“Change We Can Believe In”

My brother and I both want a certain candy bar, but he just won’t give it up. So, I tell him that I’ll do his chores for a week if he hands over the candy bar. I get the candy bar and he doesn’t have to do chores. It’s an entirely ethical win-win situation. Right?

There was a similar contest going on in Pennsylvania: incumbent Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter faced unprecedented competition leading up to the May 18 Democratic primary. Congressman Joe Sestak was on his tail all the way up to election day, on which he defeated the octogenarian.

Rep. Sestak confirmed, weeks ago, that the White House offered him an administration-level job, on the condition that he would drop out of the PA Democratic race. (He would give no specific details.) Pundits have alluded to this being an unethical and/ or sly move on the part of the Obama administration. I think, however, that if any type of move of this sort is carried out in the absence of law breaking, dishonesty, or some kind of irrefutable transgression, this is just your run-of-the-mill quid pro quo; it’s just like the candy bar swap. If Sestak was qualified for the admin job, then the move was just political and could ultimately have also been a win-win.

With all that said, Barack Obama spent two years campaigning on the platform of “change” and promised a break from “politics as usual

This is politics as usual. It may not be particularly devious or cunning, but it embodies the kind of politics (for better or for worse) that Obama claimed to have been so vehemently opposed to.

I extend to President Obama the same principles he extended to us, the American people, on the night of the South Carolina primary:

“We’re looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington. It’s a status quo that extends beyond any particular party and right now that status quo is fighting back with everything it’s got, with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face.”

You’ve got to work with what you’ve got. You’ve got to work on the problems. So, yes, President Obama, we appreciate that you do your job ethically.

But there’s always a little bit more you can do to ensure that we’re in good hands and that our government is focused on solutions, not opportunism.

Don’t Blame the Architect

On a warm June evening in 1858, a young, unknown senate hopeful addressed a Republican convention inside of the Illinois State House. With full-bodied conviction, he set in motion what would later grow into his movement against slavery:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

He was talking about servitude and its proponents, but the essence of his words could teach some modern-day political groups a thing or two:

Dear Republican National Committee (RNC),

My grandfather has explained to me, on several occasions, that an organization sans a unified approach will fail. Companies whose CEO and Board of Trustees have differing visions. Schools whose administrators preach a mission statement when their teachers don’t embody it. Political organizations who can’t follow a leader. All are detrimental business models– houses that are destined to fall.

You are a party divided against yourself. From the far-right, the Tea Partiers have begun to poach your politicians (and potential politicians) and pressure them into moving further right than is healthy. State Party Chairs, congressmen, and senators have called for your National Chair, Michael Steele, to resign. In response to criticism, thirty-one of your State Party Chairs have written a letter in support of Steele. And, to top it all off, Michael Steele, himself, is taking his cues from– you guessed it — the ever-delightful Rush Limbaugh.

You’re a mess. Yes, Democrats relish your mayhem and use it to their advantage. But in the end, it’s unhealthy for the country, and it doesn’t bode well for any sort of comprehensive legislation that will actually help people. You’re a steroid to the Democrats and a poison to the greater good of the country.

Congress is already more polarized than it has ever been. The fight to secure the most basic right in human civilization (healthcare) lasted fourteen months and detached lawmakers from reality while dividing the country against itself. Your lethal chaotic poison cannot seep any further into the congressional bloodstream. The country can’t take it.

RNC, you need to get it together.

Forget the greater good. Do it for Trig, Track, Bristol, Piper, and Willow.


Apprehensive American

Party Conformity

I consider myself a liberal.

AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is America’s premier pro-Israel lobby. They’re considered — across the board — to be a pretty right-wing group in terms of Middle East politics and America-Israel issues. A few weeks ago, during the heat of the Biden-Settlements dispute, I went to Washington for its annual Policy Conference. I went to the conference to hear AIPAC’s view on the issues and try to learn about Middle East politics and maneuverings.

It’s interesting to me that each time I’m in a discussion with another liberal on the topic of Israel, or settlements, and Palestinians, they almost always say something like, “Well, you were at AIPAC, so we know how you feel about this,” as if my mere presence at an AIPAC event sculpts my ideology or defines my political principles, and that I am somehow being unfaithful to the Democratic party by listening to speakers who unconditionally support and defend the State of Israel.

This is a problem with America today.

American political ideology is too centered around allegiance to a specific party platform. Conformity has become the norm, and more and more people have begun to settle for less. I don’t believe that there are two Democratsor two Republicans in the country who agree unreservedly on every single issue. But still,Democrats vote for Democrats, republicans vote for republicans, and congress is deadlocked.

We saw this conformity in action just a few weeks ago when Rep. Bart Stupak, an anti-abortion Democrat, came to a compromise with the White House and allowed for some pro-abortion language in the healthcare overhaul. Right-wing groups who had hailed him as a unique hero dropped their endorsements of him, and the Democrats rejoiced in his “change of heart”.

It’s all about the party platform. It’s a skewed system. Because if someone’s slipping off of it, they’d better hop back on quickly: or someone’s going to push them off.

UPDATE: Bart Stupak will be retiring from congress this year.