Both Sides of America

And yet it’s only one that’s grinding us into the muck

It doesn’t matter, both sides are pretty much the same. Six in one hand, half dozen in the other. The parties so closely merged, both aligned with corporate interests at the expense of the people. Damn the workers, the planet, the teachers, the future. Whatever industrial complex is your thing, military or prison or medical or pharmaceutical, either one has it.

Bush or Gore? Gore or Bush? Nah, 2000 was the year of the statement. Standing on principles since both sides, we thought, were the same. In 2000, we were all voting for Nader, come hell or high water.

In 2018, these sentiments are still with us. And that’s a problem if we’re going to have an honest dialogue about the direction America is going. Because let’s face it, the idea that both sides are to blame for the current dysfunction of our politics is complete and utter bullshit. Today’s Republican party is THE reason we are stuck in this perpetual shitshow of nonsense on a daily fucking basis.

It’s all about the money
Political power is taken
Protecting the rich denying the poor
Yeah, they love to watch the war from the White House
And I wonder how can they sleep at night?
How can they sleep at night?
How did the cat get so fat?
How did the cat get so fat? 
How did the cat get so fat? 
How did the cat get so fat?

Perfect Government
NOFX, 1994

They’re all just a bunch of fat cats anyway, right?

Wrong.


George W. Bush surrounded himself with warhawks, like Republicans do. And after 9/11, they responded with the War on Terror that makes no sense, is still being felt, and solved nothing.

W. appointed people who had no government experience to crucial government agencies, like Republicans do. And after Hurricane Katrina, the government responded like they didn’t know they were contributing to untold pain and suffering.

And, of course, W. pushed an at-any-cost approach to the way we fight in war, like Republicans do. And after we captured some terrorists, and people who actually turned out to not be terrorists, we ended up torturing a bunch of them. Something I didn’t think America would ever do in the modern era, but there we were, torturing away.

Now there’s no way to know for certain how Al Gore would’ve led the country in a post-9/11 America. But he’s a Democrat. And Democrats emphasize diplomacy, appoint people that use government policy as a tool for progress, and try to uphold the tradition of the country not being okay with torture, which John McCain even agrees with. It would’ve been nice if Barack Obama would’ve made that more clear and not just wiped his hands of our past war crimes, but you know, the Dems, they ain’t perfect.

However, when it comes to American politics today, the reason it’s dysfunctional and endlessly frustrating is because one side is not at all serious about governing, and they haven’t been for awhile.

All politicians lie. Democrats do things that are wrong, stupid, and insanely frustrating. But simply responding to American politics by throwing up our hands and exasperatedly saying “both sides are bad” is an example of how poorly we Americans think about politics.

We need to recognize the shades of gray if we’re ever going to stop spinning our wheels in the muck.

All politicians want to win. And in that, both sides are the same. Republicans and Democrats want to win. But how those two sides play the game is different. That difference is a cold, calculated disregard to our founding core principle of liberty and justice for all. And a level of hypocrisy that is as obvious as it is hilarious. You only have to look at one of the biggest political showdowns of our generation.

On the Corner of Repeal and Republican

When Barack Obama tried to pass a health care plan that would cover more people in America, what he ultimately tried to pass was a Republican idea. He knew he had a mandate to run the country based on the 2008 election results, but not enough to do single payer. Instead, he thought he was acting in good faith and pushed forward a plan he assumed Republicans would support because it was a plan they had supported in the past. It was based on Governor Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan. A free market plan, without a government-run option. But one thing President Obama overlooked: Republicans never had any intention of working with him or any other Democrat when it comes to health care.

In the year and many months Obamacare was worked on, with all the hearings, all the testimony, all the speeches, all the effort to make concessions to Republicans, still not a one of those know-nothings supported it. Instead, they stalled and whined and attacked relentlessly. In the years since its passage, they have shouted “repeal” at every opportunity. They kept shouting all the way until they actually had the chance to repeal the law but instead, thankfully, Republicans were more interested in shouting rather than legislating.

Republicans loved being the party of NO during the time Obama was president. Which is a bummer for them now since they are the dog who caught the car. Now they have to govern.

In today’s debates, they even had the gall to say Obama rushed through health care to justify their reckless tax cut bill that’s full of errors and miscalculations. They said they can be fast, too. So cynical, so crass, so dishonest, so not serious about governing.

Grand Old Attack Dogs

Let’s put Republican attacks on health care aside for the moment, which is really hard to do being that the United States of America is the only first-world country who doesn’t provide health care to all its citizens.

But moving on, let’s look at where Republican attacks are the most blatant and the most devastating to our country having a functioning democracy in the modern age.

There are five. Consider them the five point palm exploding heart technique of the Republican party today.

Attack #1: Voting

There’s only one party in America who is actively trying to keep people from casting their ballot. People of color, people who are students, people who are— wait for it—Democrats.

Rather than trying to meet voters where they’re at and expand the base of their party, Republicans rely on voter suppression as a matter of standard practice. A bread and butter strategy. And it’s had real-world implications for how our elections play out and how we’re governed.

Just look at poor-old Wisconsin, where a voter ID law suppressed 200,000 votes in 2016, a state that went Republican by 22,748 votes. Without voter suppression, that state most likely would’ve gone to the Democrat.

Looking at the entire country, it really stings that 54 percent of the vote wins Democrats only 47 percent of the seats in the House of Represetatives. And Republicans wonder why Democrats get so pissed when they lose. It’s not because Republicans are winning on the merits of their policy proposals; it’s because they are rigging the system.

Closing polling places, eliminating same-day voter registration, shortening timeframes for early voting, crazy anti-democratic gerrymandering, gobs of dark money; all voter suppression gymnastics brought to you by the Republican party. Why?

Because if you can’t vote, nothing else matters.

The elephants in the chamber have this voter suppression stuff down. The donkeys assumed no one would so ruthlessly attack people’s right to vote in this day and age. We were so wrong about that.

Attack #2: Science

There’s only one party in America who has a standard, full-throated denunciation of anyone who is seen as having expert knowledge.

Scientists, doctors, intellectuals, journalists, researchers; whoever comes bearing expertise on any number of topics is cast aside as being an “elite” and that is enough to hush him or her up while energizing the base of enthusiastic Republican voters who prefer people make decisions from the gut. Or by talking to God.

The science is in, the reality is happening. Climate change is coming for all of us in the form of deadly heat waves, disease-carrying mosquitoes, raging wild fires, wretched droughts, vulgar downpours, and whatever other adjective-plus-noun you can put together that describes a climate hopped up on too much carbon.

But it’s not just the science of climate. It’s the constant hoopla propping up the economics of trickle down, that doesn’t work. Or the wishful thinking of abstinence-only education, that doesn’t work. Or the very sinister belief that torture provides much-needed intelligence just in the nick of time before a bomb is detonated in the middle of a bustling city, which is completely untrue.

In an educated society that values free-thinking and open-mindedness, which I was always under the assumption America was, you should be able to bring expertise to a debate and that would be enough. But it’s not, and that’s mostly because one party is completely biased against expertise. This should be cause for major alarm when we think about how we’re going to solve our many problems.

And if you thought knowledge and expertise were under assault, just wait until you get a load of this next four-letter word.

Attack #3: Truth

There’s only one party in America who attacks the idea of a shared reality on a daily basis. The current commander in chief indulges in roughly 6.5 lies a day, more than 3,000 since taking office. And that’s just counting until May 1, 2018.

The right can’t even be bothered to invest in actual reporting. It seems like rather than uncover the truth, the Republican media ecosystem would prefer to be a talking head. Consumed by commentary, essays, pontificating, and being generally suspicious of legitimate news gathering institutions. Doing real journalism? Not so much.

That right wing media ecosystem is one Republican politicians reference to justify approaches to policy bordering on conspiracy theory. Even though there was no wrongdoing in Benghazi, Republicans still want to investigate it.

Fox News is Republican propaganda and Breitbart is Republican conspiracy. Lying and fear-mongering with the sole goal of keeping Republicans in power. Whenever I check in on Steve, Brian, and Ainsley, they are doing their very best to craft a completely siloed sense of reality. One where what is actually true does not matter.

Alternative facts. Post-truth. Fake news. What is happening right now? It’s a battle for the soul of America. If we can’t agree on what’s true, then we can’t pass laws, enforce laws, or decide on how best to intermingle those laws with the daily lives of the American citizen.

Attack #4: Culture

There’s only one party in America that refuses to do anything when it comes to gun control. Or that says love doesn’t apply to all kinds of love. Or that says human rights don’t apply to all kinds of people. Or that says women shouldn’t have control over their own bodies. And there is only one party that appears to allow men guilty of sexual harassment or assault to remain in their ranks.

A diverse, empowered culture is full of many different kinds of people who are free to love who they want to love, work where they want to work, and live how they want to live. Ya know, freedom.

And they should be able to send their kids to school and know the government and the culture at large values the lives of those kids more than the power-trip a person gets by blasting off a few rounds of ammo. It’s neat for sure, blasting off that ammo, but having kids come home from school alive should be decidedly more important to a culture that actually cares about every American and not just the white ones they know personally.

It’s also very surprising to see a powerful political party so afraid of creative, free thinking. But that’s really what we have. A party that’s afraid of what’s on the TV, on the radio, or in the sports stadiums across America. Afraid of comedians, rappers, and football players.

Or in the hallways of colleges, where conservatives fight to keep from being silenced by fighting to silence liberals. According to college Republicans and the mega-donors who fund them, conservatives are under attack on campuses everywhere. The only thing to do is stage media stunts that get picked up on rightwing media that make their way to Republican officials who can use their elected offices to make policy that puts liberals in their place. Where that place is, I’m not entirely sure. It’s most likely not anywhere in America.

Sarcastic tone: there is just no place in America for Republicans to go these days without having their power threatened.

That’s a good thing. They can’t even pass a farm bill because it isn’t tough enough on immigrants. Truly callous people. As leaders of a pluralistic society, they’re absolutely failing.

Attack #5: The Future

And there’s only one party in America that insists on going backward. Only one that seems suspicious of the current state of the country and really scared of what I would say is our natural progression: more equity, more diversity, more shared community.

The party that insists on building walls eventually finds itself unable to see the sun. The party that insists on government being the problem eventually finds itself unable to use the fire department to put out an unexpected fire. The party that insists on its party always, and I mean always, being the victim will cease to be relevant and constantly be the punchline of a boy-who-cried-wolf joke.

For America to have a future, we need both sides to be relevant. I’m afraid we’ve crossed into a present day where that isn’t the case.

The current Republican leader of the Environmental Protection Agency refuses to protect the environment. And he is corrupt. The current Republican leader of defending public lands seems hell bent on destroying public lands. And he is corrupt. The current Republican leader of housing for poor people doesn’t want poor people to have housing. And he is corrupt. The previous Republican leader of the of health and human services wanted to take health care away from humans. And he was corrupt. And of course there is the current president and his family of crony-capitalists. Are the decisions he makes to benefit America or his family? Very hard to tell.

Is the future one where corruption and winning at all costs rules the day? One where you can, if you’re a Republican, work with a foreign oligarch to manipulate an election, lie about it when you get caught, and reap the benefits of nothing happening because truth doesn’t matter anymore? (See Attack #3.)

Is the only thing to qualify a Republican to be a leader in their party a vile disdain for leadership? Is the idea of a pluralist society of many different kinds of people so hard to stomach?

Get unfavorable media coverage? Then just say it’s fake news. Gonna lose an election? Then just cheat. Can’t appeal to more voters? Then just keep them from voting. (See Attack #1.)

And on and on it goes.

All this dismantling of the core tasks of government doesn’t look good for the future, not to mention all the corruption that comes with it. What exactly do we get when Republican politicians make out like bandits and the people are left with nothing but a hollow shell for our body politic? If something doesn’t change, odds are good we’ll soon find out.


What America Needs

All of this matters because America needs to look forward if it truly wants to be great. It needs to embrace change because that’s how anything is able to evolve and stand the test of time.

America needs a sustainable, clean energy future so we all don’t choke on our own dirty sludge. But we can’t because one side insists global warming is a hoax.

We need a robust, modern democracy so our society can work for as many people as possible. But we can’t because one side is fighting to keep marginalized groups from voting.

We need to provide health care for all our citizens so everyone can live a healthy life to its fullest potential and not end up bankrupt. But we can’t because one side refuses to do anything with health care that involves the biggest player: the United States government.

We need a culture that puts people’s lives above gun rights. We need to establish full gender equality and close all the gaps that need closing: wage, opportunity, achievement, etc. And to do all that we need to have a real discussion with the many, many voices in America. This requires having at least two (maybe more) political parties in our government who are serious about governing in present-day reality.

We most certainly do not need some made-up fantasy-land where elected officials claim falsely that the government is coming for your guns, immigrants are flooding across the border, Muslims want to put you under Sharia law, and millions of people are voting for Democrats illegally.

All that is nonsense, and that’s all there is to it.

America doesn’t need a better deal or a strongman leader. We need to learn how to have an honest conversation that leads to an effective course of action within the framework of a fully functioning governmental body: Congress.

Otherwise, we’re going to remain stuck in the muck for a very, very long time.