Our Republic appears broken.
Members of Congress are busy pontificating instead of legislating. The President is a pulpiteer, sermonizing when it is opportune, and equivocating when it isn’t.
The national debt is growing. Entitlements are headed for a financial reckoning. Our economy teeters. Growth is middling. Fewer Americans are working today than at any tine since 1978. More Americans are receiving government payments for financial and nutritional support than citizens who hold jobs – and pay the taxes – that fund those programs. Obamacare threatens to destroy the finest healthcare infrastructure in the world, as the budget Sequester arbitrarily cuts essential programs (Defense) while the marginally useful, but politically connected, survive.
At the end of the day, partisan immaculacy holds precedence over practical political solutions. Hyper-partisanship has made even the most elementary agreements all but impossible.
Into this sad state of affairs comes the debate Syria.
Talking heads, laying out the very significant challenges for President Obama as he seeks congressional authority to take military action against the Assad regime, have included hyper-partisanship as one of the many problems that Obama must overcome. But that’s not quite right.
Since President Obama called for military action against Syria two weeks ago, a spontaneous, grass-roots groundswell across the country has been a catalyst for one of the oddest political alliances in recent times - progressive Democrats united with libertarian, Tea Party Republicans against any military action in Syria. To state that neither group has anything positive to say about the other is gross understatement, but a confluence of interests have them actively working together to defeat the coming Syria resolution.
So, Representative Michelle Bachman, reviled on the left and proudly serving with a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU) is on the same side a Democrat Barbara Lee, equally pleased with her “zero” rating from the ACU. Tea Partier Justin Amash (MI), a feverent opponent of Obamacare is in cahoots with Democrat Alan Grayson (FL), who famously said that the GOP healthcare plan was for seniors to “drop dead.”
In the Senate, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (IA), who favors government control of private assets and has a four percent rating from the ACU, is on the same side as Rand Paul, the thinly disguised libertarian, dedicated to vastly reducing government and its role in day-to-day life, who holds a perfect record with the ACU.
What is intriguing about this left-right alliance is its correlation to public opinion, particularly political independents. The latest Gallup poll shows that Americans are opposed to military involvement in Syria by 51-36 percent. Democrats are almost evenly divided on an attack, but Indies are even more opposed to a strike than the nation at large.
So, the extreme left and right of the American political spectrum have come together in support of a position that is held by the all important middle.
And this is not the only example.
This past summer, the left-right alliance nearly derailed an otherwise routine House vote on intelligence community appropriations by sponsoring a privacy amendment that would have gutted NSA’s ability to use a single court order to conduct broad-based surveillance that has in the past, included Americans. The amendment came in response to the revelations of Edward Snowden, and failed by bare eight votes.
Now, according to an ABC News poll conducted at the end of July, respondents were asked whether NSA’s surveillance of telephone calls and internet traffic was a violation of privacy rights, 74 percent of respondents said yes. 76 percent of Independents said yes.
Again, the extreme left and right ended up supporting the middle.
This isn’t a fluke and may be a harbinger.
By overwhelming majorities, Americans want Washington to set aside ideological rivalry and fix problems. That is beginning to happen, as demonstrated here, on an issue by issue basis. Although this left-right cooperation has nothing to do with the core financial and budget issues that hang heavy over the nation, this new alignment of political interests is fundamentally challenging the status quo on core constitutional issues – the Executive’s ability to wage war, and the limitation of government intrusion on civil liberties protections of the Bill of Rights.
The reality of this arrangement, strongly rooted in the majority of public opinion – crucially that of Independents – is proof, that the system does still work.
Whatever the outcome of the Syria vote, there is now a new political force to cope with in DC that will influence the direction of the country in the months to come.