Darrell Berkheimer: Congress is the real problem in Washington
I have been saying since the 1980s that it does not matter which buffoon we elect as president — because Congress is the problem.
But I never really believed we actually would elect a buffoon.
And now both conservative and liberal columnists are pointing out how the failures of Congress are a result of our political parties being more concerned with simply winning elections rather than doing what’s best for our nation.
Among the latest criticisms are comments by Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Sen. Flake blames his own party as well as Democrats “for the political gridlock that led to Donald Trump’s presidency and its current chaos,” according to an Associated Press story about Flake’s new book, Conscience of a Conservative.
The senator said that “since the election conservatives have been in denial as the government at its highest levels has become dysfunctional.”
In an excerpt from Flake’s book published by Politico magazine, the senator wrote: “To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.”
In another excerpt, the senator asked: “Who could blame the people who felt abandoned and ignored by the major parties for reaching in despair for a candidate who offered oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions and managed to entertain them in the process?”
Earlier, in mid-July, Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote a scathing article stating “The GOP’s moral rot is the problem.”
Rubin wrote: “Only in the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria does an ethically-challenged, moderate Democrat (Hillary Clinton) become a threat to Western civilization and Trump the salvation of America. … Indeed, for decades now, demonization — of gays, immigrants, Democrats, the media, feminists, etc. — has been the animating spirit behind much of the right.”
Rubin added: “We have always had in our political culture narcissists, ideologues and flimflammers, but it took the 21st-century GOP to put one in the White House.”
She cited elected leaders and Republican National Committee members for mostly ignoring “Trump’s racist attacks on a federal judge, blatant lies about everything from 9/11 to his own involvement in birtherism, replete evidence of disloyalty to America (Trump’s Russia policies), misogyny, Islamophobia, ongoing potential violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause (along with a mass of conflicts of interests), firing of an FBI director, and now evidence that the campaign was willing to enlist a foreign power to defeat Clinton in the presidential election.”
Rubin concluded with: “A party that has to deny climate change and insist illegal immigrants are creating a crime wave — because that is what ‘conservatives’ must believe, since liberals do not — is a party that will deny Trump’s complicity in gross misconduct. It’s a party as unfit to govern as Trump is unfit to occupy the White House. It’s not by accident that Trump chose to inhabit the party that has defined itself in opposition to reality and to any external moral truth or ethical code.”
I must add that Rubin’s onslaught about moral rot should not be limited to only Republicans.
On July 31, Fox News columnist Bryan Dean Wright, a Democrat, wrote how Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Party leaders are “totally clueless” about what the public wants.
Wright noted voter approval ratings of Congress have been “dismal” for years, and that “America has grown tired of the constant political warfare,” resulting in little progress.
“Poll after poll also shows that voters are disgusted by a political system that all too often leads to career politicians who drink off the corrupting spigot of campaign cash from corporate interests.”
Wright identified “the most pressing issues facing the nation” are the continuing unfulfilled demand for better leadership and an effective government. “More important than health care. More than the economy. More than immigration.”
Wright said the Democratic Party’s new initiative — dubbed A Better Deal — is simply a reboot of losing proposals by longtime Democratic leaders who need to step aside so fresh leadership can offer an agenda that voters want.
He reported “67 percent of Americans view the Democratic Party as out of touch.” He said Democrats “must embrace” term limits and a lifetime ban on elected officials becoming lobbyists as “the only proven ways to eject career politicians from their perches of power and money.”
Wright noted, “For years, an overwhelming majority of Americans have demanded passage of these two initiatives. Voters understand that if politicians aren’t chasing corporate cash for re-election or a lucrative retirement, they are more likely to do the business of the American people.
“Consider the issue of prescription drug prices, highlighted as a part of A Better Deal. When the U.S. Senate recently considered legislation that would have allowed Americans to import cheap prescription drugs from Canada, 14 Democratic senators rejected it (along with most Republicans). Not surprisingly, many of these politicians have collected large sums of campaign cash from pharmaceutical giants.”
“This is the broken system that put Trump in the White House,” Wright concluded.
I agree with Wright; and I also see an example of “moral rot” in the 14 Democratic senators who joined in rejecting the vote to allowing importing of cheaper drugs. Wright also said Democrats must stop pushing “failed schemes” like A Better Deal and provide voters with the better leadership that they deserve.
But I say it is Congress, not just Democrats, that is long overdue to give voters reforms they deserve.
I called for congressional term limits in my columns back in the 80s. And, yes, most voters also see the need for a lifetime ban on elected officials becoming lobbyists.
I agree — the system is broken, and it needs to be tweaked with several operational reforms. That’s what all our citizens deserve. And that’s why the writers of our Constitution provided for the amendment process.
The question is: How bad must the situation become before Congress cleans up its act?
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a biweekly column published Saturdays by The Union. Contact him at email@example.com.
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