Searching for Why America is Off-Course
25 August 2017
Time and time again in these columns, I lament that America is off-course. That is, we seem to be in a decline as a nation. It is reflected in our strained relationships with so many other nations, but also in our inability, at the federal level, to do the routine business of governing. At that level, consider all that is not happening, but is critical to the successful forward movement of the nation: lacking strong national security; unsuccessfully confronting threats, such as those from Russia, North Korea, and Iran; faltering in building an economy that provides adequate jobs for most citizens; politically-based anger, racial and socio-economic tensions that are downright scary; debilitating crime rates; fiscal mismanagement. Even as the Trump administration appears poised to make progress on each of these, and on other similarly troubling issues, the focus of far too many people and organizations is totally on making his a presidency that fails.
Why are we in this condition as a nation? I think the answer is that there are many contributing factors. One is that we have a multitude of politicians who know far less than they think they know about doing what is right for this country. This is especially true of Congress. On the other hand, maybe the situation with some is that they are more concerned with gaining power and wealth than they are with doing what is good and right for the country.
Watching the House and Senate go about their business reminds me of three golfers I saw a few days ago. My 87-year-old golfing buddy and I were walking and playing our usual nine holes of golf. Out of nowhere, these three golfers drove past us. We told them we would wait and let them play the hole we were on. They said they preferred to skip that hole and go to the next. I understood that to mean that these were men who knew the game and would be out-of-sight quickly. No, they held us up hole after hole. The point is that they thought they had a good game, but their actions showed that was absolutely not the case. So it is with most members of Congress. They think they know how to do what is needed for the good of America; however, their actions say they are like those golfers.
Even further, we have come to a point where many politicians, and far too many Americans, think that our form of government is a democracy. This misconception leads people to believe that elected officials are supposed to automatically do what the majority of Americans want done in governing. We are a representative republic, not a democracy. Consider the following from Diffen.com
Democracy. Rule by the omnipotent majority. In a democracy, an individual, and any group of individuals composing any minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of the majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man. …the majority can impose its will on the minority. All eligible citizens get equal say in decisions.
Republic. A republic is similar to a representative democracy except it has a written constitution of basic rights that protect the minority from being completely unrepresented or overridden by the majority. …the majority cannot take away certain inalienable rights. All eligible citizens get equal say in decisions with protection of unalienable rights to individuals.
Given this misunderstanding regarding the American form of government, many citizens, including politicians, act as though we are a democracy. This misunderstanding has resulted in a political atmosphere where decisions are driven by poll results, who has the loudest megaphone, and who can bring enough factions together for an election win. In this atmosphere, the Constitution is shredded and unalienable rights are trampled. We then operate like a democracy. That’s where we are. Those who would unfairly take from the wealthy, neglect working people, and appeal to those they have channeled into victimhood portray America as a democracy. Doing so allows them to abuse a minority (not racial). That abuse produced President Donald Trump because that abused minority rose up. With his ascension came a dangerous divide, driven by his opponents in both political parties, that is contributing to our nation being off-course.
Then there is the media contribution to being off-course. In my estimation, what most media has become in this country is simply disgusting. I try hard not to use such strong descriptive words in my writing or speaking. In this case, I see “disgusting” as appropriate. I am comfortable adding repugnant, revolting, and sickening. I find it unbelievable that most media organizations and individual so-called journalists are clearly fixated on insuring the failure of Donald Trump as president.
Consider just some of what his administration has accomplished: the lowest unemployment rate in sixteen years; a record-breaking stock market; very impressive consumer confidence; a 70% decrease in illegal border-crossings as measured by apprehensions; roll-back of numerous regulations that adversely affected business growth; getting a United Nations vote for sanctions against North Korea; real progress toward defeating ISIS; the missile attack on a Syrian air base; and signing the “Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017”, which makes it easier to fire VA employees. In spite of all these positives, with very few exceptions, media focus is on looking for collusion between the Trump team and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The normal process is that a crime is committed and there is an investigation to bring guilty parties to justice. This is a case of an investigation looking for a crime. Months have passed without success, but the media keeps that issue front-and-center, while hardly addressing the positives.
… the coverage of some news organizations was so negative, according to the Harvard study, that it seems hard to argue that the coverage was anywhere near a neutral presentation of facts. Assessing the tone of news coverage, the Harvard researchers found that CNN’s Trump coverage was 93 percent negative, and seven percent positive. The researchers found the same numbers for NBC. Others were slightly less negative. The Harvard team found that CBS coverage was 91 percent negative and 9 percent positive. New York Times coverage was 87 percent negative and 13 percent positive.
Maybe the most impactful of all the reasons for our being off-track is that far too many Americans decide issues based on sound bites and headlines. The negative impact is compounded because media, politicians, and advocates for various issues/causes use this condition to their advantage. A case-in-point is what happened with The Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA) of 2017. A CBS News article titled, “CBO: Latest health bill would leave 32M more uninsured in 2026” said the legislation:
That 32M figure has been endlessly repeated. With very few exceptions, the whole story is not told. Two statements from the CBO report are relevant to my point. First, “In 2018, by CBO and JCT’s estimates, about 17million more people would be uninsured under this legislation than under current law.” Second, “Although most of those reductions in coverage would stem from repealing the penalty associated with the individual mandate, CBO and JCT also expect that insurers in some areas would leave the nongroup market in 2018.” Taken together, these statements say that many of the uninsured would be so because having health insurance would no longer be mandated. Instead of addressing a fact such as this, Obamacare advocates scream, “32 million will be uninsured.” Addicting the public to sound bites and headlines…a tactic that works, but helps keep us off-course.
Please, my fellow Americans, give thought to these, and other, conditions/tactics that are keeping our beloved nation off-course from greatness.