Written By: Colin Offenbacker
It’s Thursday and after the “slow” news week that we’ve all had, after the historically devastating experience of watching the great Notre Dame Cathedral burn, after the public release of the long awaited Mueller report, I wanted to write about something jubilant. I wanted to right something uplifting. Unfortunately, I fear that I cannot provide that this evening. Tonight I am more focused on a particularly long term situation. I use the word “situation” deliberately, and this is because I still haven’t quite figured out if it’s necessarily a good or bad situation, right now I’m only comfortable calling it a situation, simple, neutral.
Buried beneath the surface of this week’s headlines runs a long-term subplot in our nations politics. Some say that it’s beginning starts as far back as the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the era of the “New Deal”. Some point to President Reagan’s administration as the point of it’s true beginning. Some even say that it wasn’t until the years of President Obama that this situation truly started.
But what am I talking about here? What is this “situation” that I keep referring to?
I am of course referring to the situation unfolding in The People’s House of government. The Congress of the United States; and, it’s relationship with the Executive branch.
I believe the problem is two fold. These problems are at once both completely separate and simultaneously co-dependent at this point. Problem one is that the future of the Democratic Party’s ideology rests in the hands of people whom do not seem to grasp the true gravity of their situation. Problem two is that the relationship between the U.S. Congress and the White House has formed an almost monarchical bond. With the suit clad King of the Western World sitting atop the throne in the Oval Office dictating policy I the name of “the party” all while the good loyal party members serving their leader, all in the name of good old fashioned partisanship.
I’ve spoken on the podcast in the past on how I feel the Democratic party leadership has “lost control” of either it’s party or of it’s party’s message. I would like to take this time to say that I don’t stand by those statements anymore. I made those statements while I was still thinking this entire situation through and though I am still thinking my way through it, I feel like I can better grasp the situation, at least better than I did then. Regardless of how exactly we got here, the Democratic party I feel, finds itself at a crossroads ideologically and which turn the party takes next is solely dependent on who’s captaining the ship when it comes time to make a turn.
The main problem stems from the party leadership. People like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Senate technically hold the reigns of leadership at the moment and have for a while now, though it remains to be seen whether they can hold on to that power in the long term. If history is any indicator, this problem I see will be nothing but a flash in the pan and normalcy will return in due time. But these are strange and interesting times we live in and they seem to be surprising us day in and day out. In today’s political climate, tomorrows forecast is about as reliable as a sundial at midnight. While the unreliability is not resigned to the Democratic Party alone (the Republican Party is no saint in this realm either) it is their ideology that seems to be the most heavily in flux, and without a solid ideology the party’s values are stuck in limbo.
I am in no way a political partisan, though I will state that I find myself more drawn to the values of the Republican Party (commonly referred to as “the right” side of politics) in many ways over those in the current Democratic Party (commonly referred to as “the left”). The simple fact is that the Democratic Parties “values” in today’s political climate are so scattered I’m not sure I could even explain what they truly are. There was once a day in which you could safely say things like “the Democrats fight for the rights of free speech and free expression, they care about the working class and the downtrodden” or “if the Republicans are the heart of our republic, the Democrats are the soul of the republic” but I don’t think I can say that these days. If I were to say that the current status of the Democratic Party is one of “political correctness on steroids” I fear the ladder rings truer than the former. This is not to say that this is their only message, it’s more a sign of the overall state of the party and their lack of any kind of uniform message or ideology.
This lack of a solid platform can be seen in the 15 plus candidates running primary campaigns in an effort to challenge President Trump in the upcoming 2020 election. Think of it like a power vacuum, but instead of “political power” it’s the void left by the lack of a hardened baseline ideology that is currently being filled by a more extreme ideology. Worst yet is that these new voices speaking to this new ideology are becoming more popular. Is the Democratic party going populist to counter the populist movement that some point to as the reason President Trump got elected? This question is way I’m so focused on the 2020 primary races right now. I whole heatedly believe that whomever wins the Democratic primary will ultimately control the shaping of a new Democratic Party ideology. Combine that with the populism being drummed up by the more Democratic Socialist branch, however small a branch it is, and we could see the birth of a mainstream political party that is fully committed to the ideology of socialism and it’s policies in the United States. The problem that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer face is being forced to either stand against this new wave of left wing populism and risk loosing power in the process, or fall in lock step enough to maintain their power in hopes of regaining control of their party’s ideological direction, if that would even be possible.
The big question will be, again, who? Who will take President Trump on in 2020? Is it someone who can divorce themselves from the newly adopted socialistic far left ideology but still maintain enough popular support to beat out President Trump in the election? At this point only time will tell, but given the multiplicity of candidates taking the field and the general far left ideological platforms they’re presenting, the only chance I see of the Democrats taking a victory over President Trump at this point is by fully committing to their Democratic Socialist Zar Burnie Sanders whose left wing populism might stand the best chance of winning them the day. Though, a dark day it would be.
The unholy union that both political parties share with the Executive Branch is unnerving at best and despicable at worst. It seems more and more that in politics these days loyalties lay first and foremost with “the party” and secondly to the people they are sworn to represent. I think this can best be examined by looking at two things. First, with how much of it’s own governmental power and control the United States Congress has systematically handed over to the Executive Branch. Secondly, in examining how they have also removed the built in speed bumps and road blocks built into the House and Senate rules on majority votes in order to squeeze legislation through their end so that they can fast track it to the desk of the President. Both political parties are guilty of these devastating missteps so there is plenty of blame to go around, but in a world where “the party” and the overall power of “the party” is all that matters, removing those road blocks seems like a good idea, until the party falls out of favor that is. The problem with unitary control is that it only works if your party is in power and stays in power, a loss of such power opens the door to political disaster.
This form of divorce from responsibility is dangerous in countless ways, whether it be in the from of The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) giving the executive the powers of military force under the espouses of national defense or something as seemingly benign as increased legislative power through the use of executive order or executive action. All of which are a way to funnel power out of the Congress and into the hands of the executive, something you wouldn’t worry too much about if you can get reelected and maintain your party’s power standing.
I think we can look at the current state of the Republican Party to see this process in action today. Though the Republican leadership, concentrated heavily in the Senate, have had to deal with a President whom isn’t a true and faithful party member, they’ve still been able to do the hard work the party desires, often times seemly using the President as their blunt tool to clear the way for their agenda. Look to the federal court judgeship’s, tax cuts, the supposed slashing of various regulations and removal of the individual mandate in regards to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for examples. They’ve so far been able to weather the storm of the Trump Presidency, all while Senator Mitch McConnell and other higher ranking Republicans still maintain overall control and direction of their party, relatively speaking when compared to the current state of the Democratic Party. Come 2020, if the power of governmental control at the executive level falls into the hands of the Democrats, the overall power of their party would go with it and they would once again be relegated to the relatively powerless minority with little ability to check the power of their political opposition.
As the overall size and scope of the Federal Government grows, and Congress continue to put there power into the hands of the executive in hopes of tapping into that unitary wellspring of power, the long-term health of the Republic gets shoved aside and replaced with short term political gains. We’ve seen it play out right in front of us over the past 10 years plain as day. Can’t get a party to-do item passed through the Congress, just send it on up to the executive, they’ll take care of it, well they may not exactly take care of it, but they’ll sign something and give us the political win we need to maintain power. This dangerous precedent has already been set, and I fear it is here to stay.
In closing I think it should come as no surprise that I am overall left with a distasteful view of the current state of our nations politics. I fear that if the election events of 2020 play out in a particular way, we could be left with an irreversible and impossible situation. If it comes down to a second term with President Trump or someone from the newly emboldened Democratic Party with seriously Socialistic tendencies, what would we really be looking at? There is still a lot of time between now and then so I maintain hope, given the absolute worst case scenario, I still have hope that the United States will remain united and one way or the other we will see these strange times through to the end.