“Politics is an art and not a science, and what is required for its mastery is not the rationality of the engineer but the wisdom and the moral strength of the statesman”Once upon a time in America there was a time when we had people in government who were statesmen.” Hans J Morgenthau
These men understood something about the Constitution, representative government. pluralism, tolerance and dare I say compromise. Yet all were men of principle. The honestly believed in and worked toward the goals that they believed best embodied the American body politic as well as their own political, ideological and even religious beliefs. Basically when we cut to the chase the real thing that sets them apart from the legislators of today was that they knew that compromise was actually desirable in many cases. They understood that there were times to “duke it out” on Capitol Hill but that at the end of the day that as Americans we could have different opinions yet still come together for the benefit of all Americans, not just those that we were beholden to for the money needed to keep us in office.
But that was a different era. Men like Edward Dirksen, Scoop Jackson, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan or for that matter even Jack, Bobby or Teddy Kennedy would not survive in the zero-sum politics if 21st Century American. They would be despised by their political “allies” even more so than their opponents.
The sad thing is that in the United States of 2013 it is much easier to be against something than it is to be for something. Likewise it is now more beneficial for politicians of both parties in the gerrymandered congressional districts which ensure the safety of the incumbent to adopt a no-quarter attitude. It has allowed elected leaders to adopt a zero-sum game of no-compromise.
The results are a broken system of government, a deep division of the people almost all of whom distrust and even despise the very people that they elected.
As I watch the current proceedings in Washington I am reminded of what I thought when the “deal” to agree to the sequester was reached. I remembered the words of Thomas Jefferson concerning the Missouri Compromise. I knew back in 2011 that the even the threat of sequester would not change the behavior of those in Congress, particularly the Tea Party faction of the Republicans, a group who have in many cases so wedded the most uncompromising aspects of religion to political ideology that there can be no backing down for them. Politics is an extension of God’s will. It is the extension of the theology of Christian Dominionism which has at its center the takeover of the systems of the world by Christians, the Seven Mountains theology. That is why compromise if there is any in the current situation will by only delay the reckoning.
Jefferson noted: “but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”
We need a revival of statesmanship in our country but in the current political environment I fear that those who would attempt to be statesmen would not survive. Much like Weimar Germany our politicians, pundits and preachers, the Unholy Trinity are paving the way for something unimaginably terrible when they finally wreck our current system of government. They are doing it and those who do not speak out against them regardless of our politics have to take part of the blame.
Martin Niemoller wrote after the Second World War:
In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me –
and by that time no one was left to speak up.