Wake-Up Call

Trump’s latest actions, and the Congressional reaction, show, again, the need for greater responsibility, and reform, in Congress.

Trump went off to sulk and play golf, addressing the possible government shut-down and the Covid relief bill, at almost the last possible moment, after a great deal of rhetoric and no action for weeks, a lack of action that harmed a great number of Americans. Then there was his rash of pardons, largely not for people punished unjustly, but for individuals justly convicted, often of offenses committed in getting him elected in 2016, to which Congress offered no reaction.

Now… Congress in fact should have recognized that leaving matters not to just the last minutes, but effectively the last seconds, of this session has put both the Congress and the American people in an incredibly difficult position. A major part of the problem also lies with the American people, most of whom have willingly and often enthusiastically sorted themselves into separate tribes, each of which fervently believes that only it is correct and that the other tribe is knowingly pursuing an evil course.

Polarizations this violent have too often escalated into violence and bloody war, as in the cases of the American Civil War and the conflict between the followers of Martin Luther and those who backed the Catholic Church – a conflict that killed almost a third of the population of Germany over the course of a century or so. Both these conflicts, as well as others, resulted from the unyielding anger and polarization of beliefs on each side.

While sometimes there is indeed true evil in a belief, as in Nazism, the one thing I am certain of is that no group, religion, or political party represents unalloyed good. In the case of U.S. politics, I’ve been around long enough and involved enough in politics to have seen that neither party is that “good” or that “evil.” Both occasionally have good ideas, and both more often try to carry matters to extremes, sure of their own virtue, and neither recognizes that extremes and absolutes are never virtuous… and that their own extreme “virtues” can often be as bad as the other parties “evils.”

And, so far, neither one has been able to recognize that. That recognition is long overdue, and if it does not occur, matters will escalate into greater and greater social unrest and violence.

7 thoughts on “Wake-Up Call”

  1. Tom says:

    Aristotle introduced his Doctrine of the Mean, where he argues that virtue (ethics) is the mean between two extremes.

    Democracy, Marsilius of Padua argues, is the best form of government because it tends to produce the wisest laws, protects the common benefit, promotes “sufficiency of life”, and produces laws that are most likely to be obeyed. (I fail to understand Cromwell’s misinterpretation).

    Despite my criticisms of the US citizens it seems that the “tribalism” induced into the US society comes as a consequence of the tribalism within Congress and the resultant lack of government based on our Constitution; specifically the lack of the application of “checks and balances”.

    Reforms of Congress and Government are needed but what “reform” would prevent future “tribalism”? I would have thought that the US Constitution adequate for the job. How else can one write into law the Aristotelian virtue (of the mean of the normal distribution between extremes)? Is there a simple answer?

  2. Chris says:

    You can’t really code into law the concept of virtue, but you can setup the election system so that candidates are more likely to represent the midrange of the views of their constituents, instead of just the extremes.

    One way we could setup the system to make middle of the road candidates become more likely to get elected would be switching to Ranked Choice Voting. If there were implemented for all federal positions, people would be able to vote for their favorite candidate and not worry that they are “throwing away” their vote and letting their least favorite option squeak by.

    1. Tom says:

      Ranked-choice voting (RCV) is a ranked voting system implemented in some jurisdictions of the United States in which voters may prioritize (rank) their choice of candidates among many, … instant-runoff voting (IRV) and single transferable vote (STV) are the general types of ranked-choice voting systems used in the United States.

      Use in single position elections works but where there are elections for multiple positions the clever humans make it possible for loosing candidates to transfer their votes to someone else in their party: thus enabling a looser to win in a contest for a different position. Cutting out that possibility makes for large elector voting sheets. But, this could work at the US Federal level.

  3. Grey says:

    I’m disappointed and frustrated with essays like this which more or less posit that the actions of the Democrats and Republicans are comparable. On the Democratic side, it’s business as usual. A person from the 1990s who fell through a time hole would feel right at home as politicians like Rep AOC from the Bronx relentlessly seek ‘Medicare for All’ and other progressive policy goals. On the other, you have the President and a substantial portion of the GOP advocating for an authoritarian take-over of the US where we dispense with the vote. (We are now at over 90 baseless election lawsuits across the country that have been struck down by judges of all stripes.)

    And violence? On the one hand you have the proud boys and other white supremacist groups, which “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers White supremacists and other “domestic violent extremists” as presenting “the most persistent and lethal threat” to the nation. . .” [1] Groups which, it must be said, are continually egged on by the GOP. On the other, you have ‘antifa’ an organization that seems to exist more in the fever dreams of conservative commentators and internet trolls than in reality.

    ‘Both sides’ indeed. Give me a break.

    [1] E.g., https://www.foxnews.com/us/homeland-white-supremacy-lethal-threat

    1. The right wing extremists are indeed, as you point out, more violent and dangerous, but so far as being able to compromise politically, I don’t see much compromise on either side… and successful governing requires political compromise.

      1. Postagoras says:

        I acknowledge your expertise, Mr. Modesitt, but I’m puzzled. Doesn’t successful governing require a legislative agenda first, to have something to compromise on?

        In 2016 the Republicans had the Presidency and control of Congress, and did what? The Tax Policy Act?

        The Republican Party is unserious about governing in Congress. Just packing the Federal Judiciary. With no skin in the game, there’s no possibility of compromise.

        1. You’re correct about the Republican Party. As I observed earlier, the Republicans have become the party of “No,” saying no to pretty much everything except tax cuts and business subsidies. That makes compromise extremely difficult, to say the least. What the Democrats have to do is propose numerous feasible and attractive alternatives to “no” in order to gain popular support and to highlight the unthinking intransigence of Republicans. Proposing extreme leftist ideas won’t gain enough support among the majority of the population to move Republicans out of the null position.

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