Tuesday marked a new low in the state of dysfunctional politics spawned by the right-wing Republican take-over that has held our representative democracy hostage. Bowing to the exigencies of a political strategy that is dedicated to the proposition that obstruction is a desired goal rather than a tactic for achieving a greater good Congress entertained a diatribe from a foreign leader designed to embarrass the President. Simultaneously Speaker Boehner bucked his own Party by invoking the type of bipartisan compromise that is an essential building block to our democracy. What a strange day indeed.
By breaching political protocol to allow Netanyahu to plead his case for what can only be characterized as an appeal to reject compromise in favor of conflict with Iran, the Speaker revealed the lengths to which he was willing to go to placate the loons within his own caucus. It could represent one of the most egregious precedents in our country's political history. It may also help to salvage a political victory for a polarizing leader.
If it fails to help Bibi secure victory in the next two weeks, it will serve to illustrate the incredulously short-sighted nature of the ruling Congressional majority. Yet, regardless of what transpires in the upcoming Israeli election the maneuver orchestrated Tuesday by the Republican leaders will serve as an affront to good governance. In a historical sense it will serve as a defining low point for our democratic form of government as it struggles in the grip of systemic dysfunction.
In juxtaposition to the dangerous precedent set on the foreign affairs/national security front, Speaker Boehner's concession to policy sanity and political reality on the domestic front stands in stark and confusing contrast to the awkward maneuvering that preceded it.By allowing for a vote on a clean DHS appropriations bill only days after nearly shutting the agency down, the reversal represents a victory for the practical political mechanisms embodied in our governmental structure.
Such mind-numbing flip-flopping brings into serious question the Speaker's ability to lead let alone control his own party. By resorting to the tried and true method of governing by assembling a majority of votes, even when that represents bipartisan cooperation, Boehner was dragged kicking and screaming to the point where there was literally no other option. It remains to be seen if this will actually cost him his Speakership.
The sorry specter of Tuesday's events is a clear indication of the degree to which our political system is buckling under the weight of irresponsible leadership. Blustering and blundering under the rigors of effective governance has created avoidable crises, artificial cliffs, unnecessary paralysis, and high-noon dramas where essential building blocks of cooperation and compromise once stood. Meanwhile confidence in our leaders and institutions is further degraded and cynicism intensified to the point where larger and larger numbers of citizens doubt the sincerity or competency of both.
The one thing the Tea Party has resolutely brought to the fore of our political consciousness is that process is more important than product. I rarely offer kudos to the insurgents that have effectively hijacked the Republican Party but here they have done a great service by alerting us to the dangers of an insurgency dedicated to the proposition that procedural terrorism can ultimately render the most virile leaders impotent.
If this were merely an intramural fight among Party ideologues it would not be so dangerous. Such intraparty squabbles require strong dedication and commitment to a larger vision by Party leaders to reach out to the opposition to assemble the required support necessary to achieve that vision. That has been nonexistent in the Republican Party. It has been leaderless and unable to execute anything short of obstruction. Tuesday's resolution of the DHS funding issue only ensued after an absurdly tortuous high-stakes game of chicken which ultimately proved futile.
No matter how much lipstick is applied to the grotesque legislative creature that has been unveiled today it remains an ugly reminder of how broken our system actually is, and the consequences will haunt us for some time.
If we as a society do not reassess our current situation and reach back to the bedrock principles that bolster good governance and good government, we will continue to sink deeper into the abyss of rudderless dysfunction. In my book, The Evolution of a Revolution, I outline six conceptual remedies for kick starting such a reassessment: recommitment to the value of public service; valuing statesmanship; restoration in belief that government can work; shifting from short-term to long-term thinking; placing public interests over special interests; and removing the corrupting influence of money in our political system.
Unless we get serious about making our system work by placing trust in our institutions and leaders to do what is in the interest of all, not the least being dedication to the search for peace not war, we will continue to get what we pay for: namely, a corrupt system for the few. Tuesday was a bad day.