By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
The Virginia gubernatorial election disappointed Democrats, but it raised the hopes of non-partisan independent voters (like me) looking for evidence of less partisan polarization. Responses to my commentary last week from my Democratic friends reminded me that I’m as much a maverick in my independent politics as I am in my universalist religious beliefs.
Conflicting loyalties to political, religious and racial tribes in America are obstacles to the common good. Partisan politics have transmogrified American culture in their competition for the support of our racial and religious tribes. The idea of one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all has become a pipe dream. Reconciliation is needed to save America from itself.
Biden was elected with the support of independent voters who expected him to provide centrist leadership following the Trump fiasco. Instead, Biden has advocated a leftist social agenda asserting that Americans want bold and bigger social programs, even though polls and the Virginia election indicate most Americans oppose such an expensive leftist agenda.
The ultimate objective in politics should be to provide for a common good that’s beyond partisan objectives. Biden’s costly Build Back Better (BBB) social programs ignore a massive national debt to appease Democratic constituents. Promoting the common good requires balancing the cost of social benefits with their cost, and the cost of BBB is not yet clear.
After the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provides its report on the cost and revenues of BBB on top of the existing $28 trillion national debt, then Congress can consider the political pros and cons of the proposal. The magnitude of the 2,000 page BBB bill requires a thorough cost/benefit analysis and public debate, not a hurried political process.
If partisan politics rush BBB and prevent voters from fully understanding its political and economic implications, it will denigrate democracy by subordinating the common good to partisan objectives. Not long ago members of both parties crossed the aisle to promote the common good. America’s partisan tribes need to restore the art of compromise in Congress.
It will take a moral reformation to reconcile America’s conflicting political, religious and racial tribes. It should begin with the universal greatest commandment to love our neighbors, including those of other races, religions and politics, as we love ourselves. That may seem like a pipe dream, but it’s necessary to restore our traditional ideals of liberty and justice for all.
Since 2016 party loyalty has trumped political reconciliation, and both parties ignore the need for reconciliation. The common good in a democracy is defined by all the people, not just those in a party with a slim majority. For America to restore its traditional democratic values, it must reconcile the conflicting loyalties of its competing tribes with promoting the common good.
When the Infrastructure bill passed the House on November 5, 13 Republicans voted for it, and 6 Leftist “Progressive” Democrats voted against it. That’s a positive indicator that bipartisan politics may be beginning to reconcile partisan tribalism. See https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/05/politics/infrastructure-bill-house-democrats-voted-no-republicans-voted-yes/index.html.
The GOP erupted over its (13) House members bailing out Biden’s Infrastructure bill. That’s an indicator of continuing partisan tribalism. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/06/fix-gop-infrastructure-defections/?utm_campaign=wp_todays_headlines&utm_.
An NBC/ABC poll reported by NBC on October 31, showed that President Biden’s support had sunk to 42% (a decline of 7% since August). See https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/biden-s-job-rating-sinks-42-percent-nbc-news-poll-n1282781.
In a USA TODAY/Suffolk poll reported on November 8, President Biden’s support had slipped to 38%, and the top 2 responses to the question, What is the single thing that’s most important for Biden to do in the next year? were: #1 was: Resignation/retire/quit (20%), and #2 was. Economy/jobs (11%); #10 was Bipartinsanship (3%). “Those who mentioned social programs totaled 7%.” See https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/11/08/what-americans-want-biden-do-next-year-poll/6329699001/.
Chris Cilizza of CNN has cited Rep Abigail Spanberger (D Va), who in an interview with NYTimes said, “Nobody elected [Biden] to be FDR. They elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.” According to Cilizza, “ What Spanberger is suggesting is that Biden tried to govern like FDR -- massive government spending on huge social programs -- without FDR majorities or an FDR mandate from the public. Her belief is that Biden was NOT, in fact, elected to fundamentally reshape the country and the relationship its average citizen has (or wants) with the government. That he was actually elected to be a steady hand on the tiller -- in the wake of the Trump chaos -- and to steer the country, from a public health and economic perspective, back to some semblance of normal.” See https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/04/politics/abigail-spanberger-joe-biden-2021/index.html.
Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post opined that “Democrats should thank the moderates in their party who demanded that Biden’s BBB social bill “receive an acceptable ‘score’ from the Congressional Budget Office.“ Tumulty said, “A political imperative for speed is not an excuse for carelessness. Americans have a right to expect that their leaders have taken every foreseeable contingency into account before they undertake major new initiatives. And they should be wary of any effort to bypass the referees.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/08/karen-tumulty-why-democrats-should-thank-the-moderates-in-their-party/?utm_.
On What is the CBO, and how could its score derail Democrats’ spending bills? See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/08/karen-tumulty-why-democrats-should-thank-the-moderates-in-their-party/?utm_.