It has finally come to this: our two major parties politicizing a potential health epidemic in America. Of all the things an average person would think would not be politicized and would be off limits, even the coronavirus epidemic has succumbed to the rabid partisanship that continues to worsen in Washington.
The Democrats say that President Trump is “pathetic” and “incompetent,” has botched planning for the epidemic, and is more interested in the performance of the stock market than people’s lives. The Republicans say that that the Democrats are trying to panic everyone, including the markets, so that the economic advantage that Trump happens to enjoy will disappear, setting the stage to capitalize on any bad news resulting from the virus.
Trump has tried to downplay it by saying on Feb. 25, among other optimistic messages, that “it is very well under control.” Trump later appointed Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate the virus response which mirrors what President Obama did with the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
It is certainly understandable that strategically these positions make political sense. But that has nothing to do with what is right. Quite the opposite. It is noise intended to shift the fortune of the parties, not your fortune, or that of America. These parties’ main concern is not you and your welfare. Their main concern is the party.
Individually, these people are not bad people. Most of them are genuinely good and likable people. But that is a sideshow to the real purpose of a partisan professional existence: advance the party so it will pay back with professional aggrandizement: power, jobs, influence, fame, money, and get some policy goals accomplished within the party structure. For many pols, but certainly not all, the last goal is the reason they entered politics – to make a difference. But the party holds the power to their future and they soon are forced to learn subservience.
You see it every day in the news, The party comes first, almost every time, regardless of what an individual pol may believe. The party line votes that are routinely taken both here and in Washington serve the party not the best policy solution to a particular problem. Party line votes now make up about 90% of votes in Washington and are routine in Connecticut. Those who buck the party line, will lose favor with the party, and risk losing their seat because the money and party machinery (another form of currency) needed to get elected will be turned off. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have to see the puppet cable news guests every night supporting their party at any cost of honesty. This is no secret, most of us know this. But again, this has nothing to do with you and your welfare. That is secondary – nothing personal.
The political system is essentially rigged. Who can get elected without the support of one of the two parties? Almost no one. The entire current Connecticut General Assembly of 187 members has only Democrats and Republicans. The U.S. Congress, made up of 535 members, has a total of two independents (not including Bernie Sanders who is a declared independent but must affiliate with a party machine when running for President to have any hope of success). And by the way, the party machine includes all of the various non-office holding special interest constituencies that benefit from the largess of the party they support with money and time.
But what REALLY makes the system dominate politics the way it does? Well, I hate to say it, but it’s the majority of us: those that advance the parties with donated time, money and affiliation – whether they be from concerned citizens or the individuals behind a Super PAC.
According to Gallup people are wising up to this nefarious domination. In 2004 (the beginning of the polling data), independents sometimes outnumbered either of the two parties and sometimes did not. But since about 2010, the number of people identifying as independent was consistently larger than those identifying as Republican or Democrat, often by fairly wide margins. In the two polls taken in 2020 so far, the average for those identifying as independents was 43.5%, which beat Republican identification by 15 points and Democrat by 16 points.
So do America a favor and shed your party affiliation. (You can still vote for whoever you want to). It’s easy and it’s free. It will actually save you money if you currently donate. Although it might make policy positions less clear since there won’t be as automatic one-stop shopping for opinion formation. Or keep your affiliation and watch the parties descend even further into the abyss dragging all of us with them.
Alan Calandro lives in Burlington.