FACT, we live in a polarizing world, a mistrustful world and a fearful world. One of those biggest fears is not fear of the unknown rather the fear of the known. Fear of the known simply meaning the fear of retaliation (or cannibalism) from within one’s own support system is more frightening than the fear of reaching “across the aisle”. A perfect example of this in the political world is the abrupt end of the once fast-tracked political career of republican Erik Cantor (click here or the image for full story).
When was the last time you heard someone say;
I vote issues not party?
For me, it has been a while since I heard that line!
Let’s shoot from the hip and set the record straight, I am a common sense anti-establishment moderate conservative. My personal approach to conflict resolutions (business, politics, friends, family, relationships) is to identify common ground, build a constructive dialogue then, and only then, begin bilaterally working to solve problems about differences.
Unfortunately, it feels to me that common sense is completely lost in this emotional charged frenzy world of ideological “stand my ground no matter what” thinking and behavior. Behavior not only among leaders and politicians but also among the people, in no small part due to the overwhelming volume of news and information on the internet and social media. This is true for both prevailing ideologies, conservative and progressive.
One of the catalysts for this gridlock mentality is the polarizing issue of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). We all hold our beliefs on this topic sacred, the purpose of this article is not to layout ideas or conversation about where to go from here but rather (hopefully) an understanding of how we got here.
In this two part article, from a middle ground perspective we will look at the partisan lines in the sand and the american divisiveness that ACA has caused. An epic war for 6+ years with new battle lines drawn seemingly every day. Both sides are dug in preparing for the next wave of attack.
Middle America has been the target of each political party for decades, both parties deploy a strategy that they feel will best capture the current sentiment, and votes, of the middle. Capture the middle high ground and capture victory! Target is not a word I randomly chose, indeed it was carefully chosen.
Economy, income, lifestyle, wages and freedom are not by accident recurring issues during presidential elections. We lived in world supercharged by the housing boom from 2001-2004 during the first term of the Bush presidency. The writing was on the wall starting in the early 2000’s that a crisis was right around the corner.
Leading up to defining moment of the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis the establishment players, politicians and Wall Street, did a quick “dine and dash” leaving through the side door while middle america was stuck paying the tab.
Then president Bush and his administration made difficult choices to bail out wall street at the expense of main street, this sowed the seeds for dissent not only “across the aisle” but gave rise to factions among the conservatives that government had become too large. The financial crisis created an environment where the federal government now had an equity stake in Wall Street. A view by some conservatives started to manifest itself within the party, the bailout was the first step towards socialism, or worse yet communism.
I STRONGLY believe the impact of the crisis crossing over presidents is often underappreciated and overlooked. From a centrist perspective, there are many websites, blogs and literature that discuss this topic;
Republicans were SHELLACKED in 2008 across the board. In early 2008, Obama’s presidential election was a foregone conclusion. The main course for his meal, for his platform was healthcare reform. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on perspective, the issue of economy and the looming financial crisis detracted his attention, energy and some political capital.
Out of the embarrassing defeat of conservatives in 2008 was born “The Opposition Strategy”, it’s a MUST READ historical context of how we got to where we are today. The most interesting nugget in the transcript, for me, was an inert statement;
“They began to talk about what had gone wrong. And what they decided was that they had — That Republicans had walked away from their own principles. And they were referring to the big spending that took place under the Bush administration principally.” ~ Robert Draper
This was a profound statement, we might even say an admission of guilt. A regret among the most senior republican leadership the blank check they gave president Bush for 8 years could be the demise of conservatives in Washington not for an election or two but rather for a generation or two. This conversation led to a cohesive and unified Obama Opposition strategy and a way forward to recapture their sense of direction (small government).
I sincerely hope you take the time to read The Opposition Strategy transcript. The discussion above that cites Robert Draper occurred on the night of the inauguration of Barack Obama. The republican leadership showed up for dinner and drinks in the early evening feeling as battered and beaten as one can feel. Constructive conversation throughout the night led to a strategy, a purpose, a mission and also the seeds of the Tea Party.
Newton’s 3rd Law of Gravity: Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction; is just as applicable in the subjective world of politics as it is in the objective world of physics.
Political decisions are NOT made in a vacuum, every decision has risks and it has rewards. Sometimes the risks are not fully disclosed (i.e. fallout from ACA deal making with Pharma and Insurance) and sometimes the risks are simply not known (moral hazard of Bush $700 billion TARP bailout, this risk could live FOREVER – “you bailed them out once, why can’t you do it again”.)
Likewise, rewards tend to be realized more in the short term (ACA, Social Security, Iraq War) and the legacy of such decisions are transferred on the political balance sheet from reward to risk (costs of ACA, maintaining fiscal sustainability of Social Security, War in Iraq creating a power vacuum in the middle east).
While you may judge your leaders based upon your own set of sacred standards, it remains that there are hundreds of millions of people that have a different set of standards, keep this in mind when getting a debate among friends starts to get heated;