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There Are No Shortcuts in Addressing America's Challenges

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Among its variations, political ideology can be understood as a body of ideas reflecting the social and political aspirations of an individual, group or class.

History indicates that it is far easier to run on a political ideology than it is to govern that way. Yet, it is a political ideology or, better still, an ideological purity that serves as the litmus test for a number of candidates aligned with the tea party movement in this year's midterm elections.

Among their list of campaign pledges, if elected, they have promised their loyal and enthusiastic followers they will cut back the size of government, lower taxes, reduce what they consider wasteful spending, reduce the deficit and adhere to the Constitution.

No matter how well-intended the campaign rhetoric may be, the adage made famous by former Speaker Sam Rayburn still holds true for those entering Congress: "If you want to get along, go along."

There are always exceptions to that rule, but as long as Congress is comprised of men and women with ambition it is doubtful there will be a significant paradigm shift from Rayburn's declaration.

But the way Congress is configured, in particular the House of Representatives, it won't take long to find out if the campaign rhetoric was simply lofty idealism based on an unrealistic ideological purity by those elected.

Let's start with the promise to cut back the size of government.

It is doubtful that there will be any cuts beyond tinkering around the edges to the five largest agencies in the federal government: defense, veteran affairs, homeland security, justice and treasury.

The most likely cuts would be made in housing and urban development and education, the federal government's smallest agencies. That might serve as red meat for the faithful, but it is doubtful to be meaningful if one is committed to reduce the size of government.

Let us not forget, the multitude of K Street lobbyists do not exist for nothing. This sect of multiple interests and political ideologies scan Capitol Hill to find out whose ambition can be titillated to assure there aren't any cuts to those services important to their cause.

Assuming that one is unable to reduce the size of government in any meaningful way, any tax cuts will only increase the deficit. Under this backdrop, the subjective term "wasteful spending" will most likely not amount to any meaningful change.

Perhaps the most outlandish claim among this inventory of ideological pure positions would be the adherence to the Constitution.

Has America, unbeknown to most Americans, been living outside the jurisdiction of its most sacred document for an undetermined length of time? Or could it be the mere utterance of this catchphrase is sufficient in lieu of actually reading the Constitution?

How does one conclude the Founders intended to create a document that would lock its posterity in perpetuity into their understandings of what it meant to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare for its citizens?

We live in a world the Founders would not recognize. Each generation bears the responsibility to struggle with what the immortal words of the preamble mean to them. That's why Lincoln was unwavering in his commitment to preserve the Union.

Among the Founders, when it comes to words and deeds, was there a more contradictory figure than Thomas Jefferson? The eloquence and inspiration of the words "all men are created equal" were clearly not meant for those who toiled under the sweltering heat of slavery.

Moreover, Jefferson trusted that future generations would work out a solution to America's original sin.

"But as it is," Jefferson wrote, "we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other."

But Jefferson's failure to address this obvious contradiction did not stop the civil rights generation from holding up the Jeffersonian notion of equality along with the guarantees secured by the 14th Amendment as the bedrock of their movement -- a movement that made America better.

Though it is tempting to oversimplify, there is simply no shortcut to address America's challenges. To offer anything different may prove successful in the short-term, but will ultimately make the advocates look hypocritical and their followers even more frustrated if not apathetic.

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War. E-mail him at or visit his Web site