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?