Politics of Change

Politics of Change

I am not only fascinated by politics, but by the politics of change, if there is one unchanging motif that runs through the common history of man, it is that everything changes, except change itself. How we change, and its process tells us more about who we are as nations and individuals and it is that fearful but persistent change that tells us not only who we are, but who we were and perhaps who we might be. I know many have distaste to all things political, because of the common association with corruption and scandal which pervades the political society. It is true that politics unfortunately is inhabited by desperate men and women who abuse the power entrusted to them, and many of them, not all of them are circus elephants.

But does that mean one should despair with and ignore politics?

It does surprise me that when I talk to people who are by their own right apathetic towards politics, they consider it to be some new age phenomenon, or when I speak with devout religious persons who consider that politics as it is today was not apparent in the days of the Moses, Mohammed or Guru Nanak. When people ask me why I am so interested in politics, I recall my first lesson in Government and Politics when I was 16, my lecturer Mr. McSweeny, broke politics down to “who gets what says who”. Who gets what says who in society and on this planet should be a concern of everyman or woman who has a life to lead and a family to feed.

To ignore politics is to test that old French proverb ” if you do not do politics, politics will certainly do you”. As Aristotle observed, one of the many penalties of refusing to engage in politics is to allow yourself to be ruled be inferior individuals than yourself.

That is why I always pay close attention to the politics of today, simple labels immersed in complex situations always require the closest attention, lest one be girded in the whirlwind of propaganda, where the myths are legion and the truth of the

3 thoughts on “Politics of Change”

  1. 579 of 630 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Outstanding work from Mann & Ornstein, May 1, 2012
    By 
    Johnny Na (Chicago, IL) –

    What this book IS NOT is another silly polemic designed for the polarized Sunday talk shows. This is a careful, thoughtful discussion of the problems at the heart of our dysfunctional Congress.

    This is a book every American should read. It discusses the problems that led to this, it discusses bromides that should be rejected and proposes thoughtful solutions that are well reasoned even if some may be difficult politically to implement.

    Check out NPR’s April 30 edition of Morning Edition for an interview with the authors.

    The authors are political scientists who’ve studied Congress for 4 decades and aren’t just talking head political pundits. They don’t let the Democrats off the hook but they lay the chief blame for the current dysfunction in Congress upon the Republicans. Their reasoning is based based on a number of factors. High on the list are the tactics Republican Congressional leaders employed during the ceiling debt fiasco of 2011 (see update below). It is the authors’ judgment that by implying to the world that Republicans preferred to have the US default on its debt rather than have a compromise with the Democrats that included revenue as part of the agreement, the Republicans took Congressional dysfunction to a new extreme.

    The authors make a good case. But what makes this book really fascinating is the level of scholarship, the wealth of political science material and the long term view.

    For example, there is a graph of party polarization as calculated by roll call votes. It shows that the polarization is at an all time extreme since 1879, 133 years ago. This speaks to the seriousness of what faces this country. This speaks to the desperate need for our political parties to cooperate enough to govern instead of sabotaging government. There is another graph showing the expanded use of cloture voting in the Senate.

    For those who are all ready well informed about the complex and sometimes bizarre rules of Congress, this will still likely enrich one’s knowledge. For those who haven’t yet dived into the history and rules of Congress, this is an excellent book in one’s education.

    I believe this book is sure to become a political science classic. I rarely give anything 5 stars, but do so unhesitatingly for this book.

    ~~~~~~~~
    Update June 5, 2012

    This book is often on my mind and has given me a lot to chew on. I wanted to express some sympathy for those who mostly lean toward the GOP in their politics and offer a thought that might help them better tolerate this book. The authors’ main targets are not GOP ideology or policies. Their motivation for writing this book stems from GOP tactics and methods of the last 1-4 years. Their claim is that it is the GOP who introduced major unprecedented and extreme tactics with the debt ceiling vote as well as excessive Senate holds and filibusters. So it can help to leave the ideology muck aside and just look at how Congress functions (or doesn’t) as if one were a clinician. It is in that light that the authors say:

    “Some readers may be struck by a lack of balance in our treatment of the two major political parties. We hope they understand that we do not seek to advance a personal ideological or partisan agenda. Rather, we believe that imbalance or asymmetry reflects a regrettable reality that is too often obscured in the traditional media and among serious scholars of American democracy. We want two vibrant and constructive political parties that can compete vigorously for the votes of Americans and fight hard for their views in political and policy arenas.”

    I’ve supported both Dem and GOP candidates in the past, but I think the authors make their case for our current times. There are a lot of comments among the reviews here that jump into policy or ideology debates, but IMHO that is missing the focus of this book. I also think that most Americans have a poor grasp for what the debt ceiling vote is about and what the consequences might have been if that vote had not passed.

    The level of anger and inability (or refusal) to listen to each other among the polarized sides of this mess is an indicator of political cancer. I’m sick of it from both sides, but that won’t stop me from continuing to learn from this terrific book.
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  2. 274 of 311 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Refreshing Verity, Sad and Dangerous Message, May 1, 2012
    By 
    Donald A. Collins (Washington, DC, USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Two respected policy analysts, one from a liberal think tank, the other from a conservative one, have stated for us news junkies a verity which is obvious, yet not well understood in its implications for conducting future sane policies.

    As a former Republican when moderate Republicans were uncricified in that Party, I can well appreciate their concerns as stated in their May 1, 2012 Washington Post article: “It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharp0ly to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate—think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel–are virtually extinct.”

    The implications for that extremism are dramatic. Inability to compromise or to make any connections with the other party means (again from the Post piece) “When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

    In short, they write, “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in Americn politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of is political opposition.”

    They mention the charge reminisent of Joe McCarthy from Congressman Allen West (R-Fl) who stated that “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress are members of the Communist Party, regretting that virtually no Republican challenged that absurd comment.

    This situation produced almost complete gridlock, as issues such as our obscenely huge debt, health care reform and climate change are lost in Republican embrace of ideologies which lead to no decisions.

    This stark book needs wide embrace by independent voters who will determine the next election.

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  3. 140 of 165 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Well Thought Through, Credible, May 4, 2012
    By 
    Loyd Eskildson (Phoenix, AZ.) –
    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)
      

    The authors, Mann and Ornstein, took up residence at the Brookings Institute (Mann) and the American Enterprise Institute (Ornstein), helping ensure objectivity; usually this also ensures that any conclusions are vague and mushy. Not here – their ‘bottom-line’ is that today’s Congressional Republicans behave like they were in a British parliamentary, winner-take-all system. The problem is that such ‘ideologically polarized, internally unified, vehemently oppositional’ doesn’t work in our ‘separation-of-powers system that makes it extremely difficulty for majorities to work their will.’ (My one criticism of this book is that it didn’t really explain why the English system works in England and not in America.)

    Republicans are now ‘more loyal to party than to country,’ and the political system hobbled and unable to address serious problems and threats. They are scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of Democrats’ legitimacy.

    The most glaring example is how House Republicans addressed the need to raise the debt ceiling in 2011. And its going to be repeated in 2013, per Senator McConnell in a Fox News statement.

    Adding to this partisan warfare is the increased role of money on our politics – the worst of any time in over a century, possibly ever.

    The authors grant former Speaker Gingrich special dishonor – painting the House as elitist, corrupt and arrogant when the Democrats controlled. His strategy – convince voters the institution was so corrupt that anyone wold be better than the Democratic incumbents. Further, his partisan attacks on adversaries created a new norm in which colleagues with differing views became mortal enemies, created the permanent campaign, and prioritized electoral goals over policy. (A current example – Rep. West, Florida Republican’s recent assertion that there are 78 – 81 Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party – a ridiculous statement that has yet to be condemned by Republican congressional leaders or presidential candidates.)

    Grover Norquist offers another example of the take-no-prisoners approach. His Taxpayer Protection Pledge binds signers to never support a tax increase or close tax loopholes – as of the end of 2011 it had been signed by 238 of 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators. Other pledges have followed – eg. opposing climate change, that box in moderates and make cross-party coalitions nearly impossible. Failure to sign such pledges makes a primary challenge too likely. Loud denunciation of ‘ObamaCare’ has become a litmus test for anyone hoping to be called a ‘conservative.’

    Mike Lofgren, veteran Republican congressional staffer, ended his career last year after almost thirty years. He wrote, ‘The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party . . . and more like an apocalyptic cult, or intensely ideological authoritarian parties of earlier Europe.’

    Republicans in the Senate now repeatedly abuse the confirmation process to block innumerable nominees.

    The news media also don’t escape criticism – for failing to cover how the Republican Party has been transformed, and simply writing stories that imply both sides are equally implicated. The authors contend the media will have to start being more objective.

    Bottom-Line: “It’s Even worse Than It Looks” is level-headed, and fits well with other reports – eg. Chris Mooney’s analysis of Republican psychological attributes and their chronic denial of, and ignoring facts. (Republican anti-intellectualism makes it easier to believe/claim government can do no good and shouldn’t get more tax money.) The book also fits well with Amazon reviewers assessment of even marginally political books – those not fitting conservative ideology are regularly and uniformly panned, as well as those that condemn works that do. Practitioners of Republican politics are now dominated by vacuous ideology.

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