Will Dempster: Collapsing under ineptitude

American democracy is rotting at its foundation. The efficacy of U.S. government is decaying to the point where it faces a severe crisis of legitimacy. While politicians of both parties toil in inside-the-beltway frivolity, Americans now suffer needlessly under the weight of their government’s sheer ineptitude when its help is needed most. Accordingly, American government requires a moderate revolution that yields leaders more interested in helping ordinary people than perpetuating partisan hackery.

America’s traditional two-party system of government is no longer capable of solving society’s problems. While a Republican administration that enshrines nepotism in its highest ranks badly botched the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the Democratic opposition – content to let Republicans implode – has yet to step forward with a comprehensive plan of its own to mitigate the suffering of America’s newest refugees. While Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas), Jack Abramoff and their cronies have finally been exposed for their corrupt takeover of American politics, Democrats maintain the status quo by allowing corporate and lobbyist dollars to further pollute their party and American democracy.

America needs no more politicians; it needs leaders. It needs leadership neither of the radical right nor the radical left, but moderates forced to govern through compromise. The natural genesis for such a coalition is the Gang of 14, a collection of Democrats and Republicans who defused the “nuclear option” over the filibuster in the Senate. It is no coincidence that the very senators in this group are the ones that repeatedly cross party lines in voting.

The political courage of these individuals should not retreat after reaching compromise on the filibuster. Instead, the Gang of 14 should seek other senators and like-minded representatives who have grown weary of the partisan browbeating levied by their respective party leaderships. If we can have “Blue Dog” Democrats and “Log Cabin” Republicans, why not a new moniker of “Perturbed Policymakers?”

There is important work for such a legislative coalition to do. First and foremost, these legislators help build a collaborative and comprehensive plan for redevelopment of the Gulf Coast region in general and New Orleans in particular. Such an effort should not only include a plan through which the economy of the region should be rehabilitated and communities rebuilt, but also a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s federal emergency management system that has been exposed for bureaucratic ineptitude and lack of ability to execute during this period of crisis. This is an issue devoid of partisanship; all Americans share a stake in insuring a successful recovery from this calamity.

The second issue requiring substantial non-partisan collaboration is the war in Iraq. It is increasingly clear that neither the Republican administration that led the nation into the war, nor the Democratic opposition that always complains but suggests little action to reinforce their rhetoric, have programs for succeeding in Iraq. Despite personal convictions about whether the Iraqi venture was wise policy, Americans rise almost unanimously to acknowledge how imperative it is to succeed in Iraq. Engaging a moderate coalition in determining precisely what America’s success factors and course should be will produce the highest likelihood of effectively solving the quagmire.

Some would contend such a radical reformation of America’s party structure is naive, idealistic or even crazy. They would argue that the two parties hold monopolies on their respective constituencies. These skeptics fail to understand the wrath of people who are simply fed-up and pissed-off. New York Times columnist David Brooks acknowledged in Katrina’s aftermath how repeated governmental failures could catalyze a radical reorientation of U.S. politics. With the proper leadership such a revolution is not only possible, but also just and honorable.

Government should be a collection of society’s brightest minds, not its most ideologically indoctrinated and personally loyal. It should be about identifying and solving problems, not blaming others and making excuses for inaction. It should work to make lives better, not stand by why they are ruined. Americans need to stop settling for a choice between bad and worse. A revolutionary empowerment of America’s moderate center at the expense of its polarizing extremists will help redeem its decaying political soul.

-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is The Hatchet’s senior editor.

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