When I was a young student taking political science courses, politics was described as the ‘art of compromise.’ Politicians sought to broker coalitions and compromises that resulted in policies aimed at the greater good of the masses and the country as a whole.
In the increasingly partisan and ideological climate that prevails today that seems to have changed.
No longer the art of compromise, politics today is the art of winning; of trampling your ideological opposition into the dirt. The losers in this mad scramble to win at all costs have been the masses – we the people, who the politicians are suppose to serve.
Politicians today, whether of the left or right, liberal or conservative, seem less interested in what is good for the masses, and what they really want, than in molding their opinion into a predetermined ideological framework. Efforts are made to convince us to hew to a partisan line, regardless of the fact that it might not actually serve our long term interests.
The current debate on health care reform is a classic example of ideological manipulation of the masses. The government has proposed a public plan aimed at ensuring millions of Americans currently without health insurance have a basic minimum of coverage. Conservatives, many of them under the influence of the insurance lobby that is primarily interested in protecting its profits, insist on raising the specter of ‘socialized medicine’ in their efforts to block meaningful reform. They play on the fears of those who have coverage that somehow, having the government participate in providing coverage for those who don’t currently have it will threaten their rice bowls. The only rice bowls being threatened are those belonging to the fat cats of the insurance industry; a fact that is absent from the conservative message.
In this country, there has always been a visceral fear of too much government control. Politicians, who are more than willing to look the other way while corporations dip their hands into our wallets, play on that fear to convince us that the ideal situation is NO government control whatsoever. Leave it to the private sector is their mantra. Well, we’ve left it to the private sector and look where it’s gotten us.
Opponents of reform make every effort to convince us to enlist in the cause of “free” enterprise. The problem, as we’ve seen in such cases as the Enron scandal and the subprime mortgage crisis, is that free enterprise in the absence of a certain level of government oversight is not free. There is a cost to uncontrolled capitalism, and it is we the people who must foot the bill.