The budget fight has ended (at least this round) and there is only one winner — The Tea Party. As you can imagine, all the sensible people both on the right and the left — Republicans and Democrats — are scared out of their minds, because it now appears that the crazies have finally taken over.
However, The crazies-taking-over story is not unique to our times. It has happened before, several times — and almost always with unusually good results.
Let me tell you’re a story.
About 150 years ago, the United States Government found itself stuck in the sewer. The entire government was corrupt. The country was in a state of chaos — North against South, East against West.
Congress was more interested in taking control of the goodies, than in solving the underlying problems.
The Presidents elected during that period were at best mediocre. One, James Buchanan tops the list as the worst President in the history of the United States.
The Supreme Court — supposedly the ultimate constitutional protector of the people — was presided over by Roger Taney, arguably the single worst individual to ever hold a senior position in the U.S. Government.
It was as if the U.S. Government had been kidnapped by a bunch of con-men and crooks. The average citizen felt powerless to effect any change whatsoever.
It was at this point that a bunch of crazies decided to take direct action. These nut-cases formed the American Party, a combination political party/secret organization which in our history books is called the Know-Nothings, because when anyone asked a member any question related to the organization, its platform or its goals, the member replied, “I know nothing.”
The Know-Nothings stood for an end of corruption and a return the values that had made the United States the greatest country in the world
Ø Anti foreigner:
Ø Anti foreign religion
Ø Pro Family Values
Ø Visceral hatred of the Democratic Party
Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me say at once that any similarity between events then and now is purely intentional.
The good news about stories of the past is that unlike current events, we know just how the old stories end.
At that time, the United had a two party system just as today. There were the Democrats and The Whigs.
The Whigs had been going down hill for some time and were looking for a new direction. Some of the smarter people decided to co-opt the Know-Nothings and change the name of the party to something more agreeable to the average voter — enter the Republican Party.
Of course, they could not allow an off-the-wall kook to run for president, so the smart people looked around for an agreeable easy going politician, untainted by corruption and outside the arguments that had been tearing the country apart —not an easy job. The selection was finally made at the nominating convention held at the Chicago Cow Palace. He was a Westerner, a one term Congressman, who no one had ever heard of and was therefore acceptable to everybody — albeit as a second choice. He had a gift for telling funny stories which offended no one. He was truly a man of the people. He was also the ugliest candidate ever to run for president. His name was Abraham Lincoln
In 1860, the country was so divided that altogether four candidates ran for president. The Democrats nominated Senator Stephen Douglas, nicknamed the Little Giant (he was 5 feet tall, maybe), but a giant in politics — a good and honest man — and probably the finest orator in his day.
Stephen Douglas was also a great compromiser always looking for a solution agreeable to all sides. However, the country was no longer looking for a compromise. People wanted leadership. So Abraham Lincoln was elected — albeit with a minority of votes.
That is what happened 150 years ago, and it might yet happen now.
The United States needs another Abraham Lincoln as does the world.
Regrettably the current President — a good and honorable man — is cut from the same cloth as Stephen Douglas. He and The Democratic Party have not provided the leadership the country requires.
The door is open to anyone with strength of character and integrity, someone who understands the difference between compromise and common ground.
We are wrong to castigate the Tea Party. We should rather accept that the problems that concern them should concern us all and that the solutions we offer must be acceptable to all.
The problems we face are to great to be solved by compromise. However, There is a great difference between compromise and common ground.
For example, I do not believe this a time to balance the budget. On the other hand, the incipient disasters we now face provides a great opportunity to rationalize government expenditures — to throw out unnecessary spending which provides benefit to special interests but brings no benefit to the economy.
Congress should be debating these issues openly and honestly. Does the United States need tax breaks for major corporations more than it needs better education and health care for its citizens? Should the United States spend hundreds of billions of dollars to support Governments in Iraq and Afghanistan — which are guaranteed to fall apart the moment the U.S. troops leave — rather than update infrastructure which the U.S. needs desperately and which will bring jobs and improve the economy.
The Tea Party is correct: The United States cannot afford everything. Choices must be made.
The United States is unique in that it has a talent for self-renewal — the ability to change direction to meet challenges. That is its strength.
Should the United States fail itself at this time the results would be truly awful for everyone in the world.