The Didactic Value of the Debt-Ceiling Crisis
By Frandley Denis Julien
An Excerpt from the forthcoming book: An Alien’s Perspective of America’s Challenges
Lincoln’s A House Divided speech is as relevant today as it was in 1858, and the threat America is facing nowadays is more subtle, yet just as ominous to the nation’s prosperity and concord as was the cleavage over slavery and the subsequent Civil War. For America is being held hostage by an obsolete and un-American two-party system that hinders progress and subordinates the interests of the nation to those of the Republican and Democratic parties. The fact that most politicians’ favorite line today is that they regularly stand up to their own party is a subtle acknowledgement of the parties’ extremist tendencies.
As disheartening as the recent debt ceiling stalemate may have been, it was nothing more than the tree that hides the forest. Beyond the resolution, in extremis, of that crisis, lies the fact that the two-party system is broken beyond repair. If the two parties could not find a consensus in a timely manner on such an urgent issue, when will they ever find one on the environment, immigration, education, defense, entitlements or fiscal policy?
The tendency of the parties’ bases to be ideologically fundamentalist is preventing the political personnel from approaching the challenges of our time with an open mind, therefore causing an ideological sclerosis. The parties’ ideological stances are set in stone, and any attempt toward innovation is bound to provoke vehement protestations from those with whom said innovation does not register. For them to register, the parties’ aficionados must be able to tie them up to a similar stance having been taken by Reagan, Lincoln, Roosevelt or Kennedy, depending on which party is concerned. Consequently, the two parties are more retrograde than they are forward-looking, and the fact that real innovative decisions that have not been tested by the giants of either party are deemed at least suspicious or adventurous, they have been unable to propose daring solutions to the challenges at hand. And the parties have been recycling old solutions to try to resolve new challenges engendered by a time of radical changes both positive and negative.
The country that has the most promoted the values of competition in all spheres of life cannot continue to maintain an oligarchic political system. There is today a critical mass of Americans who have grown weary of the sterility of the current system to warrant the emergence of a significant third party. America needs a third party that pleads its allegiance to common sense, critical thinking, and that can embody the spirit of compromise that characterizes the silent majority. By silent majority, I mean those who would have welcomed a solution to the debt ceiling crisis that would have included both an increase in revenues and a decrease in entitlements.
It is about time that those of America’s politicians with a bi-partisan mind—and they do exist— get together and launch a centrist party aimed at espousing the aspirations of mainstream America. This party would offer an umbrella to all those Americans who have grown weary of Washington. This third party would make it easier for decent policies to pass Congress, as it would successively lend its support to Democratic and Republican bills alike, irrespective of ideology, as long as they befit America’s common good. The third party would also contribute to dilute the hatred that Republicans and Democrats vow to one another. Indeed, the reason why they hate one another is because they are like two siblings fighting over a limited family legacy. The introduction of a third element to the equation would come as a wakeup call to the parties that would no longer be able to resort to the blame game. They would also become less important, and more prone toward cooperation and coalition-building.
America should consider the current British coalition government as a teaching moment as to the virtue of political pluralism. Indeed, after the May 6th, 2010 general election, England had a hung parliament, which in America would have inaugurated an acute political crisis. But in England, thanks to the plurality of the political parties, it was possible for the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with the Conservatives, which led to the investiture of David Cameron as Prime-Minister, and the prompt resolution of the crisis.
If the deleterious political system does not go through a major overhaul with the emergence of a weighty third party, I am afraid we will have to sadly recognize another facet of Lincoln’s greatness, namely the prophetic dimension of his elegant prose.