Sometimes the stars align. Sometimes your best efforts can make a difference. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and this is the 150th post I have written for Sparky’s Policy Pub.
I had thought, for a brief moment mind you, of coming up with 150 different healthcare policy oriented reasons for being thankful and sharing them. But if there is one thing I have learned too well over the past 149 posts it’s that in a world of electronic media expanding at an accelerated rate it is extremely difficult to attract the attention of anyone interested in reading a paragraph – let alone a boring list – on public policy issues.
So I settled upon one policy-oriented reason to be thankful that is both timely and in keeping with the American heritage and tradition of Thanksgiving: I am thankful the Tea Party has gone into hiding, at least for now.
Writing this morning in Politico, Kyle Cheney asks the question: Is the tea party ready to chill out? Cheney posits that at least some portion of the Republican Party’s success is owing to their being able to smartly steer clear of TP challengers that historically have split the party against itself. And rather than swinging for the fences on every issue at least some TP strategists appear to be taking a more pragmatic approach, accepting that getting something – anything – is a lot better than getting nothing.
The Democratic Party is going to face its own fringe albatross dividing its constituency in the years ahead, particularly leading into the 2016 election. And their situation may be even worse because of some recent success the far left has had in influencing legislation. They have come to taste an unsustainable success that the Tea Party by and large has not. That will, of course, change, as Chuck Schumer and others have already begun signaling as they start to distance themselves from the party’s far left.
Politics in America can often best be characterized as a pendulum of public opinion: as the public comes to realize their lives are not better under one party they begin to have hope in the other. Of course, overall voter turnout earlier this month – at 36.4% – was the lowest it has been since 1942, perhaps an indication that 6 or 7 out of every 10 Americans have lost hope in either or any party, or could really care less about public policy until it is in some fashion proven to affect them directly.
That lack of interest in public policy is in good part because it has been overwrought by the rancor smell of partisan politics in an age of media-driven elections. The media’s complicity is our own: we like to be entertained, as I have written here before. Just ask ad agents at Fox News or MSNBC what type of programming advertisers will pay the highest rates to underwrite. Entertainment is found on the fringes of both parties because their behavior is usually characterized as aggressive, controversial and uncompromising.
But it’s the very lack of compromise that has thrown this country into a political tailspin. Without wanting to find myself disappointed to the point of joining the 7 out of 10 who don’t care what happens in public policy I hope the Republican Party’s ability to gain control of Congress is a harbinger of future hard fought debates on the floors of both chambers that will result in legislation that neither party loves but both can live with in the interest of knowing that doing something is better than doing nothing.
It will be interesting to see whether the likes of Ted Cruz, whose star for better or worse is at least for now firmly affixed to the Tea Party, will choose personal political ambition over progress and seek to make the 114th Congress as dysfunctional as the few before. Who wants to bet he’ll choose the road of constructive compromise? I’ll give you 150-to-1.