Stuck In The Middle With…You?

I love Washington, D.C.

It was where I was born and raised.

I come from a long line of Washingtonians who’ve called Washington home and experienced this great city. I have ancestors who were members of The Oldest Inhabitants of the District. I love the District of Columbia for its awe inspiring beauty, charm, and the majesty of the many memorials honoring our founding fathers and those who’ve fought and died for the freedoms we take for granted. This is the greatness America has to offer in a nutshell despite its problems. Washington is very symbolic of who we are as a nation and certainly humbling.

That said – it’s time for a rant.

Do you ever feel like we’ve lost our way? And, do you find the two-party political system tiresome?  I find myself squarely in the middle—neither right nor left—or perhaps just a pinch of both. Some call this being “Progressive” or “Moderate.” Some might even call it being indecisive. Both parties have become decidedly disconnected from the average American. Each takes a lot for granted.

What has either party really done for you?

A far right buddy of mine said that if I wasn’t right nor left that I didn’t have an opinion.  Oh really?  Being neither right nor left doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion, it means I am free to have an independent viewpoint. I try to think outside the two-party box.  Being stuck in one mindset limits our potential. An open mind invites change and growth. As free Americans, we are free to question the judgment of our leaders. In fact, it is our responsibility to question our leaders. Have you reached out to your representative lately?

Do you even know who they are?

Best I can tell, America needs a third party—a party with staying power that can grow and and infuse positive change in our political system. An alternative political party that can make a real difference. A movement that can break this destructive cycle of political and special interest fueled by money instead of what’s good for the People.  Imagine a third party that’s a mix of liberal, conservative, and independent beliefs. 

Yes—really…

We really aren’t that far apart as free Americans. We just need to talk – with civility.  The system as it currently is isn’t serving the American People.

The current two-party system is broken. 

America need a neutralizer.  

Here’s something we should all be able to agree on – Our Veterans… Both parties have failed to honor and take care of our Veterans despite all the campaign rhetoric.  Politicians promise. Politicians forget – or choose to forget.  They’re elected and promptly disregard those who have fought and died for their freedom – and ours. Politicians have completely forgotten those who currently serve around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Our greatest patriots sit in these forward positions wondering what happened. They wonder if anyone really cares about them.

It is a wonder anyone joins the military. It is becoming harder to recruit and retain good people because there’s no incentive to sign up. Our Veterans who have served valiantly continue to be left behind to sleep under bridges and in homeless shelters without the dignity of having served their country. The best example I can think of are Vietnam era Vets. No one has said thank you. We owe each and every one of them a better way of life and the respect they have surely earned.

Oh sure – it is easy to thank them for their service on the fly in the supermarket or in the mall. Helps us feel better about ourselves. That’s where it ends. What have any of us really done to serve our Veterans as they have served us?

Not much…

What does this say about us?

My grandfather was a Republican who had very little patience with the GOP.  He always said when Republicans were in power hard times came with them.  Except for the Reagan years, which were long on optimism and recovery, this has been proven consistently by the GOP.  Yet – my grandfather remained a Republican until he passed in 1966 a the age of 72. He was very committed to the party. He walked the walk of party loyalty.  I remain a Republican too, but can’t honestly tell you where I will be in a year.  My mother and the rest of the family were staunch FDR/Kennedy Democrats.  I grew up believing the GOP was the evil empire.  When the family learned I had become a Republican, it changed things considerably.

I liked Reagan – hence the switch.

Isn’t it something this crazy divide between left and right when we need to be unified and focused on just being free Americans?  The divide between the parties was never as bad as it is now.  Back in the day, the two political parties worked together even under the most difficult of circumstances. 

President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill knew how to sit down, kill a few beers, and come to a mutual agreement where both sides benefited. They had great respect for each other and wanted what was best for their country. These gentlemen understood the art of respectful disagreement and compromise.

Americans used to agree to disagree on the issues and remain civil.  As a rule, people just didn’t discuss politics. They just didn’t go there.  These days, disgruntled Americans who cannot agree take their marbles and go home—never to speak again. The divide has never been greater when what we need most is unity. Instead of concentrating on our differences and attacking one another’s character, why aren’t we focusing on what we have in common?

When I consider the great political divide, I recall the crash of an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-9 on approach to Charlotte in 1974.  Two professional airline pilots flew this Douglas jet into the ground on final approach.  Some 72 of the 82 on board were killed.  The NTSB’s crash investigation revealed the two pilots were involved in a heated political discussion and ignored the rate of descent and altitude.  The crash, which happened three miles short of the runway, ended their discussion and a lot of innocent human lives.  That’s how dangerous politics can get when people can’t keep it all in proper prospective. 

On Election Night of 2016, I knew we were in for the worst years of our lives because one party then had all of the power and was calling all the shots. I didn’t understand how far reaching the corruption would become. I see it now. There has been no one with the courage to police this corruption. This is how it works when one party is in charge and we’re void of a political watchdog.  This would have also been true had the Dems taken both houses and The White House.

Absolute power corrupts—absolutely—regardless of party. 

Power intoxicates. 

There have been horrendous abuses of power under the current administration and the Congress.  This is why a balance of power and operating with a true commitment to the American People is important.  This has been proven time and time again throughout American history.  The United States Congress has become something of a country club and a flop house in recent decades where modest income-earning newcomers are elected to the House and Senate and remain there for a career.   

Well, what the hell is that? 

Some stress the need for Term Limits, yet it’s like complaining about the weather.  Everyone complains, yet what can anyone do about it?  The logic against term limits is stability and having constant Congressional turnover. In theory, it limits corruption because it’s a short trip. It prevents excessive amounts of power and influence gained when a member of congress has been there a long time.  It would also limit the power of special interest.

Being a member of Congress was never intended to be a career. Our founding fathers viewed it as an opportunity to serve the country.  It should be done for honorable reasons and a real desire to serve.  A good example is the perks congressionals vote for themselves including outlandish pay increases and unlimited benefits. That isn’t serving, that’s taking.  Special interest adds insult to injury.  Term limits mean fresh ideas and new approaches instead of the same old complacency. When members hold the same seat for years, they get complacent and stagnant. 

Nothing gets done.

Fresh faces sport new ideas. 

It can be safely said voters dislike the increasing role money plays in our so-called democratic government. Money dictates the plan.  Congressionals feel the added pressure of raising campaign funds instead of serving the people.  The primary duty of any member of Congress is to serve the American People.  This isn’t happening today.  They’re only serving themselves.  Our president is only serving himself.

Is anyone in Washington really serving the American People?

The down side of Term Limits is it would actually limit the freedom of the people to continue to vote for elected representatives they want.  Voters develop a loyalty to a member of Congress they come to know over time.  Voters continue to re-elect the incumbent because no one likes the unknown.  We like what’s familiar.  Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are but two examples as are Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi.  All have had long standing careers in Congress.  They’ve served their constituents well.  However, it remains unclear just how well these folks are serving the American People—which is the primary reason why they were elected to begin with. I believe some of these people need to go.

We are stuck in a terrible rut despite all the rhetoric promoting the great job Washington believes it is doing.  It has failed to effectively lead and manage a horrible pandemic, which is only growing worse as I write this.  It is one thing to promote one’s self and quite another to actually do a great job.  Doing a great job involves a lot of hard work in the trenches serving those who elected you. And—without needing a constant pat on the back for doing the job you were elected to do.

Americans develop a loyalty to their representatives and want them to stay in office indefinitely, which is why incumbents get re-elected. The logic among voters is the longer you’re in office, the better you should become at doing the job. Voters don’t like the unknown.  Not all lawmakers can legitimately claim such success.  Some are just dead weight occupying a congressional seat who need to go.  

In theory, lawmakers on local, state and federal levels who have proven themselves effective leaders should not have their service cut short by term limits, which is why there will likely never be term limits.

When I was a boy, I listened to my parents hashing out the issues of the day—the Vietnam War, racial and gender inequality, poverty, the horror of Richard Nixon being elected to The White House (remember, they were staunch Dems), and landing on the Moon in 1969. Our greatness.  The issues my parents debated 50 years ago weren’t much different than the issues we’re facing now.  We still have two wars going in the Middle East (the longest in American history) no one talks about.  Racial and gender inequality remains a topic of discussion even though we elected a black man to the presidency in 2008. We still have systemic racism.  On Main Street, racial inequality remains a huge challenge.  The same can be said for income inequality for women.  Women still aren’t getting a fair shake.    

The Democratic Party, it suffered a horrible defeat in 2016—losing it all to the GOP and Donald Trump.  It can be safely said the GOP has become the party of Trump and will continue to be so in the fall when Americans vote.  The American People aren’t worn out enough yet.  My issue isn’t just with the GOP and Donald Trump, but also Congressional Dems, who aren’t earning their pay either.  I see Washington as a complete and total failure of government.      

We need the kind of spirit America had in the post war years when we were young, on the rise, and were hell-bent to do great things—like going to the Moon, building jumbo jets, and erecting the tallest buildings in the world in New York and Chicago.

Do you know what stopped us short?  Complacency…  We stopped rolling up our sleeves and doing the grunt work necessary to remain the greatest nation in the world.

We lifted…

As the late Pete Pastere, former editor of Popular Hotrodding and a friend of mine, once said – “Never Lift!” He knew what he was talking about because Pete never lifted, which was what made him great. Pete was killed tragically in a motorcycle accident nearly 30 years ago doing what he loved most.

Pete would strongly suggest we never stop reaching for greatness.  Never get off the throttle.  Keep on keeping on—only better.  The Dems are telling us to “Build Back Better!” Then by golly do it and stop talking about it. Do it.  Take the defeat of 2016 and turn it into greatness.

Don’t just talk greatness.  Be great.

We’ve all got to put the work in.

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