People speak of politics as if it is a political spectrum or continuum. They talk about the left and right. They talk about the far left and the far right, and occasionally, someone talks about the middle. In an earlier piece entitled “Stuck in The Middle” this writer lamented how hard it is for someone in the middle to know what is true and what is not. Politically and journalistically, objectivity and truth no longer seem important to the far left and far right.
The lack of objectivity and truth at the political extremes is not the only problem faced by those in the middle. There is another problem. The right and the left are coming together on one major political strategy. If either is successful, everyone else will be left to deal with the aftermath.
The way the left and right seem to be drawing the same conclusions regarding strategy and tactics makes one wonder if politics is on a spectrum. Maybe politics is more akin to a circle or some other geometric design with a perimeter. If that is the case, the farther one moves to the left or right the closer he or she comes to the right or the left. At some point, the left and the right could be hard to tell apart. In one major way, that is the case. Both are trying to take the easy way out.
Real-world societal change does not come easily or quickly. True societal change can take decades, sometimes centuries and even millennia. Some religions, faith systems and philosophies recognize that fact, and they have been slowly, incrementally causing societal changes or expanding the influence of their beliefs within society. They do this by changing the hearts and minds of people, and that takes hard work and patience. Modern societies do not seem to have the patience to bring about change or expand influence slowly.
The political system in the United States is an excellent example of this modern impatience. Both the far left and the far right want their version of the United States, and they want it now. They are not satisfied with changes that might benefit the next generation. They want to see those changes immediately if not sooner. Of course, in some areas they are almost diametrically opposed to each other on what the changes should be. So instead of working together, they are trying to take the easy way out. They are trying to overpower their opponents and force changes on society.
The result of this impatience is the political deadlock many feel has invaded our nation’s Capitol. Each side is bashing the other, hoping to win a political victory that will move that side’s vision of America closer to reality. Both sides have decided the only way to bring about change is to legislate it into being. They do not want to do the hard work of changing society, they want to pass a few laws and make things great, as they define it.
The left wants to pass laws that will level the playing field. The right wants to pass laws that will return to or protect a system of self-determination and morality they feel the left is attempting to destroy. The left sees the right as money-grubbing imperialist and religious fanatics. The right sees the left as Marxist radicals attempting to make the State all-powerful and overturn the ideals of the founding fathers. Those are clearly not attitudes that lend themselves to cooperation and progress. Is it any wonder the only strategy either side can envision is overpowering the other side legislatively?
Passing a law may cause some change. Yet, laws primarily cause changes in the behavior of that percentage of the population that is, more or less, law-abiding. For example, hate speech laws may keep some people from using hate speech, however one defines hate speech, in public. It is unlikely, no matter what anyone says, that such a law changes anyone’s attitude about others. It simply encourages them to hide how they feel from public view.
The same is true of morality oriented legislation. A law against gambling keeps some law-abiding citizens from gambling. It will not however, stop gambling. It will simply drive it underground or into another jurisdiction.
Historically, two of the most touted efforts to legislatively change society in modern times might be Prohibition and President Johnson’s Great Society initiative. Both are considered successes for various reasons. The truth is both were failures in many ways.
Prohibition did achieve the short-term goal of reducing alcohol consumption in the United States. It also helped develop the most extensive organized crime networks ever known. It turned small time crooks into Godfathers and made others wealthy beyond their dreams. When the country repealed prohibition, some rum runners and others in the illegal alcohol business went legit, becoming titans of industry and political power brokers. Others decided that legitimacy was too much trouble. They switched to drugs and prostitution. Unless something changed since yesterday, drugs, prostitution and alcohol are still problems for society today.
President Johnson’s Great Society was supposed to solve all the country’s ills. To get the Great Society rolling, President Johnson reportedly pushed through and signed 85 of 87 different pieces of legislation into law. All designed to further his dream of a perfect society.
President Johnson’s plan did meet with some success. Fans of the Great Society point to civil rights laws, Medicare and Medicaid as examples of success. However, after 40 years of government intervention, regulation and spending most of the social ills the program was supposed to address are still with us.
A constitutional amendment in 1920 enacted prohibition. Lawmakers designed it to save the lives and souls of all Americans. It lasted 13 years before the country was forced to repeal it because the cure was worse than the disease. President Johnson enacted his programs in 1964 and 1965. They were supposed to wipe out poverty, end racism and make everyone equal. Poverty is higher than it’s ever been and racism still exists. As for the equality issue, if the left is to be believed, inequality is worse than ever.
©S. E. Jackson – 2012