American politics needs a major shake-up if the nation is to prosper in the 21st century. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties are ossified and incapable of meeting the challenges that occur daily as well as dealing with long term problems. Some of this is rooted in their long histories of corruption and willingness to accede to the wishes of individuals and corporations that provide them with funding. The leading lights of the parties are not those with the most exciting ideas and proposals for the future, but those who are the most adept fundraisers and those who have been around Washington the longest. Since Citizens United and the McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court, money has become even more critical for the parties.
Though significant legislative accomplishments by Congress prior to the Trump election was an infrequent happening, Trump’s behavior since his ascension to the White House has put all legislative initiatives on hold. The question of his campaign colluding with the Russians and of Trump’s actions obstructing justice remains open, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over the president, held by Special Investigator Mueller. Whether Trump will move to fire Mueller, Rosenstein, and other DOJ officials has all of Washington holding its breath, with nothing getting done.
But when we look at the government’s accomplishments since the turn of the century, we see little except the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank bill, both of which the Republicans and Trump are trying to dismantle. Meanwhile, our infrastructure is falling apart, resembling that of a third world nation rather than that of a developed country. Trump has promised a trillion dollar overhaul of the infrastructure, a drop in the bucket of what is needed, but even that is not getting done. Research and development funding by the federal government has been cut drastically, even though that is seed money for technology and innovation that will keep the economy going in the future. Both the Republicans and Democrats seem incapable of running the country the way it needs to be run.
Now we look at France, a democracy that was even more ossified than our own, with a stagnant economy, work rules that fostered unemployment, major problems with Muslim immigrants who had not integrated into the greater society, frequent acts of terrorism, and corrupt political parties that were not solving any of the country’s problems. Then along comes Emmanuel Macron to upset the whole political applecart that had been ingrained in France for decades. Emmanuel Macron and Republique En Marche.
This 39 year old man who had never held any elected position previously (was Economy Minister for a while) came out of nowhere to destroy the National Front led by Marianne Le Pen, and the mainstream Socialist and rightest parties that had been around forever. Not only was he elected president with two thirds of the votes, but his newly formed centrist party Republique En Marche filled with political novices, badly beat the established parties for seats in parliament and holds an unshakable majority.
We are yet to see what Macron and his new party will do following their victories to change the political and economic systems that have chained France to its past and made it uncompetitive. But there is a new vigor and energy in the country with a change from widespread pessimism to optimism. The old politicians and politics have been swept away and youth with new ideas and a new way of doing things is in power. And there are no obligations to other power centers, to lobbyists or special interests. Macron and his coterie will do what they believe is good for France. This doesn’t mean that he will be completely successful, or that there won’t be strong opposition from those who are damaged financially or in other ways by Macron’s actions. But at least there will be movement with a strong mandate from the French populace.
America is also in need of a Macron-like figure: a charismatic centrist who can draw from both the right and the left to start the nation on a new track. Creating a new party and limiting the appeal of the Republicans and Democrats to their long term supporters is probably not doable in the United States, though Ross Perot could have managed it a quarter century ago if he had not blundered. But things have gotten worse in Washington with extreme partisanship at every level of government and Republicans and Democrats unable to work together on any issue of substance.
A charismatic figure who is completely clean, with no ties to lobbyists or special interests is needed to lead America out of the wilderness and the deep doo-doo it is currently in. Whether this means a centrist third party or pushing moderates to run in both establishment parties is unclear. So far, no one of note has stepped forward to pick up the gauntlet. Is there such a person in American politics?
PHOTO: By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Political junkie, Vietnam vet, neurologist- three books on aging and dementia. Book on health care reform in 2009- Shock Therapy for the American Health Care System. Book on the need for a centrist third party- Resurrecting Democracy- A Citizen’s Call for a Centrist Third Party published in 2011. Aging Wisely, published in August 2014 by Rowman and Littlefield. Latest book- The Uninformed Voter published May 2020