Wise political minds like The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and Republican Sen. John McCain are looking past Tuesday’s election to the nation’s future. In his recent lambasting of the hosts of CNN’s Crossfire — a program designed to induce divisively partisan bickering — Stewart pleaded, “Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.”
Two days before the election, McCain told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer: “On Nov. 3, we’d better call a truce and stop this, and sit down together, no matter who wins or loses, and start talking about national unity and addressing these issues. I deplore this kind of bitterness and anger.”
What Stewart and McCain want is for us to stop seeing either party as “our team” and to put an end to the “my party, right or wrong” philosophy. They want an America united behind this country’s biggest responsibility as outlined by the Constitution: keeping its citizens safe, healthy and happy.
A politically divided nation is not safe. Gaps and oversights created by partisan politics left the door open for the attacks on Sept. 11. The continued partisanship manifest in wedge issues like gay marriage has sadly distracted many regular Americans from the realities of the Iraq war.
Too much focus, by our politicians, on the corporate bottom line has led to fewer and fewer jobs for Americans, a terrible health care system, a dangerously polluted environment and an ever-rising rate of obesity and related illnesses. If we are to be healthy and happy, our government can’t be run like a corporation. Ultimately, corporations serve their shareholders, not their customers. In America, the shareholders are the big political donors. We’re the customers. And we’re being slighted under this system.
The dire situation we find ourselves in today isn’t the fault of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. The fault, in part, lies with “partisan hacks” as Stewart called the hosts of Crossfire. These people are “hacks” because they make money and gain power because of the very division they perpetuate. If Americans started getting along, Sean Hannity and Al Franken would be out of work. There would be nothing to shout about. Instead, politicians and political analysts would be expected to support their views and ideas with sound reasoning and strong evidence. That’s debate. It’s healthy and productive. And it’s exactly what we need right now.
This kind of thoughtful consideration of the issues would help lead us in the right direction. But, in order for this to happen, the American people have to start ignoring the political hacks and start thinking for themselves. We have to seek what Fox News falsely claims to offer: fair and balanced political coverage that lets the viewer decide. We have to get off our butts and start wondering why things are the way they are and why we believe what we believe.
This sort of self-analysis needs to start with our politicians. They need to ask themselves if their votes are for the right reasons. Our politicians must make decisions based on their beliefs and on the beliefs of their constituents instead of voting paybacks to their campaign contributors. They need to vote honestly instead of sidestepping tough choices to avoid attacks during the next campaign. They need to be brave enough to vote against the party lines.
A shift like this from our politicians would be very difficult. They need money from special interests and corporations to get elected. They also need party support. So, as things stand now, many are stuck. It will take sweeping campaign finance reform to change this flawed system that leaves the American public out of its own governmental system.
New laws could limit the amount of money politicians could spend, and thus reduce the need for raising funds in the first place. Then, the special interest groups — the other big dividers of this nation — would have less leverage. A return to the news media’s old requirement for “equal time” for all candidates — a regulation struck down in the 1980s — would help make sure the public would still get to know their candidates.
Changing campaign finance laws would also open the door to other parties — like the Greens and Libertarians — something that would help break down the brick “either-or” walls built so high in America right now by bringing fresh perspectives and new priorities to our political debates.
McCain ended his discussion on CBS by saying, “We better stop this, and we’d better have some national unity, and we’d better reject those who continue this bitter partisanship because there’s too many issues. The enemy is al Qaeda. The enemy is al Qaeda. Not Democrats or Republicans.”
He’s exactly right. America has chosen its president. Now it’s time to make the even bigger decision to stop being our own worst enemies and start working together.