The United States is trapped in a vicious cycle of extreme partisan polarization and political dysfunction. Today, Donald Trump is the President and Republicans control Congress. They are utilizing every power of the Executive Branch, including Executive Orders, to pursue an agenda that appeases their influential members, whether or not that agenda serves the broader interests of all Americans. Democrats, as the current Congressional minority, are using every tactic possible to derail the policies of the Trump Administration. Under the Obama Administration, the situation was inverted. Under the next President, the same Executive overreach and Congressional obstructionism will likely persist. Only when the two sides recognize the need to address their mutual interests as Americans and seek mutually acceptable solutions will this cycle be broken.
The problem is that Republicans seek nothing less than Republican-favored policies and Democrats seek nothing less than Democrat-favored policies. Neither side wants public policy solutions that actually solve problems by addressing the diverging interests of all Americans, i.e. solve every aspect of the problem. Sometimes this means adopting Republican-favored policies and sometimes it means adopting Democrat-favored policies. In today’s dysfunction, however, Republican-favored policies are unacceptable to Democrats, because they are Republican-favored policies, and Democrat-favored policies are unacceptable to Republicans, because they are Democrat-favored policies while there is no room for alternatives. This polarization is, however, a distraction from a much greater threat posed by those who use this dysfunction to seek power.
There is no room for dissent on either side, which is a problem for democracy and governance in general. There is a “you are with us or against us” mentality within modern politics that pressures people to either side with Republicans or Democrats. Those who choose to stand with Republicans on some issues and Democrats on other issues are branded as traitors and/or incompetent. People need to take strong, well-considered stances on issues and public policies. Being pressured to accept the stances of a political party or those views of highly influential political figures, because these people embrace these views, means people are not considering their stances and cannot stand firm on their views, which encourages political instability and public policy uncertainty.
In other words , partisan polarization fosters thoughtless public policies that cannot solve problems and cannot be maintained. For those who shape public policies to fit their own political agendas, the partisan divide makes it far easier to sneak their agenda into legislation when either side is in power. It makes it easier to enact their agendas then sabotage government to prevent others from undoing any of the detrimental policies they enacted. The Political War between Democrats and Republicans is a distraction that prevents Americans from focusing on the self-serving policies of powerful special interests. Replacing Democrats with Republicans and Republicans with Democrats will do nothing, because both sides are part of the problem.
Looking at economic philosophy through the eyes of sociologists, the teachings of Karl Marx provide insight into why American capitalism was more successful than Russian communism in the Cold War. Marx viewed war and social unrest, primarily, as an inherent conflict between economic classes: those being the proletariats, i.e. the workers/producers of goods and services, and the capitalists, i.e. the exploiters of the producers. Supporters of Marx viewed all conflict as more or less economic in nature while the Communists believed they could eliminate conflict by eliminating the capitalists, i.e. the wealthy elite. Unfortunately, they neglected to realize they were only creating a more permanent, more powerful privileged class that could more readily abuse power. In other words, they created an oppressive government class that lacked rivalry.
In the West, Americans understood capitalists do not just exploit workers. They can add to the efficiency of an economy by organizing the distribution of resources and coordinating economic activities. It is when the demands of the capitalists outweigh their benefit that they become little more than a disposal burden.
Thanks to an underlying philosophy of self-sufficiency and self-determination, Americans are expected to act as both proletariats and capitalists by offering their labor for a negotiated sum of capital. In other words, Americans are expected to demand reasonable compensation and ensure their own interests are met, which is the democratic way. As such, Americans did not seek to eliminate the upper socioeconomic classes as they did in the Soviet Union. Instead, Americans sought to disperse power across a broad range of individuals in a variety of fields. Long before the issue of Communism arose, the American People aspired to build a nation based on equal opportunity. As such, the United States has long promoted multiple elite classes that anyone can join. This is why Americans believe every American should have the opportunity to work his, or her, way up to the status of the elites.
When small groups of individuals control the elite classes of the different power arenas in society, and/or the lower classes lose their ability to achieve a higher socioeconomic status, the powerful few have the ability to short-circuit democratic processes. In tandem, the interests of the many can only be addressed when those in power have a perceived interest in addressing our interests. Because minority groups, including the wealthy, are naturally inclined to seek power, as they must to ensure their interests are not neglected by the majority, and the powerful are driven to solidify/legitimize their power, a smaller elite class, which is based more on inheritance rather than true merit, will seek to undermine the interests of the majority when its interests conflict with the interests of the powerful. Simply put, when the rulers of a nation have consolidated, legitimized, and solidified their power, they will have no incentive to respect democracy or address the interests of the majority.
The greatest threat to the American way of life is, therefore, a consolidation of the elite classes and the inability of individuals to improve their socioeconomic status, i.e. everyone must have the opportunity to pursue their interests. The narrowing of the power elite classes is the greatest threat to democracy. Because the interests of the majority are no longer addressed, or even considered, the narrowing of the power elite is also the greatest threat to modern governance in general. The Political War between Democrats and Republicans, between so-called Liberals and so-called Conservatives, is a distraction from this threat. People unite when they have a common problem or face a common threat. If two enemies can be created, the population can be divided and distracted from their actually common threat. Only by ignoring the partisan divide and addressing the true threat that is the narrowing of the power elite class can political dysfunction be addressed.
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