Zen Politics: The Sound of One Party Clapping
The State of the Union address tonight highlighted the deep divide between the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Repeatedly during the speech, the President laid out initiatives for the future. On most issues the applause was limited to one side of the aisle. (The most notable exception was the introduction of the family of a fallen Marine, which even drew applause from the members of the Supreme Court who normally sit silently while the speech is given.)
The one time that the Democrats wholeheartedly applauded was when the President decried the failure of the last year to act on Social Security. They celebrated not dealing with the largest long-term financial problem facing our nation. When the President proposed making permanent the tax cuts that have driven the recent economic expansion, only one party--the Republicans--responded. The pattern was repeated throughout the night.
The implications of this divide for future legislative progress are grim. There is no doubt that we need Congress to act on a number of fronts. But given the narrow margins in both the House and the Senate, it is unlikely that large-scale changes to meet the challenges we already know are coming will be passed. Like a troubled marriage where the spouses have stopped talking to each other except to yell, the shrill partisan rhetoric filling Congress is preventing progress.
The outrageous slurs and slanders leveled against Samuel Alito (now a lifetime member of the Supreme Court!) are just the latest and most visible indication of the degraded discourse. Ted Kennedy's red-faced, desperately shouted attempt to launch an unwarranted filibuster on the Senate floor should have been an embarrassment to his party...instead it was hailed by the radical left. In fact the moonbats of the Internet are threatening bodily harm to the Democrats who voted against Alito but would not support the filibuster.
The 2006 election season is in full swing after tonight. Many political observers have projected modest Democratic gains in both houses of Congress, but almost no one expects tham to control either the House or the Senate. The country would probably be better served for the long run if one party or the other held a more decisive majority...things need to get done. But as long as we have this Zen divide in Washington, they won't.