I am a person of hope, an optimist who believes in the good of most of humanity, and I love America. This is what drove me to get involved in politics at a very young age, and what drives me to stay involved and do the job of trying to make America a “more perfect union.” . So why did I come back from President Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress wanting more and feeling that a lot of things were words that didn’t ring true in America today?
As someone once said, democracy is a gift, not a given. And it is time for our president and our leaders to tell hard truths to my fellow citizens, not happy to talk about the greatness of America and how well our democracy works.
It is not.
Our democracy and our republic are fundamentally broken today. And the only way to fix the breakage is to expose it clearly, identify how we got here, who is responsible for the damage, and what are we going to do to fix it on a deep structural level.
Yes, Biden has presented hugely popular policies that he would like Congress to move from raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour to common sense gun reform, broad immigration reform and fundamental reform of criminal justice while combating systemic racism in our country today. All of them have the support of a super majority of Americans. So why are these proposals unlikely to be adopted?
At the heart of why none of this will happen is that we don’t have a functioning democracy. One of the main Legacy parties, the GOP, and a cable “news” network, Fox News, traffic wild conspiracy theories, including the myth of widespread voter fraud. They are misleading and lying to their base and to the public. They are dominated by white nationalism leaning towards supporting autocracy. The existence of these in politics today predictably led to the insurgency on the United States Capitol on January 6. The Republican Party is not a credible partner with which to reach consensus or compromise in any way.
Yes, there is a bipartisan consensus among the general public on the broad political issues outlined above that Biden proposed in his speech, but this bipartisan consensus is utterly ineffective with a partner who will not even recognize a set of common facts and who seems not to be interested in the common good. And until we fundamentally tackle the flaws of a legacy party and within our democracy, moving forward towards a better future for all Americans is an unrealistic hope.
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So what would I have liked Biden to do in his speech? I think it is time for him and for all of us who are rational and concerned about our country to say everything. And recognize that none of the positive things most citizens support can be accomplished until we fix our democracy. As the leader of this wonderful nation, Biden must shake Americans off the illusion that we have a healthy democracy. And it needs to be clear that the GOP is not a trustworthy or helpful partner.
Damaging our democracy
It would have been much better for Biden to spend more time talking about how we’re broken and who needs to be held accountable than all the policies he’d like Congress to enact. If I wrote this speech, I would have said, “If you fake lies and don’t believe in the truth, you are damaging our democracy.” If you promulgate or push against savage conspiracy theories, especially when it comes to election results, you are an inherent danger to our Republic. If you run mad in the face of the pandemic and mislead our citizens about the effectiveness of vaccines and masks, you are a danger to public health. “
Again, I’m optimistic for America, but not in the short term, unless we make it clear where we are today. Until we face this most important question, all the words surrounding popular political issues are just happier promises that will not happen leading to more distrust of all political leaders.
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Building trust in any relationship involves communicating with the truth based on love, and the relationships we have as fellow citizens especially need truth and compassion. America has shown throughout its history that it has a great capacity for good when it follows truth and our ideals, but it has also shown that when we do not use truth and justice as the stars of the north, we lose our way, and we do horrible things. It’s time to found hope in reality, otherwise all the dreams we have turn out like nightmares.
Matthew Dowd, a political independent, was the chief strategist for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. He is the former chief political analyst for ABC News and the author of “A New Way: Kissing the paradox as we lead and serve ”. Follow him on Twitter: @matthewjdowd
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: We Must Acknowledge the Hard Truths About Our Shattered Democracy