Recipe For Success
In honor of the holiday weekend, I thought I would put in writing some thoughts I have had about how we might go about improving the prospects for future success for our beloved nation and its people. Happy Labor Day!
I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely fed up with the political class in this country -- of both parties. They seem to have forgotten that, when we elect them to office, we expect them to work for the good of the country and all of its citizens. They work for us, not for their own personal ambitions, social or financial advancement or ego fulfillment. Politics may be, as it has been said, “war by other means,” but it is not and should not be a game. What we have been experiencing over the past number of years looks like a group of self-centered children who have been given the keys to the candy store and decided to put on a food fight.
There are too many examples to list of what has gone and is going wrong. We need to embark on a new course, and do so quickly. If we don’t, we run the risk of being the generation that squandered the greatest promise of personal freedom and opportunity the world has ever seen. Following are some suggestions to at least get the process started.
Return to energy independence. It has been half a century since OPEC showed us how dependent our economy is on foreign sources of oil. Complete and open the pipelines now. Continue exploration of alternate sources like wind and solar, yes, and expand into hydrogen. Nuclear must be an option, so work to make it cleaner and safer. All of this can be accomplished while also respecting and advancing the cause of environmental health. We cannot be held hostage to another nation or group for the lifeblood of our economy and way of life.
Restore security and control to our borders. How that concept could be controversial is beyond me. Complete the southern border wall and work to stop the flow of drugs and human trafficking that merely serves to enrich the cartels and import violence. Develop intelligent (and, yes, liberal) immigration policies to continue this nation’s proud tradition of having open arms to those who wish to pursue a new life in – and actively contribute to the success of – a nation that respects diversity while embodying a single national culture rooted in the common values of the Great American Experiment.
Pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill already approved by the Senate, but not the House-passed $3.5 trillion “infrastructure” grab bag, the absurdity of which is evident in the extreme linguistic gymnastics utilized to declare anything and everything anyone particularly wants as “infrastructure.” The bipartisan bill is properly focused on items that can and will be of benefit in helping to restart the economy post-COVID and establish the framework for future progress.
Follow through on our commitment to American citizens and allies in Afghanistan. If we can’t be trusted to do that, there is no reason for our friends to trust us or our enemies to fear us. Our word – and our words – will hereafter be viewed as meaningless.
Stop politicizing science and medicine. Tell us what we need to know – and what you do in fact know, as opposed to agenda-driven opinions – so that we can make intelligent decisions about our own health and that of our communities. Terminate every existing emergency directive and program that has allowed politicians at the state, local and national level to continue to exercise extraordinary authority beyond the scope and term of the initial justifying emergency; in many cases they have been used to entice leaders into dictatorial tendencies antithetical to our democracy.
Restore law and order to our cities. Acknowledge that crimes are committed by individuals (we used to call them criminals) who either do not care about the consequences of their actions, or are convinced that there will be no consequences for those actions. The focus should be on addressing the roots of violence, not the means (which come in almost limitless variety). Protecting and preserving the safety of citizens and their property is one of, if not the single, highest and most sacred duties of government.
Stop writing massive, all-encompassing, omnibus, “comprehensive” legislation that is too long and dense and complicated for anyone really to understand; for years, this has been the favored tool to slip in benefits to special interests (a/k/a “pork”) without accountability. Break up legislative proposals into individual bills that can be read and understood by the people we have elected to do just that, and make them read them before they vote (and certify in writing that they did so). This is the way that the framers expected our government to work. Alternatively, give the executive branch the power to veto individual items in a bill (the “line-item veto”). However accomplished, it is imperative that we stop this charade of “all or nothing” legislation that all too often takes on the character of political extortion.
Stop abusing the extreme constitutional remedy of impeachment for purely political purposes. It cheapens and detracts from the intended gravity of that act, and potentially limits its future effectiveness by undermining respect for it and for the constitution.
Stop talking about “packing” or imposing term limits on the Supreme Court. Elections have consequences, and both political parties have had issues with the views of individual justices. The Constitution has justices appointed for life for a reason: to help preserve the independence of the third, co-equal branch of government. Both of these proposals fly in the face of this critical, structural component of our unique form of government characterized by checks and balances on all government power – legislative, executive and judicial. And please, please, restore some sense of decorum, fairness and seriousness to the Senate’s process of exercising its right of advice and consent with respect to Supreme Court nominations.
Figure out whether and to what extent practices with respect to past elections may have undermined the public perception of their legitimacy, and work to fix them. There should be no more pressing immediate goal than to ensure both the reality and the appearance of election integrity, as free and fair elections are the sole guarantee that “we the people” remain sovereign over those who govern this nation and our local communities on our behalf.
I would also ask that we stop the practice of elevating “spin” over truth. Whatever our leaders may think, the American people are not stupid. We know when we are not hearing the truth, or not the entirety of it. It appears that we have now gotten to the place where words are expected to take the place of reality, where merely saying that something is so makes it thus. Mistakes happen, and policy decisions can go awry. No one, and no body, is perfect or gets everything right. In the end, the truth will out. In the event of a problem or issue, we should spend our time seeking to understand what happened, what went right and what went wrong, rather than blaming each other. That is the only practical – and healthy – way to deal with setbacks.
I am not naïve; I know how hard it will be for the political class to change its stripes fast enough to keep this country from careening off the cliff of business-as-usual. But as citizens we have the power to choose our representatives, to put them in office or to take them out. Too often, individual representatives have remained in office so long that they may have taken their positions for granted. One means of addressing that situation would be term limits for both House and Senate. In 1995, the Senate issued a report (Senate Report 105-148) proposing a constitutional amendment to limit Senators to two terms and Representatives to six (a total of 12 years each), and in 1997, the House issued a similar report (Report 105-2) without making a recommendation. Perhaps it is now time to look at that issue seriously. At the very least, it would send a signal to the current leaders of both parties that we expect them to wise up, get serious and get back to their job of working for the betterment of our nation and its citizens, protecting our constitutional rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”