WHAT WE WANT

3/8/13

WHAT WE WANT

It’s not enough, you know, every week criticizing and complaining about the state of the US Congress and how our country operates.

Sometimes we have to speak plainly and outline for our Congressmen and other government leaders what we, the people, need, want, hope to see on the horizon.

On the political front, already commentators have begun to handicap the presidential race for 2016. Well and good, it’s entertaining and hurts no one. But looking ahead, all this guesswork leads us only to the same conclusion we reached last autumn.

What the country wants is a group of men and women who can seriously, politely, deliberately look at a question apart from the backing of their PACS and sponsors and try to come up with solutions that benefit the nation as a whole, rather than one’s own Congressional district.

We want less pandering for votes and more leading to votes. Which is to say, when a man or woman reaches a position of national influence on the basis of what they purport to believe, we expect them to stick to their guns with solid arguments and reasoning, as opposed to playing to their bases and letting loose with vitriolic, angry, albeit sometimes patriotic gore in order to snag the votes of like-minded fringes.

A good and recent example of this, and of our own disappointment, is Jeb Bush’s allowing that he might want to run for president in 2016. We like Jeb. He’s always seemed serious and thoughtful, and principled. What would his future hold?

This week, in three short days, Mr. Bush managed to change his position on immigration reform three times. This from a man whose greatest appeal lay in a reasoned plan for not only immigration generally, but also for a path to citizenship for those in this country who for years have paid taxes, worked hard, tried to play by the rules.

The reason Mr. Bush seems suddenly wishy-washy is that clearly he’s tying to mold his view of the topic to fit the needs of his Republican base. This does not bode well for the coming years of campaign.

Happily, Mr. Bush has recently fallen silent we believe in order to figure out a way of saying what he feels without painting himself into a corner a la Mitt Romney. But the mere fact that Bush, as a governor of Florida, made his name and reputation by being slow to anger, quick to try to solve, and reasonable on immigration reform, is now watering his views to try to conform to the Tea Party demands in Florida, and elsewhere, means, alas, that we may be faced with another man whose principles come second to his ambition.

This is definitely what the country does not want to see or hear. Rather than pander to already existing opinions, we want to see someone like Bush lead his followers to agree with his point of view, not the other way around. It’s a chance few politicians ever have and we’d hate to see the former governor lose it.

Far more disturbing to us is the disconnect between what the country as a whole clearly wants in the way of gun control and what its representatives and Senators are willing to allow.

Recently on television, and today in an email to us, we examined the overwhelming support for background checks at all levels of popular opinion versus the strength of commitment to this same question by the people’s representatives in Congress.

Briefly, between 79 and 92 per cent of the nation wants better and more thorough background checks for everyone buying firearms. The question? How many of the people’s representatives are willing to go to the line for this point of view?

The answer to that is that only two members of the House have indicated they would vote to bring this about. What about the remaining two hundred and thirty-three members who represent, in fact, the greater part of the population?

No word. And if the past holds lessons for us at all, this is because the O.K. to even discuss this on the house floor has not yet been forwarded to House members by the National Rifle Association, of whom these men and women live in fear.

This fear has infected even the newest members of the House who have less to lose by standing for a principled position early in their careers. This fear has been engendered not only by the NRA, who promise primary fights to any Republican who votes against them, but also by the Republican leadership, long in thrall to the NRA themselves.

In short, our government has become one indebted to campaign financiers, lobbyists, and attack ads.

What we want is a government capable of weighing the merits and defaults of any question as principled people, people with their own consciences and their own sense of what is right for the nation.

We’re not getting that.

What we are getting is a front row view of how deeply indebted to industry – the NRA, banks, the defense establishment – our government is. This is not government for and by the people. It is, rather, government for the few people who already have caved and made not only their fortunes by being bullied and threatened but also their very institutional ability to accept the oath of office they’ve taken to defend the Constitution and the rights of all citizens to live freely, safely, and productively.

Our government has been for sale too long. We want this to stop.

We want less defensive verbiage for bad decisions and more principled statements of what the nation should have in the future. We want less individual picking of low-hanging and well-paid fruit and more daring, thoughtful, principled decisions that will help the entire nation, not just a small part of it.

A rather bizarre example of the latter was the performance of Senator Rand Paul this week on the Senate floor, filibustering for hours in order to get from the government a statement of principles that would govern the use in this country of new technology such as drones.

Not widely known as a man of principle, Paul demonstrated to us all that he was, whether or not we agree with the principle in question. What may have begun as a publicity stunt grew into a discussion that the nation as a whole needed to have.

Compare this clear effort to halt the nomination of John Brennan as head of the CIA with another Senate effort this week, taken under cover of darkness and secrecy, to disallow the seating of  a perfectly well qualified judge nominated for the D.C. Federal District Court who has long been a bete noir of the National Rifle Association. The yielding to the gun lobby rather than the engagement of a thoughtful, hard-working jurist was the work of Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, a perfect example of the old way of doing things in the Senate. He had quite simply over the years been bought by the gun lobby and that purchase paid off.

The key word in all this short list of what the country wants and needs is principle.

And principle involves honesty, bravery, hard work, and keeping one’s promise to represent one’s voters back home.

Once this message is delivered unequivocally to Senators and House members alike, the country will have a chance at clean, untainted, decision-making that is what the nation deserves.

Our founding fathers knew about corruption. They made every effort in drawing up the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to combat it early and often.

All Americans want now is a return to those values enshrined in those documents based on the principle of one man, one vote, and the ability of all men and women to live out their destinies unimpeded by unprincipled, greedy, ambitious politicians who have been sold to the highest bidder.

We don’t think this is too much to ask.

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