There has been much hand wringing of late about how crippling partisan politics are to our country. This perspective has been expressed from both sides of the political aisle. Politicians, pundits, writers and virtually everyone who can’t reach across the aisle or the neighbor’s fence all decry the partisan nature of public discourse today.
For there to be a bipartisan divide, there needs to be at least two different points of view vying for recognition as the valid perspective. That implies debate and differences in opinion. In other words there are other points of view. I believe that we as a country have progressed away from bipartisan politics into the quagmire of a single party, with only one legitimate point of view about political policies being recognized.
In a single party state, opposition is marginalized. Different points of view are discredited. The opposition is characterized as clowns, as traitors, as fools and there is only one credible position, that being the one proposed by the party in power. There is no need to hold public hearings, to gather different points of view when the policy is already crafted. Secret meetings become the rule, not the exception.
This type of governance is made possible when decisions like Citizens United unite wealth and politics and give the wealthy more political power than those with less. Those who receive the financial support of powerful interests feel empowered to craft legislation behind closed doors. They don’t need or want other points of view. If they don’t like certain regulations which make it harder for them to pursue their self centered interests, they change the regulations. We have “Regulation without Representation” to borrow a phrase from Jim Sensenbrenner, who certainly doesn’t mean it in the same way that I do.
This is a very troubling change in the way we conduct public discussion about very important matters. The idea of a middle ground has somehow slipped into the past. There can’t be a middle, if there is only one side. We can look into the history books to see what happens to single party states and to the people who lived in them and it isn’t reassuring or pretty. Let’s not keep going down that road. It leads to tyranny and I really don’t think any of us want that.
We need our elected officials to listen to us. They need to come into their districts and talk to the people they represent. They need to hear different points of view and not be afraid of new or different ideas. That includes the media. Only speaking with and listening to those who agree with us stagnates our society. Public hearings and listening sessions serve an important function in our country. They help keep our democracy strong. As citizens we also need to express and hear different points view. We need to have two sides to the discussion if we are to reach a middle ground and move forward.
Sister Bay, Wis.