Friday, June 24, 2011

Let's talk about duopoly

By Don Klein

Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The New York Times, refers to the current political condition of the United States as a duopoly. He says he is in favor of a third party in the country.

I don’t know about the viability of a third party in America so I’ll put that subject aside for the moment, but he certainly is right on target with his duopoly label. The dictionary describes duopoly as “an oligopoly limited to two sides or the preponderant influence or control by two political powers.”

That aptly describes this country for the last several decades. It is a wonder anything gets done, and little has. As we look to the immediate future it appears less likely there will be much accomplished in the next 18 months unless the public acts up and demands a change.

It is a simple circumstance – or a deadly situation which could spell doom for the American era – on the one side we have a party dedicated to protecting the rich and powerful and the giant corporations that breast-feed them.

On the other side we have a political party that caters to the needs of the middle class, supports social relief programs, sees value in ordinary people, but like the proverbial Ferdinand the Bull is timid beyond belief about taking forceful action.

The Republicans are obstinate in their belief in small government with limited spending and the lowest possible taxes on people and businesses while the Democrats believe that only through energetic government programs can the masses be helped. They feel the well-to-do and corporations should pay more taxes to meet those needs because they have more to start with.

They are both stubborn in their beliefs and hypocritical in their actions. The Republicans like to label the Democrats as Socialists yet they support massive government giveaways to agricultural giants, oil companies and multi-billion dollar industrial combines. And, of course, they love tax loopholes and tax cuts for the rich. They’ll never admit it but that is their form of socialism.

The Democrats like to present themselves as the party of the people but lack any sense of urgency or stomach to fight to prove it. When they held a majority in both houses of Congress after the 2008 election they twiddled away the time until the death of a member deprived them of a cloture protection in the Senate and rendered the party helpless.

Whether they purposefully allowed the opportunity to escape them or really didn’t want to deliver on their promises to the little guy is not clear, but the Democratic Party cannot escape the charge of being incompetent and dysfunctional.

So here we have two parties which through the years allowed the government to tight walk at the edge of disaster inviting a financial catastrophe to finally turn the country into a debtor nation of extreme proportions three years ago without resolving even a portion of their differences.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats seem to realize that the current state of affairs does not allow them to continue in partisan upmanship. The nation is crying for leadership, needs hard decisions and all it gets is drivel.

President Obama, the ostensible leader of the country, seems to spend most of his time sitting on the sidelines like a sagacious Guru seeking consensus which never comes while the Republicans shuffle the deck of the most illogical backwater assortment of has-beens and unknowns to lead the party into the 2012 presidential elections.

The people are left to wonder if this is the end of the American dream?

Maybe it’s too much to hope for an Abraham Lincoln or a Franklin Roosevelt to come to our rescue in these dire times, but most voters will settle for at least someone who acts appropriately in their behalf. But none seem to exist in today’s world.

As much as many hoped Obama to be our national savior, he is no FDR. He doesn’t have the fight in him, nor the willingness to act, and seems to squander every political advantage at hand. His courageous approval of the Navy Seals attack on Osama bin Laden his sole achievement worthy of great leadership. Elsewhere he continues too many Bush programs he once abhorred as a candidate and otherwise fails the people who supported him.

On the other side, the Republicans have offered the public a bland salad of leftover hacks and dim-witted hopefuls as a counterbalance to the president. The traditional centrist Rockefeller Republican no longer exists and all that remains is Right Wing ideologues and fat cats trying to outdo each other for the minuscule Tea Party support by holding the budget hostage to their simplistic views.

The nation is stuck in neutral. We are going nowhere while living in the worst hard times in memory of most of us. Duopoly is the right word all right. Both sides are thinking of themselves and neither side is thinking of the people – and the people remain silent. That makes no sense.

We cannot depend on the current flock of politicians. It is up to the people to find representatives in both houses of Congress and in the White House who have more than good ideas, but also have the courage of their convictions and the boldness needed to push through legislation that is needed for the common good.

It is time for Republicans voters to throw out of office those party members who embrace Tea Party ideals and look for true conservatives and its time for Democrats to turn their backs on the wishy-washy types who only want to be re-elected and seek real progressives who want to serve the people.

The best results in American history was when reasonable conservatives and true progressives fought it out in the political arena. We have to get back to that. Then maybe we will know where the country is going?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Circus ludicrous

By Don Klein

David Vitter is a United States senator and a habitue of brothels in Washington and Louisiana. The Republicans think so highly of him that they ran a special get-together in a lobbyist’s fancy D.C. home recently to raise funds for his political future. The well-attended affair raised a minimum of $2,500 per guest.

At the same time this was happening Republican House Leader Eric Cantor and Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus declared that Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, was unfit for service in the Congress because of his propensity to send lewd pictures of himself to women via Twitter.

This is not just the height of hypocrisy, it is circus ludicrous. I compare this to a visit to the zoo where irate monkeys fling defecation at visitors after a session with keepers discussing how best to behave in mixed company. You just cannot talk to primates and expect them to understand English. The same is true of Republicans.

That is only one aspect of the tragedy involved in the Weiner case. Congressional hypocrisy is no more shocking than waking up in the morning and discovering yourself in a bed. The other, and more important calamity here is the loss of another intoxicating voice in support of liberal causes.

We have all the fools any unsophisticated society would want on the Republican side. We have Sarah Palin, whose latest retelling of American history sounds more like an Abbott and Costello routine. They were hilarious, she is incredulous. When she talks about history – or anything significant – it reminds me of the “Who’s on First” skit.

I was going to start a litany of all the Republican scoundrels who made it to Congress, starting with those brazen-faced adulterers Newt Gingrich, currently running for president, and John Ensign who resigned minutes before be was to be expelled from the Senate for circumstances related to his unabashed and unethical relationship with a married woman who worked for him.

But I’d rather stick with Weiner because his aberration seems to be more of a loss to the country. We can do without Palin, Gingrich, Vitter and Ensign. Their value to the country, other than as comic relief, is at the bottom of the laugh meter. Not so with Weiner, a politician who seemed to have much to offer the country.

He was an outspoken champion of the little guy. He supported medical health for everyone, battled hardheaded opponents who tried to drown out liberal thought in the country. He was a bright man with a bright future. Now, thanks to his sophomoric need to expose himself to unknown women, he will never again be taken seriously, even if he decides not to resign from Congress.

Here was what seemed to be a brilliant political force who turned out to be just one more of the guys who used celebrity for no good. The public Hall of Shame is long and will get longer as the years go by. The result is the country will suffer for it. Just look at a quick list of public figures who talk like ethereal messengers of good but behave like dogs in heat with total lack of respect for themselves, their families and the public.

You have to lead every list of this sort with former President Bill Clinton and former Senator John Edwards, If only it could end there. Then there is Rep. Mark Foley, Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger, Gov. Mark Sanford, Gov. James McGreevey, Rep. Bob Livingston, Sen. Larry Craig, Gov. Eliot Spitzer and if we really want to dig deep into the past, there was JFK and FDR.

None of these men would ever be voted husband of the year, yet they were all elected by a gullible public that believed in great men, or in some cases, just men of stature. I have not listed here the public figures who went to jail for non-sexual crimes against the people. Power often leads to shame. Man is an eternal enigma.

Back to the current circumstances. For one we have a whoremonger being feted by his Republican colleagues while at the same time we have a Democrat unable to get anyone on either side of the Congressional aisle to speak up for him. And he, in most people’s minds, was the perpetrator of the lesser evil.

I don’t excuse Weiner for his outlandish behavior. He is a sick man and should get treatment, but I feel he fits in perfectly with the reprobates of Congress. In our democracy we leave it to the electorate to decide who they want to represent them and if they choose to reelect Weiner because of his faithfulness to liberal cause, that is their choice.

If the people of Louisiana can burden the nation for another six years with a man of Vitter’s low motivations by reelecting him despite his proclivities for prostitutes, so be it. But the damage is done. No one will take Vitter seriously in the future, as if there was much of a chance for that anyway, and no one in the future will take Weiner seriously either. His personal compulsion has muted his strident political voice.

That’s what you harvest once you have lost credibility and respect. It is a lesson for all of us, especially those who intend to seek public office in the future.