While I was attempting to get through the crush of economics readings assigned to me last semester, I came across a quote that has serious implications for the state of politics today. The quote, attributed to Frank Stillwell, is this: “The test of an ideology is not in its sophistication, but rather its effectiveness in conveying a simple and seemingly persuasive story.”
Based on this, it is my belief that something is rotten in the state of American politics in the 21st century. Over the past year, the Republicans have done a better job than the Democrats to dominate the news coverage, to be effective in conveying a better, more “persuasive story” to the American people. But this has always been the case: small government and fewer taxes are much easier pills to swallow for Americans than large government and more taxes.
The problem is this has been done irresponsibly. The GOP has manipulated the political debate, knowing that popular media is a prostitute for controversy and soundbites. Whether Republican lawmakers are tacitly questioning President Barack Obama’s citizenship, irresponsibly propagating the “death panel” myth or mounting a fear-mongering campaign that is completely ignorant of reality against the Democrats’ “Socialist agenda.”
Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address in 1801, affirmed his belief that though politicians may disagree on government practice, the guiding light of our united purpose, that being the preservation of duly elected self government, as well as our individual liberties, is most important in our American democracy. For a party that so often invokes Jefferson’s words to defend its platform, the GOP seems to have forgotten these: “Fellow-citizens, unite with one heart in mind … to restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”
Unfortunately, it is vocabulary, not politicians, that currently makes up the minority party in America. The Republican Party is nothing but a PR stunt, a marriage of immoral politicians and ratings-minded news agencies. They have all but stopped governing, instead choosing to oppose any Democratic initiative merely because of the party with its name on the cover of the bill.
A healthy democracy needs legitimate minority parties, as they provide an alternative view to the majority and give the American people different choices on election day. But it is my contention that those who crucify Obama and the Democrats for attempting to destroy the American way of life with more collectivist-minded measures are in fact posing a far graver danger to American democracy.
Indeed, today we lack a legitimate minority party in the United States. Republican lawmakers continue to say “no, no, no” to proposals offered by Democrats, which is all well and good, but tragically, they offer no solutions to the gauntlet of problems on our plate. And all the while, they repeat the “Big Lie” — that the Democrats, if left unbridled, will bring forth a Socialist revolution and will destroy the fabric of America. A persuasive story, and an easy one to buy, but it is what it is, a farce designed to dupe the American public.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans live without health care, the environment worsens and people become more and more cynical about government. This, of course, is the sickening end game of the Republican strategy: to win the next election, even at the expense of the American people.
Christopher Hook is a junior international relations and French major. Contact him at [email protected]