Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
The debt ceiling limit crisis has revealed one fact: the current political class of leaders who are largely from the Baby Boomer and post-Baby Boomer generations could never be confused with “The Greatest Generation.” The Most Partisan Generations? Perhaps.
Based on what is leading up to that fateful day of Aug. 2, our political class — weighted down by Baby Boomers’ hubris of Vietnam-era divisions and Richard Nixon’s Republican base-transforming “Southern Strategy,” plus post-Baby Boomers’ being influenced by no-compromise talk radio and ideological news programs — gets a D.
If the grade becomes an “F,” our country may not even be able to afford dunce caps.
Nowhere was this on display more then when President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner gave dueling television speeches on the politician-created debt ceiling limit crisis that threatens to wreak havoc with the American and global economies. Obama correctly noted that compromise has become “a dirty word” among some Republicans and played to his party’s liberal base on taxes. Boehner hurled zingers at Obama and played to his party’s absolutely-no-compromise Tea Party base.
The most perceptive comment on the appearances came from University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato who Tweeted: “I’m sorry to hear ‘the entire world is watching’. America has rarely looked more foolish…Dems think Obama did well. Rs think Boehner did well. And in a nutshell there’s the problem.”
You wonder: 235 years of American history have brought us to THIS with these kinds of leaders so incapacitated by partisan ideological boundaries? Whatever happened to consensus, statecraft, coalition-building and smart politicos who could lead their partisans to a greater national goal?
Both parties’ leaders are locked in ideological boxes that their bases won’t let them exit. The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan sees what is unfolding as part of a “cold” Civil War: “This Nixonian achievement has turned the GOP into the party of the South – a minority country within a country. With no ability to communicate within the Democratic Party to bring the South and the rest of the country together, we have stalemate.”
Former CBS Political Producer Brian Goldmith argues that Washington isn’t really broken, the GOP is. And it’s not that simple.
There’s a strong sense that leaders from both parties don’t have what it takes to achieve what leaders of past generations could do: do whatever it takes for the good of the country.
Is the world concluding America’s democratic institutions aren’t functioning? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton felt compelled to say this to Hong Kong business leaders: “Let me assure you we understand the stakes. We know how important this is for us and how important this is for you…These kinds of debates have been a constant in our political life throughout the history of our Republic.”
There has never been a debt ceiling debate this hate-filled. Or as polarizing. And never with leaders from both sides not up to the task — mere shadows of the leaders that made America so great. Even if they do finally agree, they will remain that: mere shadows.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.