Stalemate: Political Gridlock in the U.S.

The 2010 Massachusetts election for U.S. Senate marks the resurgence of Republican power to counter the Democratic revolution that elected Barak Obama. Both parties should feel proud that they have carried their ideals to the point where the nation is now effectively stalled in political gridlock.

Yes, the Republicans have been brutal in their attempt to claw back to power, and they were clear about it at the onset. Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, and many others urged people to do all in they can to cause our elected government to fail, and they may have succeeded. Obama’s approval ratings have fallen, Republicans have won back crucial posts like the Governorship of Virginia, most Americans now oppose the health care bill, and 70% or so think the nation in “on the wrong track.”  To accomplish all this in less than one year after a resounding loss is truly amazing. How did it happen?

The fault lies not in the stars, dear Horatio, but in ourselves. Democrats must have been dazed from their great victory because they reverted to old habits and branded themselves once again with the curse of “big government.” They couldn’t resist getting their share of pork into the stimulus bill, failed to get Republicans engaged in solving the health care mess, and generally reminded people of old fears about taxes, debt, and bad government. Perhaps we were expecting too much when Obama was elected, but this is a reversion back to the liberalism that Americans condemned 30 years ago.

The U. S. stands at a time when both of its political ideologies have been tested and found seriously wanting.  With its reversion to the left, Democrats demonstrate that they have not learned how to govern from the center. And Republicans are not likely to find a solution to the massive challenges facing the U.S. in their fetish for free markets.

It is amazing how conservatives are unable to allow the massive failings of their ideology to penetrate. It was precisely the limits of overly free markets focused on profit-making that caused the financial meltdown, the collapse of our auto industry, the horrible mess in health care, two recent booms and busts, massive debt, and the yawning gap between the wealthy and the middle class. The beliefs of Sarah Palin and other Republican leaders today are so detached from reality that they sound like the Marxist ideologues conservatives condemn.

It’s hard to see a way out of this impasse that grips the nation. In theory, a lovely solution is possible in which corporations assume responsibility for their vast social impacts by collaborating with their employees, clients, and the public in a productive way. This “Collaborative Enterprise” concept could transform the economy into a free market composed of self-regulating “corporate communities” that serve the broader public welfare as well as investors, thereby creating an historic breakthrough. (See “Business Collaboration Could Transform the Economy” under my Articles page). This is a tested concept that thrives in a marginal sector of business, but moving it into the mainstream would require great leadership.

I continue to think that President Obama has the potential for this type of transformative leadership, and I suspect that moderate Republicans could be receptive. Possibly new voices could be heard at this difficult time to move the national conversation into more creative directions. They are certainly needed.

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