The glee of Republicans and the scrambling of Democrats for cover after the Senate election in Massachusetts are predictable reactions but bad portents for the future. Scott Brown ran a good campaign and Martha Coackley was in the cross-hairs of an angry, independent electorate.
Our problems are so daunting that both parties need to wake up and stop their posturing. Serious public servants need to convene and start looking for ways to systemically change how the politicians operate. Even as a conservative I found Willie Brown's brazen comments on political pork rather refreshing. He bluntly affirmed that all bills have "deals" in them, whether sponsored by the Democrats or Republicans.
How do we curb spending, stimulate the economy and deliver compassionate and competent education and health care?
How do we bolster national security and help Haiti without being an occupying power?
We need to strengthen personal responsibility and national pride by looking deeply at the root issues of egregious behavior and avoid the creation a national civilian police force?
How do we find a real, dynamic center that is not just a mushy middle?
A friend of mine and exemplary spiritual leader once told me, "Under-promise and over-deliver." We need to radically alter our expectations of government and ourselves. We need to reaffirm some of our Founders' principles while anticipating the global changes that make continual transformation a necessity.
We need less from the federal government and more from City Hall. We need less government ownership and better government oversight. We can provide education and health care effectively and fairly if we universalize ethics and standards and decentralize delivery. We need less money going to Washington. Our local and state governments must supply services more efficiently.
We need to bring as many of our troops home as quickly as we can - not only from Afghanistan and Iraq, but from the EU as well. We need to deliver powerful, well-targeted military blows against terrorist dens without being a permanent presence among hostile cultures. Terrorists are not criminals and deserve to be tried as enemy combatants.
So many major issues are interconnected. If we can regulate immigration fairly and make sure that the criminal unproductive folks are screened, we save billions every year - dollars that can be redirected for compassionate services. I am not speaking of real refugees, but the thousands who are here illegally. Without a blanket amnesty, all must be given the opportunity to be normalized as residents-on-the-way-to-citizenship or temporary workers. Democrats need to stop panting after votes and Republican businesses need to hire legal Americans for their labor forces. By the way, recent polls indicate that many legal citizens would gladly have the jobs occupied by illegals - assuming proper standards and wages, of course.
Health care is a frustrating issue. One minute we hear the tragedies of good folks falling - not through the cracks - but into the abyss of debt and insolvency due to necessary medical care. The next minute we hear about prisoners getting sex-change operations and folks in socialized lands waiting months or years for care. Current proposals are "magic thinking" with great claims of lower costs, better service, fewer denials, etc. The problem is that the money has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is from the productive populace. Republicans have yet to offer a viable alternative - just talking about the free market is not good enough.
Education is best delivered locally, with counties, states and the federal government ensuring excellent standards but not exercising too much direct control. Charter schools everywhere are bringing better results at lower costs. The current superintendent in Washington, D.C. is ruffling feathers as she promotes efficiency and excellence and - gasp - actually fires poor administrators and teachers. She is walking through warehouses full of uncatalogued and undistributed materials. She is confronted by union forces unwilling to hold their members accountable to minimal standards.
All of our public creativity and innovation is in vain unless We the People recover our personal responsibility for ourselves and our neighbors. Jane and John deserve parents who stay together and pay attention to them. Parents deserve school teachers who respect their moral guidelines instead of usurping them. Citizens need public servants to serve and not reign as petty bureaucratic tyrants.
The best policies will fail without a moral and spiritual renewal. The Boomer legacy is a pathological synergy of narcissism and victimhood. These must be displaced with an ethic of personal and social responsibility that will unite ecological care and economic development. Let's go from "amusing ourselves to death" (Neal Postman) to amazing the world with love, service and creativity. Will we choose faith over fear and responsibility over resentment? Will we abandon the cliches and create common ground?
Our children's children await our answer.