There are times when one longs for the Sixties. They were turbulent times, to be sure. The civil rights struggle, the anti-Vietnam protests, the rise of a youth counterculture questioning the very underpinning of the country itself, the beginnings of the cultural war in which we still find ourselves mired.
And yet, even so, in the Sixties things worked. Congress and the President…though they often came to blows…actually got things done. Laws…landmark laws, at that…were passed. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Voting Rights Act. Medicare. The Great Society. Sure, it may be said that both President and Congress were from the same party…except that wasn’t much help as Southern Democrats were as often allied with Republicans as they were with the Administration. What all did recognize, however, was that there are things the nation needs, things that must be done regardless of one’s ideological convictions and that compromise is a virtue, not a sin. And so things were accomplished even in the face of the turbulence and violence of the time.
We even managed to put a man on the moon. Four of them before the decade was out, as a matter of fact.
Last week, Congress adjourned. The 113th Congress has given a whole new meaning to “do-nothing”. It has passed fewer bills, to date, than any other Congress in history. The House of Representatives even failed to pass their own bill to deal with the crisis at the border. The following day, following the wishes of the most extreme anti-immigrant, the R’s passed a draconian bill designed to deport children…a bill they know is going nowhere, that will be rejected by the Senate or vetoed by the President.
As we watch helplessly, our infrastructure is crumbling. Only a parliamentary parlor trick kept the highway trust fund going for another few months (raise the gas tax? Perish the thought!) Congress continues to maintain the fiction that government services are…or ought to be…free, that nothing need be paid for by anyone. Or, at least, not by the millionaires and billionaires they represent.
One wonders what would have happened had this Congress been in control in other periods in our history. Would our interstate highway system have been built? Would Social Security exist? Civil rights legislation? Would slavery still exist? The West opened? Would we still be a tiny country clinging to the East Coast?
Would there be a country, at all?
One really doesn’t need to wonder. One knows. Go home, Speaker Boehner. And don’t come back. You and your Republican colleagues are worse than useless.