There has been a lot of recent talk, mostly from the Democratic Party, about "reaching across the aisle" and "cooperation" - as though this were a New Idea that was previously impossible to achieve. The problem for political ideologues is that there are two kinds of "cooperation". One is genuine compromise, where respective groups treat 'politics' as the art of the possible, always with the national interest put ahead of any partisan positions. While this has happened with notable success in the past, such times do not happen as often as they should.
By example, in the dark days of the Cold War, the US was targeted by 25,000+ nuclear warheads. This was not an imaginary threat, although some 'historians' have made statements the threat wasn't real. That view likely suffers from a case of 20-20 hindsight, because anyone that lived during that time *knows* the threat certainly SEEMED real... The annual parade through Red Square of missile and tanks were real. The Hungarians, Czechs and East Germans had no doubt in their minds.
The common and jointly accepted(?) political strategy of the time (i.e., Contain Communism) dictated that communist countries must be 'blocked' from any type of expansion and left to themselves as much as possible, where they would crumble in upon themselves. (It should be noted those countries believed capitalist system would collapse, too.) This containment policy required extreme patience and a lot of resources (mostly financial). While we waited, the other side looked for our weak points and made strategic and tactical probes against positions where we appeared vulnerable.
To be sure, there were very few True Communists in the USSR - most had set their ideology to the side in favor of pursuing simple imperial-style conquest in its various forms. But even those efforts had to be closely monitored - requiring more financial and ever increasing technological resources - because the Containment Strategy could not permit 'war to feed war'. None of this was hidden or secret. Anyone who gave the situation a serious, rational look - after removing any rose-colored glasses, of course - could see the obvious in front of them. This was generally true regardless of party or ideological beliefs.
However, the Liberal wing of American politics went a step farther and put a slightly different spin on things. The (real) Costs of the Cold War could not be allowed to impede Progress, at least what constitutes Progress according to the Liberal Agenda. The solution was to insure financing of the Cold War was matched, dollar for dollar whenever possible, with various plans and programs to further their ideological agenda. Such thinking (e.g., vote buying) proved to be effective - because it seemed the electorate returned Representatives and Senators to office because they brought money to the home folks - and this approach was ultimately adopted by both sides of the Congressional aisle. This lead to the Great Society and (later on) No Child Left Behind, to mention two examples of numerous 'progressive' programs as desired and established by both parties.
The current political parties fragmented away from their respective origins, adopting new persona. The Republicans tended to focus on taxation and business efforts (e.g., private enterprise, capitalism), while the Democrats embraced social reforms and legalism (e.g., legislating from the bench as needed). Within each party, the 'Progressive' leadership took charge. This evolved to where control of the tax monies raised by fiscal conservatives to battle deficits produced by social engineering efforts became the real battleground.
Effectively, the Republicans were the tax collectors for Democratic spending projects. In the later stages of the 20th Century, the Republicans returned to a measure of political power, but instead of returning to their roots, chose to focus instead on the “Feel Good and Get Re-elected” strategy employed so effectively by Democrats for years. This means the Republicans, lead by their so-called 'Country Club' subset, simply changed the spending from favored Democrat programs to spending on favored Republican programs. Thus, government spending spirals ever upward; the only change is in which side benefits from the largess. The only winners were the ever-more-expanding core of lobbists, whose ranks began to swell as former 'public servant' found out the path to Real Money in your own pocket was to influence the spending habits of congress-critters for all stripes.
Slowly, the taxpaying public is finally becoming aware of this bait-and-switch situation. We've seen a couple of recent elections with unexpected results which SHOULD be defined as the application of “throw the rascals out”. However, the winning side tends to see their victory as justification for THEIR spending programs. We are starting to see yet-another voter rebellion: once again, the driving force will be “throw the rascals out”. It remains to be seen if either major political party will learn anything from these results.
The message - which is apparently too difficult to digest for the entrenched political class - is quite simple:
“Look, you jokers... No new taxes: don't worry about trying to tax him or her, us or them, low, middle, or high income... taxes are high enough! What you really need to do is CUT THE SPENDING! Balance the budget by shrinking government. Sure, there will be some tough choices; that's what we hired you to do (remember: you work for us, not the other way around). And while you're are at it, make darn sure we taxpayers get a good value for our money you're spending. Government is enormous, government service is minimal, our roads are disintegrating, travel service is horrible, unemployment is over 10%, and WE, the tax paying public, ARE NOT HAPPY! (and, by the way, we're watching you like a hawk - if you can't/won't do the job, we'll find someone else.)”
Yep - it's clear the American people do not want more government and higher taxes. Unfortunately, there are plenty of those “Country Club” Republicans who are willing to reach across the aisle to 'get something done'. This is a critical year: this is the year to return to the simple principle that government is not the solution, government is the problem. If you want an analogy, after years of cutting off our nose to spite our face, we have decided we will accept a less than ideal nose, rather than have our face continually disfigured.
“But What about Health Care Reform?” --- The problem with health care reform, which has caused it to backfire like most of the top priorities of the current administration, is that this was not a major concern, and certainly not THE primary concern of most people, before it was created as a campaign issue (or talking-point distraction). Continually telling people that they want something, does not change the fact that most do not. Before all of the rhetoric and hyperbole got rolling, most people had little more than a passing interest in the subject, and were relatively satisfied with our health care system as a whole. Sure, there are problem areas here and there, mostly related to ever-increasing costs - but nothing to justify tearing the whole thing down to build a new house of cards.
What concerns most people is getting or keeping a job, not losing a house, not being killed by inflation, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, not being taxed to death. There are also concerns about personal security, terrorism, and other such things. Instead of dealing with these issues, the government manufactured the idea there was a health care crises, decided to do something about the mythical global warming, and created a huge, still largely unspent, slush fund under the guise of an economic stimulus package. Wrong. In addition to mishandling the priorities they assigned to issues, the solutions offered were not the solutions most wanted. In many cases (cap-and-tax comes to mind), the 'solution' had nothing to do with addressing the supposed problem. Wrong again.
I don't want to go into more detail on certain areas - we've been over a lot of that too often. My point is: where the government is doggedly and desperately trying to go - remember: I'm talking about BOTH parties here - is NOT the direction most people want to be taken.
Consider the difference between leaders and rulers: A leader takes people where THEY want to go, while a ruler takes them where HE wants to go. By ignoring the wishes, complaints, and misgivings of the majority of citizens, the Democrats have clearly shown which style of government they prefer. That said, the Republicans are hardly a better choice. The leadership of both parties seem to consider themselves as some kind of intellectual super-citizen: where THEY know what is better for US than WE are capable of determining on our own. They suggest (demand?) that we accept a sleek and slippery authoritarianism, which allows them to remain firmly in control as they stake their hopes for national regeneration on cliques of bossy technocrats reporting to a charismatic leader, protected by liberty-stomping cohorts of 'secret policemen' (e.g., various czars, cabinet officials, an entrenched bureaucracy, etc.).
We need AT LEAST two opposing parties. Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union were nations run by a single political party, as are most of the terrible little former colonies in the Third World. IMHO, it is best that America *NOT* follow that path, even if the party in control is the Modern Republicans, but especially true if it is the Democrats. The lesson here, that we always seem to be relearning, is that you can not trust politicians, and that government is merely a tool. The good craftsman is always in control of his tool, never the other way around.
Disagreement on policy is not a question of patriotism or desire or motivations or intentions... it is a question of JUDGMENT. Both sides love their country and want the country to move forward; but there should be clear and distinct differences within each party on HOW the country will move forward. We-the-people can choose our desired direction accordingly. That means you DO NOT tell us what WE want or WHERE we (should) stand: just tell us where *YOU* stand and what objective principles YOU are willing to fight and sacrifice *OUR* hard-earned dollars for...
The ultimate responsibility lies with the VOTING populous. And as long as the taxpayers outnumber the moochers, the country has a chance to survive. The race is nearly too close to call. We get exactly the type of government we demand and require.