See the big, undreamed-of things that author Kurt Vonnegut saw from the fringe. You will be on the leading edge of progress, and others will join you. Instead of being an unrepresented angry sect, you could claim your own and work toward shared ideals.

If you are a moderate like most of us, check out the American Centrist Party. It was started just recently by a very smart guy named John P. Reisman. You can read more about them at www.uscentrist.org. Imagine it: as both major parties bicker over their positions, the Centrists come together and put forward a compromise. Six dollars (nudge-nudge) says most people will appreciate the middle ground.

Liberals: STOP BEING SO REACTIONARY! I know, there’s just so much to react to, and yes, America would be a better place if men like George Bush and Tom DeLay were regularly frog-marched into the streets of Capitol Hill and publicly humiliated. Perhaps even pelted with various foods and/or hair products. But until the people reclaim their government, that will not happen. Work on positive communication, otherwise you will succeed in turning more people off to what is a genuinely good-natured political philosophy with more room than even the Biggest of Tents.

Conservatives: Keep it close to the pocketbook. This is your strong suite. I am a fiscal conservative. Most people are. We spend what we have and avoid debt where possible. Unfortunately, this has not been the ideals of recently elected leaders. Be on guard for RINO’s, and make a stink about borrow and spend types. They are no better than those who would frivolously raise taxes. And keep an eye out for the American Pharacies who pray on the street corner for all to see. Their words are as empty as their souls, and their politics are those of maintaining power, not reflecting your morals. The outgoing Congress used you and disregarded their promises. It was a farce and an insult. Don’t feel bad, though. Your friends on the other side of the line have been duped before as well. It is the nature of power, and we have all been deceived.

The new guard may be a little bit of a fresh start, but if we as a public are to keep this beast we know as Congress in check, our work begins today. There is a way to break the partisan fever, and we must work together if that is to be accomplished. We’ll call it the New American Revolution, where ultimately Republicans and Democrats are no more, and people come together for civil debate over issues, not ideology.

After all, if Mark Twain ever dispensed wisdom, and most would agree that he did, one of his most poignant and ever-true phrases is inexorably tied to those we choose to represent us.

“There is no native criminal class except Congress,” he said.

If you’re laughing, then you’re with me. Let’s roll up our sleeves, suck up our pride, and get to the compromising. Your kids will thank you for it.

And, I should add, all of the above having been read and understood by my friends and readers, I still think we should Impeach George W. Bush for his assault on our Constitution. But that is another day and another column.

Mahalo.

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