A pox on both their houses

Published 8:28 pm Thursday, November 9, 2017

“The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other.”—Will Rogers

I love politics, have since my grandfather introduced me to the subject when I was about 10. But more than a half-century later, I’ve about decided that I hate political parties.

I don’t like the two big ones; I don’t like the wannabe ones; I’m even pretty sure I wouldn’t like “Bill and Jim’s Real, Fine, Nice Political Party,” were there such a thing — and don’t be too hasty in ruling that out, either.

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There is nary a mention of political parties in the Constitution, you know. Political parties were never a part of the founders’ dreams for this republic of ours. No, political parties are something that we the people came up with all on our own, quite a while after the American blueprint had been drawn and completed — likely as but one more example of the urgent human need to belong to things as part of our self-definitions.

And despite the efforts of the upstart parties to become relevant, none of them have quite made it yet, so the vast amount of this country either old enough or caring enough to become a member of the electorate, tends to self-identify as either Republicans (“conservatives”) or Democrats (“liberals”), with a varying sized group of independents in the middle that have historically determined the outcome of elections.

And as the ideologues on the right (Republicans) and the left (Democrats) have become progressively more exclusive and polarized, those less partisan folks in the middle have become increasingly more disenchanted with both.

That’s why they keep switching back and forth between the two, hoping that one or the other will finally get things right — and being consistently disappointed when neither does.

Just look at our recent history:

Beginning in 1980, we have elected presidents, in order, who were: Republican for three terms, Democrat for two terms, Republican for two terms and Democrat for two terms.

The current one, of course, ran as a Republican, but is actually more akin to a cross between Elmer Gantry and Huey Long — a narcissistic carnival barker with all the morals, decency and culture of a common alley cat.

The current presidency is an anomaly, a fluke. But it is also a function of the cumulative frustrations with those which preceded it. Truth is, neither party honestly wants to claim this joker and those independent of both are just generally mortified. For them, the 1970s vintage one-hit-wonder group Steeler’s Wheel summed it up about right — “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

Real people feel that their lives and the country they grew up in are going nowhere fast.

Simply put, whether the Democratic Left or the Republic Right is in charge in Washington, the ordinary folks have grown more and more frustrated because almost nothing that happens or does not happen there seems to make any sense to them.

You want a reason why Donald Trump is president of the United States? Look no further.

Because nothing does make sense. I understand that, because I, too, am sick of the predictably excessive rhetoric and the predictably nonsensical policies aimed at pleasing only the constituency and big money donors of whichever party is in power.

And in what is amazing to someone who has paid attention to politics as long as have I, the true believers on either side never can quite seem to realize that. With only slight variations, they both just keep doing the same things for the same reasons and for their same constituencies, every time the folks in the middle hand them the keys to the national car, hoping that this time, maybe, things will turn out differently.

And, of course, they don’t. Doing the same things over and over and hoping for different outcomes, by the way, just happens to be Einstein’s definition of insanity.

This country is not as funny a place as it was when the great Dave Barry was writing humor columns that sometimes quite effectively leaked over into satirical ones and what he once observed about the Democratic and Republican parties and their respective members was and is spot on when you consider what’s going on today:

“The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They’re the kind of people who’d stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire … The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn’t bother to stop because they’d want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club.”

It is all right to laugh, by the way — at the other guy and at yourself. This country was a better place when we could and did.

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.