Blame game reminds us: In politics, you get what you deserve

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We live in an age of political dishonesty, in which politicians – all politicians – play the blame game. Instead of admitting they are the cause of political dysfunction – although perhaps for principled reasons – politicians bicker and behave like common schoolchildren rather than as the sacred statespeople to whom the Founding Fathers sought to entrust our land.

IT IS COMMONPLACE to believe that politicians never accept blame and that they always accuse others even if what they are doing is a principled, calculated choice. They will not risk telling you the shutdown is purposeful because of lofty ideals they believe are impossible to compromise. This is unfortunate because I am sure that both sides believe what they are doing is based on their visions of the best regime, of political truth.

How have we devolved from the republic founded by James Madison et al., to a political arena in which leaders from both parties say, uncompromisingly – ironically enough – that they will not compromise, and that the government shutdown is the result of the other party not compromising?

Is the party system itself to blame? Partly. Nevertheless, this does not explain the entire situation.

In 1835, perhaps the best piece of philosophical observation illustrating the American democratic regime was published by a Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville. In it he depicts the American parties and notes that there are two types of parties, generally: great and small. The names do not depict size, but values. Great parties, he notes, have noble features, generous passions and real convictions, and are concerned with the true public interests than with individual ambition. Small parties, on the contrary, are “without political faith.” Small parties are not elevated or sustained by great concerns, and their characters are “stamped with selfishness.”

IT IS WORTH quoting a particular passage directly: “Great parties overturn society, small ones agitate it; the former tear it apart and the latter deprave it; the first sometimes save it by shaking it up, the second always trouble it without profit.” He continues by noting America once had “great” parties; but as of 1829, it no longer did. It still does not.

The parties, politicians and the president himself are partly to blame for the government shutdown. As Woodrow Wilson once voiced concerning contemporary American politics: “No leaders, no principles; no principles, no parties.” But this is not the whole story.

Our country was designed for political conflict. It is not supposed to be easy to pass legislation, and the system is designed to be conflictual, daunting and critical. Madison makes this clear in Federalist Papers 10, 47, 48 and 51. Each part of the government is meant to do war with all other parts, against the people themselves, and the people are meant to engage in this battle by checking the government’s actions. Madison’s purpose in this was to prevent tyranny from forming – you know, that thing we fought a bloody Revolutionary war against.

The government today, though perhaps not by principled purpose but rather institutional chance, is playing its Madisonian part: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

SO IF OUR CURRENT crisis is not the complete fault of the parties, or of the government in general, and the government mechanism is working according to its design – yet still we sit with a partially closed government – who is left to blame? The next part is where you solidify against me.

I am to blame. You are. We are.

The Founders designed a republic. Part of being a republic is that the people must educate themselves with true knowledge of government and philosophy, not just blogs and op-eds, and this self-education must contain an element of virtue and morality – though how one defines these concepts are the subject of another piece.

We have let the Founders down. Most of us do not properly educate ourselves. We don’t properly understand the purpose of voting: to elect members of society from amongst ourselves that we think are best able to judge our true, best interests, especially when we cannot recognize our best interests because of emotion and self-interest. Often, our best interest is not something we can logically see; passion deludes our wisdom.

It is possible to get out of this mess. But it will be very difficult. It starts with admitting that we have not cherished our roles as citizens properly. We have forgotten that most of our society could not be citizens, properly called, for most of our country’s existence. Now that suffrage is universal, we still do not take it upon ourselves to become serious, virtuous citizens. This fits with all sectors of society. We do not take being citizens seriously.

HOW DO WE change this? It begins with self-education and carries over into electing members fit to govern; fit to discern America’s true interest; able to sacrifice the self for the sake of the polity. For American politics to be great again – our country is great; our system needs work – we must become responsible citizens and better ourselves. After all, we elect who mirrors us.

Case in point: Our government is closing in on a $17 trillion deficit. Do not gasp – it’s only mirroring our actions. Many of us live well beyond our means, accumulating massive personal debt. How can we possibly chastise the government for its poor budgeting when most of us are guilty of the same sin?

Government is a reflection of the people in a republic. Thus, we are to blame for its ills. You can argue with me and insult this view, or you can meditate on it, change and make a true difference. Otherwise, how can we argue with Joseph de Maistre? He once quipped, “Every country has the government it deserves.”

(The writer is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Regents University Augusta, and the associate director of the GRU Knowledge Integrated program.)

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JimS
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JimS 10/13/13 - 04:25 am
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Negotiating
Unpublished

The problem in all that's happening now isn't in 'negotiating' with the Executive branch but doing so within the tepub house caucus, and from listening and reading the comments from many of them it's showing many have a big problem doing so within themselves and those voices in their heads!!

localguy55
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localguy55 10/13/13 - 08:39 am
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Professor Albert

Your article was much too drawn out and over the heads of most of the citizen that even took the time to read it. I doubt most people know what the federalist papers are let alone Alexis de Tocqueville.

What you fail to realize in writing this dissertation on where the blame lies with our political situation, is that there are few people that have the ability to understand it. I believe the eyes of those that take the time to read it in it's entirety, will glaze over before they finish, especially the low information voters.

In short your elegant and lengthy letter was a waste of time. This kind of writing will do nothing to open the eyes of the ignorant electorate.

deestafford
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deestafford 10/13/13 - 09:03 am
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I'm pleasantly surprised that there are still professors such

as Dr Albert teaching. He is so right in many respects and I'm hoping he is passing on these facts about our Founding to his students rather then the "America is a terrible country. Built on slavery. Founded by rich white men. It's oppressive. Etc. Etc" that is taught in many schools.

Woodrow Wilson was one of the founders of the Progressive movement and one of the first to write explicity that the Declaration of Independence was obsolete and that we needed to liberate the Constitution from the Declaration's restraints. They did not believe in Natural Law as found in the Declaration which leads to limited government as laid out in Madison's Fedralist 51. This belief has been passed down to the current progressives/liberals/statists.

You see, the Declaration has absolute truths in it and the Progressives, and this is a big point in Obama and the current liberal's beliefs, believe there is no such thing as an absolute truth. Obama said as much in his book "Audicity of Hope".

The Progressives believe in a living Constitution that is characterized by constant "change" and "progess" which is "good". But, who determines what is "good"? The "progressives" such as Obama, believe that certain people who are technically trained and selected can be put into placed in DC to determined what is "good". What is "good" is then determined by the subjective whims of "the people" when they vote--which is the political bureaucracy of the government.

This reduces politics from not what is "right" but to "force". That is why we have such much bullying by the government today---Obama and his people are not guided by principles rooted in absolute truths as laid out in our founding documents.

deestafford
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deestafford 10/13/13 - 09:19 am
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You can compromise only when both parties have the same goals

Right now the Democrats and the Republicans have two opposing goals for the country.

The Democrats believe the government is a source of good and should take care of the people because so many of the people are incapable of taking care of themselves and the government must fulfill that role. They want more control over the lives of the people and they need to increase governmental spending to do this.

The Republicans, for the most part, are being pushed by a group who believe in the original concept of limited government upon which the country was founded and we need to get back to that. They want to return power to the states and the people and limit spending.

The bottomline:
Liberals = Dependency
Conservatives = Life style of Freedom

dichotomy
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dichotomy 10/13/13 - 10:40 am
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The Republicans have offered

The Republicans have offered several compromises. Both Obama and Reid have REFUSED to negotiate. This will be a Democrat Default.

Truth Matters
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Truth Matters 10/13/13 - 03:34 pm
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"The Republicans have offered

"The Republicans have offered several compromises. Both Obama and Reid have REFUSED to negotiate. This will be a Democrat Default."

What has a law passed three years ago got to do with this shutdown? Zip! The Republicans are trying to negate a law that was settled in the last election when the electorates rejected Mitt Romney and his pledge to repeal the ACA.

The American people are not crazy. If John Boehner cared about this country as much as he does about his job as speaker, this fiasco would be over.

Truth Matters
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Truth Matters 10/13/13 - 03:46 pm
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To be fair, some GOP members

To be fair, some GOP members are speaking honestly about this shutdown and who caused it.

"Last month, in a speech on the U.S. Senate floor, Isakson took his career in hand – he’s up for re-election in 2016 — and warned his fellow Republicans that attempting to defund Obamacare by linking that demand to the continued operation of the federal government was a mistake for which his party would pay."

You don't get to start a fight then blame the other party for not ending it. On your terms. That is what the GOP is doing.

http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/political-insider/2013/oct/12/thoughts-fellow...

chascushman
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chascushman 10/13/13 - 04:17 pm
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"If John Boehner cared about
Unpublished

"If John Boehner cared about this country as much as he does about his job as speaker, this fiasco would be over."
TM, if the lying, racist, America hating Marxist/communist in the WH cared as much about this country as he does about 'Social Justice' this fiasco would never have happen.

deestafford
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deestafford 10/13/13 - 05:24 pm
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TM, This canard that you leftists are talking about this

is settled law and should be funded is totally off based.

First, just because a something is a law, even if passed through sneaking means by Harry Reid as he did with obamacare, that does not make it right. Slavery was legal but was it right?

Second, the House Republicans are merely carrying out their Constitutional duty, I know that is an alien concept to the democrats, in that it is charged with determining with how to allocate moneys and what programs should be funded, which ones should not, and which ones should be reduced.

Third, the Republicans were asking for three things: delay the individual mandate for one year so the bugs could be worked out of the system; eliminate the medical devices tax which would put some companies out of business, cause others to move over seas, and cost 250,000 jobs; and make Congress and its staff go through the exchanges and live under the same laws they passed in relation to obamacare.

Now, prey tell what is unreasonable about either of those three request?

Aristotle_Undergrad
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Aristotle_Undergrad 10/14/13 - 08:44 pm
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As Citizens

It is sad to say that the comment made previously about "most people wont know what those documents and Federalist Papers are" is entirely true. This is exactly what the concern in America is about. Here we are, the greatest Nation in the world, and we as Citizens hold the power in our hands to make it greater still. It is a great loss for Americans to be so ill-educated in the founding of our great country, and it is sad to have other citizens justifying the unintelligible. If most people do not know what the Federalist Papers are, maybe it's time to turn off the T.V. or get off the internet, and READ-Educate ourselves and our future generations. How can we criticize a government that 'WE' as active citizens have created. How could we not want to educate ourselves so that we can make better decisions.
Dr. Albert is right to say "we are to Blame for it's ills." Lack of education and enlightenment to make a sophisticated change is the result of citizens that are as Immanuel Kant would say, stuck in "self-imposed nonage", or immaturity and laziness.

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