Thursday, January 9, 2014

Let Them Govern!

Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?"
                      ~ Lyrics from "The Way We Were"

Is my memory failing me or was there a time in American politics when the winners of elections were given a chance to govern? Policies were allowed to be implemented before declaring them a failure? When we were not in a perpetual campaign cycle? A time when political opponents were cautious in their allegations and did not pounce on any excuse to allege malfeasance?

The Watergate break-in happened on June 17, 1972. One the five burglars arrested that fateful early morning worked for the Committee to Re-Elect the President. Nevertheless, during the subsequent five months, Watergate was not an issue during the presidential campaign. Richard Nixon went on to enjoy one of the largest electoral victories in American history by winning 60% of the vote. His opponent, Senator George McGovern, even failed to win his home state of South Dakota.

Can anyone imagine a similar scenario in today's political environment? Nowadays, the most tenuous connections are immediately exploited to fan outrage and allege scandal. The Senate did not establish a committee to investigate Watergate until eight months after the break-in. The Watergate public hearings did not begin until May 1973. Nearly a year from the day the DNC headquarters were burglarized. Today, Congressional hearings and investigations are launched within days of a story hitting the headlines.

The body of Ambassador Chris Steven was yet to be identified when the Romney campaign denounced Obama over Benghazi. During the following two months, Republicans and their media supporters did everything under the sun to cast Benghazi as the biggest scandal since Watergate. The alleged Benghazi cover up was so convoluted that even Romney tripped on it during a presidential debate. And one can be sure that - if Hillary Clinton decides to run again - Benghazi will be front and center in the 2016 campaign.

Barack Obama had not taken his oath of office when Rush Limbaugh thundered "I hope he fails." Bill de Blasio had not even completed 24 hours as the new mayor of New York City when memes about renaming Times Square Red Square appeared on social media. Even the New York Times got into the act by publishing an article apologizing in advance for de Blasio failing to turn the Big Apple into a progressive paradise.

Give the man a chance! Let de Blasio go full Marxist. It would give us a chance to see what works and what doesn't work. Instead of theorizing about the consequences of policy, we will have a real life experiment. And if conservatives are so certain that liberal policies will fail, bring about doom, they should be more than happy to get out of the way.

Speaking of real life experiments. On January 1st, Colorado legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. Jokes about Rocky Mountains high, munchies were predictable. Equally predictable was the knee jerk reaction by conservative pundits. Both David Brooks and Jennifer Rubin quickly published pieces opposing legalization of marijuana. Ed Rogers urged the GOP to "Just Say No" to legalization.

Mr. Rogers begins his piece with "There is no possible public good that can be derived from passing laws that legalize marijuana use," Really? It has not even been a week since legalization has gone into effect and he has already concluded that nothing positive will come out of this new approach to drug policy. We have had 30 years of the war on drugs. It hasn't exactly been a success. That we know. The Colorado experiment is barely underway and Mr. Rogers has already declared it a failure.

It is almost as if partisans fear governance. They are so emotionally invested in their policy positions that they simply cannot take the chance that their ideas, beliefs may be proven false or unworkable. Better to keep the country paralyzed than run the risk of having to say "I was wrong."

Maybe the environment has always been so acrimonious. So partisan. So fearful. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. As the song said: "What's to painful to remember, we simply choose to forget."