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Our system isn't broken, it's dead

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JULY 07, 2014

President Barack Obama has failed to deliver on the vast majority of his campaign promises. So did George W. Bush. So did Bill Clinton. The elder Bush’s famous exercise in lip-reading — “No new taxes” — met the same fate. But that’s not their fault.

I’m no politician, but it’s obvious to me that the system in this country is dead. Never has that been so painfully obvious as now, with a Congress composed of squabbling dullards and a Supreme Court of stubborn octogenarians.Rachel Maddow delivered a deliciously scathing summary of this Congress’ accomplishments: “There has never been a Congress, in the history of Congress, that has done less than this one.” They have blocked bills to increase energy efficiency, increase minimum wage, extend jobless aid and decrease rates of student loan interest. They’re as polarized as a group of people can be, and they refuse to budge. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, is railroading legislation by a simple, irritating majority, handing down rulings on cases such as the Hobby Lobby fiasco which both limit individual freedom and give religion a monolithic presence in the public sphere — something our country has been trying to fight for centuries. Not only is this infuriating, it runs directly counter to the direction our country needs to move if we are to reassert ourselves as a power — both within our borders and without.

There are dozens of polemical articles about America’s descent into oligarchy, a system wherein a wealthy elite have total control over politics and policy. That assertion isn’t a hard one to believe — in the wake of the sadly impotent Occupy movement, everyone knows how much power the 1 percent holds. Many believe, and rightly so, that corporations are acting as puppet masters, yanking the strings of our politicians and governing bodies. But our country’s failure to uphold its constitutional mission of “general welfare” is not due solely to the influence of the fat cats at the top of the pile. It has just as much to do with those at the bottom — those unwilling or unable to see the problems with the system they support.

The Obama administration has come under fire from all corners. Whether it’s for being dictatorial, for being impotent or for being black, people seem to love to hate Obama. But I believe the anger stewing in this country has to do less with the man and more with the institution behind him. As the leader and figurehead of our government, Obama takes the blame, but the issues are systemic, not individual. The development of the Tea Party is the best example of this discontent — a large group unified by the idea that big government is evil and cannot help but corrupt. Led by men and women like Chris McDaniel and Sarah Palin, the Tea Party is on the brink of a break with the GOP.

This is an historic moment in our country’s political history. Since its founding, our country has been mired in the red and blue division that reigns today. New parties have largely been laughed out of Washington — witness the remarkably tenacious Ralph Nader for the Independents. This leaves us with the good old Democrats and Republicans, fighting each other tooth and nail (never, of course, crossing the sacred party line). The advent of a separate Tea Party, far to the right of the Republicans, threatens to tip this scale — and in my opinion, that’s a good thing.

I don’t like the Tea Party. I think its members are deluded, the poor rallying behind those who grind them down. But does provides an opportunity. On the surface, a Republican split seems like a godsend to the left: If your opponent is fighting against itself, it’s that much easier to win the fight. With our government paralyzed as it is, any action meets criticism from all sides. Either it’s too much compromise or not enough, an invasion of privacy or a lack of innovation, too much money or not enough good. As a result, most of the things our government could do are shot down before they take flight. The system is in rigor mortis, and the country is suffering.

Rather than rolling our eyes at the Tea Party, we should take a cue from them. For too long, we have been bound by classical party strictures, shoving ourselves into limited and gridlocked groups that function only for the interests of their pockets and pride. As misguided as the new far right may be, by threatening to break away from the GOP, they’re on the cusp of being far more progressive than any socialists. Rather than forcing ourselves into the too-small boundaries of the parties that exist, young people today should search for options that fit their ideas. Today, 50 percent of millennials identify as independent, but that’s not the only option. Little-known parties like the Futurist Party, the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party deserve our attention. If our generation can break the stranglehold maintained by generations of tradition and corporate influence, we will serve not only our own interests but those of our nation.

Contact Jacob Straus at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jacob_straus.

JULY 07, 2014