The GOP Exodus

“May you live in interesting times.”

– Chinese Proverb

And these are certainly interesting times. But they’ve been clocking in that way for quite a while. Though you may argue since the 2016 presidential election campaigns, it’s been increasingly public and messy for decades in politics.

Right now, the Republican-led Congress is experiencing tumultuous decision making, trying to navigate the stormy seas of Trump’s presidency, the concerns of constituents, and their own moral compass. With such directional challenges, some are opting to flee rather than fight.

Just this week, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced his retirement from Congress. In the growing instability of National party politics, Speaker Ryan seems to think that it’s time to jump ship.

You may recall Paul Ryan receiving the Speakership following John Boehner’s forced exit, amid criticism that Boehner wasn’t coalescing the party enough. Now, with the current Administration inciting divisiveness at all levels, it would be a wonder if there were Congressional Republicans who would want to remain.

We are living in interesting times, but I’m sure most Americans are hoping that every day wasn’t more interesting than the last.

A derailment of American Politics

I’ve been reading David McCullough’s American Spirit, a collection of speeches he’s given over the years. And it has me thinking.

We’re on the 115th Congress of these United States. The 45th President. A Nation that has been trucking along for 242 years, and doesn’t show any real sign of slowing down. Yet, all we talk about in the court of public opinion is how bad one side is doing compared to the other, or how bad both sides are doing.

Look, no one has the answer. If they try to sell you goods saying that it’s the only way, don’t believe them. There is no only way. But the level of discourse in this Country has spun sickeningly out of control.

So, what to do about it? I could cite a hundred news stories this week alone that are divisive, inflammatory and (sometimes) downright wrong. I’m being conservative estimating only a hundred.

I trust newspapers more than I do television, and I trust television more than I do the internet. It’s a matter of timing. If it takes longer to get a story to the public, it seems sensible enough that it will have had more fact checking involved.

When it comes to news, we should demand more fact checking.

But it’s cheaper to have the talking heads rehashing events, asking questions to avoid defaming someone, rather than reporting the news.

In Dan Brown’s Origin, protagonist Robert Langdon muses, and I paraphrase, “I remember when breaking news was printed in the newspaper delivered the next morning.”

News isn’t sensationalism. Yet that’s what the internet and even television provide. Sensationalist stories to grab viewer’s attention and entice advertisers with the eyeballs those stories can provide. So we get more President Trump, more heated rhetoric, and more of the things that I bet comedian George Carlin would find hysterically funny, were he still alive. (I think of the 7 Dirty Words all the time when watching the news.)

We’re getting less news. Less research, and less objective analysis. And we’re suffering as a Country because of it.

It’s all really a question

If I was to create my perfect society, it would be an imperfect society. Perfection is an ideal, not an actual. We come to these matters uniquely, and no two created societies would be identical. Millions upon millions of different ideas, goals, aspirations, longings, and we expect that a society that comprises all of these disparate personalities to function ideally – obviously we will fail.

But we can learn to fail better, as Pema Chödrön says. Learn from mistakes, lean in to the uncomfortable issues.

We criticize our elected officials for their inability to pass substantive legislation. Yet, as our population grows and the added opinions that growth equals means that keeping a population satisfied with job performance is impossible. Someone is going to be unhappy.

Now, at the point that government became a business we began losing ground as a Country. Members of Congress who find their retirement solution among the House or the Senate. Rich, old, white men who are out of touch with the heartbeat of America may not be the best ones to be leading the United States into the 21st Century. There are of course exceptions, and there are women, and racially diverse members of both parties in some form of leadership – though it’s not the norm.

In the House, there are 89 women and 348 men serving. Of the 437 members of the House of Representatives, 338 are white, roughly 3 out of 4. The other hundred or so are composed of Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American/Native Alaskan.

The Senate, and its one hundred members, is 22% female, just slightly better than the House’s 21.9% female. Women at 22, men at 78. Racially, the Senate is 92% white. That means there are 8 who identify as racially diverse in the Senate.

I don’t want to say that the majority of Americans would rather vote a white man into Congress than a woman or someone of color. But, and this seems like a pretty big but, somehow we’re allowing the nation’s Capital to be whitewashed.

Then there are all these stories saying that this is the most racially diverse Congress we’ve had: The Hill, Pew Research Center & Politifact. So, good on us.

Is it enough? That’s one of the millions of questions that makes America what it is. We are a Country of questions:

What are the unalienable rights?
What makes me an American?
What is the American dream?
Does that dream still exist?
Who really looks like me? Is it that we’re the same color on the outside? That we believe in the same God, deity, or scientific reason? Is it that we live in the same zip code, work in the same building, or have the same job title?
Who do want to lead us?

Though the answers to these questions are few and far between, that we get to ask them is, in my opinion, what makes us American.