Political Spines of Steel
Earlier, in his guest column, Don’t Blame The Republicans For Having Principles, Dalitso Njolinjo raised some interesting points about the difference between obstructionism and principle in the political arena. Upon reading one of his conclusions, though, I found myself a bit too cynical to get on board.
“In the end, isn’t that what we want from our politicians, to have the steel spine and have the courage to stick with their beliefs and principles, especially if the wind is against them?”
In some theoretical, fantasy America which only exists in our minds any more, I suppose that’s exactly what we want. Sadly, I live in the real, 21st century America where, on the political battlefield, the fight itself is far more important than winning, losing, or even remembering why you were fighting in the first place. Confronted with any issue of the day, it seems that our two parties take no interest in acting unless they can stake out opposing turf and cast stones at each other.
The practical upshot of all this is that important problems where we can all agree are deemed to be not “sexy” enough to merit the attention of our elected representatives, so nothing is done. Prime examples of this are the need for more attention to the sagging infrastructure of our nation’s bridges and highways or an overloaded electrical grid which requires a 21st century makeover. Since nobody opposes such things, there is no sport to be found in debating it and very little gets done.
At the other end of the spectrum are debates which are too frightening for our leaders to confront. Were you to ask regular voters how many of them were in favor of outsourcing American jobs, moving our manufacturing base to other countries and lugging around a trade deficit that would make Sisyphus happy with his lot in life, you couldn’t find one person who likes the concepts. Doing anything about these issues, though, would anger the big dollar masters who hold the leash on both parties and fund the never ending campaigns which make up the lives of politicians today. And so, no matter which side you elect, they meekly push forward with the same economic open borders policies which have been crushing us since the early nineties.
Instead, politicians far prefer to demonstrate the “steel spines” which Dalitso so cherishes by spending their time and our tax dollars arguing over whether or not the godless homosexuals should be allowed to marry, if the Ten Commandments can show up in a courthouse or if cancer patients can fire up some marijuana in their back yard. Every issue seems to be a race to see how far each party can run to the extreme opposite of their opponents’ positions.
The problem with this, of course, is that real solutions rarely come from the extremes. Different schools of thought often have valuable advice to offer and a combination of concepts generally leads to the best solution. But when you exist in a hyper charged atmosphere where the recognition of merit in anything said by the opposition is viewed as a sign of weakness, productive conclusions are rarely sought, to say nothing of found.
Spines of steel? We want them in our warriors, who defend our nation and fight our battles overseas while we sit safe and secure at home, expanding our rotund guts on pounds of sugar and gallons of beer, screaming at each other over whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to join their fighting ranks. For politicians, though, perhaps we should be looking for more supple and flexible backbones. Everyone wants to be the sturdy oak.. stiff, upright and unbending. Nobody wants to be the willow which sways in the winds. But which one survives the storm?