It’s hard not to be stunned by the depth of unethical hypocrisy displayed by political leaders, subservient to Trumpism. They’re intent thwarting good faith moves to address the nation’s needs. McConnell and McCarthy lead the pack, but the pack includes hundreds of legislators toeing the libertarian line with all of its racist undertones and evidence free faith in imitation laissez-faire government. Fringe characters like Greene, Boebert and Gaetz dominate the tabloid news cycle. They’re window dressing distractions from those who stay out of the press but have greater influence.
We need two parties that will focus on the needs of the nation, offering objections and alternatives to each other based on their analysis of available data. The public has a right to expect that some kind of negotiated settlement can be reached. What the public has a right to expect hasn’t been true since 2008. The sole message since then of GOP campaign committees and super PACs has been to stop whatever Democrats propose, labeling them as socialist. Nikki Haley’s Stand for America PAC, for example, hammers on a socialist agenda that doesn’t exist, accuses Sen. Sanders of trying to weaken Israel, says Biden is soft on Russia, and claims Biden’s $2 trillion investment in America’s future will burden tax payers, while Trump’s tax cuts creating a $2 trillion debt and no benefit to the nation was a good thing.
Where are their proposals for addressing the nation’s most pressing needs? The answer seems to involve substituting non existent issues, issues of lesser importance and intractable issues to divert attention from the work that needs to be done. One GOP representative complained that Democrats were ignoring the most important matters facing the nation which he said were: closing the border with Mexico; criminalizing abortion; defending second amendment rights; and imposing strict law and order enforcement in big cities. National security, always a go to issue, is framed by the GOP in terms of bellicose military preparation for another WWII.
During the four years of quasi libertarian rule under Trump, what did the nation get? Promises of a health care and infrastructure plan that never materialized. Foreign relations and international trade blundering that eroded America’s standing in the world. A tax cut that ballooned the deficit and debt but provided no measurable good to the economy. Desperate handouts to agriculture to cover losses from failed tariff wars. Low unemployment (yay) accomplished through low wage jobs offering no benefits (boo). Deregulation of industry that jeopardized public and environmental health and safety. A move toward autocratic fascism, and the endorsement of white supremacy. Perhaps worst of all, a sustained propaganda campaign to create public distrust of the nation’s electoral processes that have as clean a record for integrity as possible.
The crucial issues the nation must address are in familiar categories: health care, affordable housing, infrastructure, education, environmental degradation, working conditions and job site safety, economic security and equity, deep seated practices of racial discrimination, and the like. National security, a perennial favorite, has more to do with cybersecurity, protecting intellectual property, guaranteeing transparency in international trade, resolving proxy wars and regional conflicts, and guarding against insurrectionists. No major power has any interest in conquest by warfare. Competition for global leadership is all about technology and trade. These are needs and issues that respect no state boundaries. While states need flexibility to manage solutions locally, only the federal government has the ability to plan and finance programs to benefit and protect all of us. Standards of justice that respect the dignity of every human being cannot be at risk from state to state. Reagan was wrong about government being the problem. Low tax, small government aficionados are wrong about the private sector’s ability to make everything work together for the good through the magic of the market place.
Following the small government, low tax line to its end would produce a second tier balkanized union of semi united states, or, as Trumpism would have it, a fascist libertarian state depriving individuals of their cherished rights and freedoms. What we need is effective, efficient democratically responsive government attuned to the needs of ordinary people.
The tiresome fear mongering about socialism is especially misguided. No serious person desires the nation to adopt Marxist-Leninism. Even Russia and China have laid that ideology aside. We don’t even want to emulate the Nordic countries. What GOP propagandists call socialism is common sense public investment in the means of economic security accruing to every person regardless of their condition in life.
Guaranteed health care, quality public education, infrastructure built for the future, protection of the environment, and regulation of business that protects employees, consumers and investors, while optimizing conditions for fair competition. None of that is socialism. It’s just good public policy in a free and democratic nation. For that to be our future, we need a reformed conservative party to act as a cautionary check on liberal exuberance.