Extremist America

“Political extremists are dictating America’s agenda dialogue and, ultimately, government policy.” – The Lonely Realist

Congress is the beating heart of American democracy. “Democracy is based on the notion that a people should be self-governing and that the representatives of the people should be held accountable for their actions. The legislature, which represents the people and acts as their agent, is therefore at the core of the Western democratic tradition.” The preservation success of democracy, whether parliamentary or its American counterpart (with its stronger executive), is dependent on a responsible legislature. It therefore is disturbing inexcusable for America’s Congress to continue its dysfunction ignoring its responsibilities and, in fact, undercutting democracy.

The Constitution provides for a balance-of-power among America’s three branches of government: the executive; the legislative; and the judiciary. Each branch has primary responsibility for a different set of specified tasks. Each is intended to oversee the others to ensure that actions taken by one do not overstep democratic boundaries. There is nothing in the Constitution, however, that prevents a branch from failing to fulfill its responsibilities or from becoming paralyzed or dysfunctional. There also is nothing that prevents one or two or all three branches from being captured by a politically-adept politician/movement. With gerrymandered voting districts, bottomless spending on electioneering, partisan voter qualification laws, and tribally-driven social media campaigns, America’s legislators are decreasingly selected by an electoral majority. The consequence is that American democracy is subject to being – and is being – subverted by extremists at both ends of the partisan divide political spectrum.

Despite the tribalism promoted by lobbyists, mass media outlets and social media forums (each of which is overwhelmingly populated by loyalists), the battle lines aren’t between “authoritarianism/conservatism” and “socialism/progressivism.” Those labels have been chosen for their electoral impact, not for their accuracy. The actual divide in America is between far-right/far-left extremists and the great middle, those in the majority who favor democratic pragmatism …, with the stakes being the survival of the American system.

Removing the partisan filters reveals that it would take more than 8 years of a cunningly slick Presidency to ruin America …, and that the 4 years that each of the last two Presidents served did not move the needle irrevocably significantly in either direction. Instead, the two inconsistent agendas of Presidents Trump and Biden (following the two inconsistent Presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama) rattled weakened American institutions without addressing the country’s needs. President Biden most certainly has exercised executive power to take the government down a left-leaningwing road. He has purposefully catered to disaffected extremists voters who believe that bigger government is better government. Donald Trump as President similarly arrogated power to the Executive Branch, doing so in ways that catered to disaffected extremists MAGA voters who believed that decentralized (though not smaller) government is better government. Yet, despite President Biden’s left-wing rhetoric, what he has done and promised to do is neither catastrophic nor extreme. Constitutional balance-of-power limitations (exercisable by both Congress and the Courts) have prevented an extreme turning and will continue to do so. And despite former President Trump’s MAGA rhetoric, the same Constitutional balance-of-power limitations will prevent execution of 4 years of actual “revenge and retribution.

But progress – and the preservation of American democracy – depends not only on thwarting extremist agendas. It depends on constructively addressing the real problems facing the country. These include immigration reform, abortion, education, deficits and debt, a consistent foreign policy, reducing health and insurance costs, etc. Congress quite literally has been AWOL on these problems, refusing to grapple with each and every one. Resolving problems is no easy task …, but that’s Congress’s job. The essence of democracy – and a necessity to maintaining it – is resolution-by-compromise. Yet compromise is a four-letter word in the halls of today’s Congress, all because of the re-election game, bedeviling the American system with professional politicians whose goal is not to further the public good but to maintain their job security. Donald Trump has promised his followers that the Republican Party is “never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush,” yet those are precisely the kinds of elected representatives that America needs … from both parties. Instead of voting for policy purists, the choice for Americans in 2024 is in electing representatives with character and the ability to legislate in the best interests of the country, whatever their beliefs. Congress, and not the President, truly is the beating heart of American democracy. Today, it is on life-support.

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