Why America is Stuck

. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Let’s talk about some of the issues that haunt America and our Democracy and parse who bears the responsibility for our inability to tackle these problems. First there is the issue of the will to tackle a problem. Next there is figuring out the best way to tackle the problem. Then there must be an estimate of the cost of taking on the problem. After that, if the government decides to weigh in, comes the formulation of a bill and its passage into law. Then there must be implementation of the law. Every one of these steps has become a point of contention in the current political climate. Just pick a problem, any problem.

Gun Control

If you watch the news you have seen the neat maps labeled with the mass shootings that occur within a fairly limited time frame. Each and every time Americans mourn, Americans vent, Americans want to know why, and Americans express their belief that changes in our policies around gun ownership could help resolve this problem.

 

CNN

It is as if random Americans are living a life in which the slightest conflict induces rage, and killing someone or lots of some ones is the only solution. We can see that some Americans are operating on a hair trigger emotionally but we have no way to identify which Americans are likely to ‘go off.’ Even when a parent tips off the police it is difficult for authorities to know which tips to take seriously, given that families are complicated. In the mix also we have people who have been radicalized or who came to America with a plan. We have people who believe they are performing some patriotic duty. We have people strung out on drugs.

But at the bottom of all this is the fact that these people have access to a gun, or guns. So, Americans keep wanting to see if having fewer guns around or more limited access to guns would make those who rage seek different ways to express their uncontrollable anger. 

But we are blocked from any attempt to limit gun ownership or access to guns by the way Republicans, with their alliance with the NRA, have chosen to interpret the Second Amendment. Did the founders give blanket permission for gun ownership to every American? America was a frontier nation when it was founded. We had just been through a revolution against England to become an independent nation. It is difficult to conceive of a household that didn’t need to own guns in that situation. But would they feel the same way if they could speak to America today? 

Did they simply mean that states could have militias that owned guns? Is the Oath Keepers, for example, the kind of militia our founders had in mind? They did seem to have the intention of offering citizens protection from foreign invasions or from authoritarians who wished to undermine our democracy/republic. 

Strangely present-day militias seem to be offering up their services on behalf of the most authoritarian person to ever become a sitting American president. Isn’t this troubling? Not to the Republican party. The Republican party has decided that they can speak for the founders; they can channel their thoughts. They believe that they know what our founders would say in the twenty-first century.

The Very Nature of Governance

Republicans dip back into the Constitution again, and in their self-appointed role as stand-ins for our founding fathers, they define the role of the Federal government. They say that our Federal government is too big, it is too controlling. They say our Federal government has usurped the rights of the states. They say our Federal government is inept and that huge amounts of money are spent on programs that achieve little or nothing. 

Republicans want the government to stay out of the people’s way and let states handle their problems their own way. They say they are the Originalists; that we should ignore laws passed since 1789 and go back to the way our documents were written. They formed The Federalist Society because they believe that the wrong founders won the arguments presented in the Federalist Papers. Alexander Hamilton and George Washington both favored a strong central government. Thomas Jefferson and his allies totally disagreed. Of course, all of Jefferson’s arguments were tainted by his beliefs about slavery and the superiority of the Southern economy. 

Republicans say that all our problems can be solved, and solved better, by private companies. If we look to privately-owned prisons which operate on a for-profit basis it is difficult to see any benefits that have accrued from the private sector in this regard. Clearly if we want supports for women who want to contribute to their family income and/or use their minds in challenging ways we have looked to organizations like Catholic Charities and other charitable organizations to provide these supports. And we are thankful for all the programs supported through charitable contributions. What these groups have not been able to do is keep providing a living wage to the workers they hire. Because people who provide services to women and families cannot pay premium salaries the value assigned to women is always less than that assigned to men.

During this all-encompassing covid pandemic we have kept children home and have schooled them remotely. Obviously children cannot stay home alone. In the case of a two-parent family where both parents work from home it may be possible to arrange schedules to allow both parents to continue working, but not easily. In the case of some two-parent families the parent who made the higher salary may have worked while the other parent dropped out to care for their children. 

Often it was the woman who dropped out of the labor force. In a health emergency day care centers closed. Single parents were in real trouble except for the relief supplied by the government. Do we want supports for families so both adults can work and single parents don’t have to stress about caring for their child/ren? Are these things America needs, things that would make our lives better? Is it likely that all these needs (and others) will be met by private entities and met without injecting personal ideologies that might run counter to parental preferences?

Republicans say no to a safety net, and it becomes difficult to even discuss these matter in Congress let alone plan programs to meet these needs, find funds to pay for solutions, and pass bills to establish safety net resources. Look at how many Red states still do not allow the Medicaid expansion for their citizens. Again the pandemic had people relocating to Red states who did not believe in halting their economies to stop an epidemic. People see this as choosing freedom over regulation. But in a state that offers you no health insurance, what will happen if you do catch the virus and get seriously ill or die; what will happen to your family. In a world headed towards a population of 9 billion people, the freedom to let an epidemic run wild sounds more like insanity.

The way in which Republicans, led by Trump, managed the pandemic most likely prolonged the economic damage to places that do in-person business such as restaurants, bars, health clubs, etc. People blame governors who shut things down for prolonging the economic damage when, clearly, it was the failure to adopt the measures that would have killed the virus in its tracks that did the damage. Republicans, in the name of preserving individual rights, trampled all over the well-being of Americans and the American economy. Blame our current half open-half closed states, how long this pandemic has lasted, on the Republican party and Trump.

Conclusions 

Look in any corner of American culture and you will see the willful prints of the Republican party all over every decision we have made in recent years. They look backwards, ever backwards with seeming nostalgia about the American that once was. That older America has evolved, it has changed but Republicans insist they can bring it back. They can bring back the factories, keep fossil fuels, keep gas-fueled vehicles, keep the same old railroads, just hold America still like a photograph of the fifties, before seat belts, before integration, before the Southern border was any kind of issue at all. Back to pure capitalism, without regulation; back to a muscular economy without unions. 

We can’t go back there. That America is gone forever. But because of what Republicans have decided about America we can’t move forward either. I just want everyone to remember that our stasis as a nation is the fault of the Republican party; that all the energy Democrats have for forward movement is being thwarted by Republicans, and that they even wish to restore Donald Trump to the presidency. This would be a disaster.

We must all try to prevent Republicans from prevailing. Voting has never been more important and giving Democrats a larger majority in Congress is essential. Do not let anyone suppress your vote if you can help it, and find a way to circumvent their suppressions if you can. Republicans are the reason we can not solve America’s important issues. It will have dire consequences for our nation if Republicans regain power in 2022 and 2024.

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