King of wishful thinking

By Jeff Myczek

The Samuel Alito Supreme Court confirmation hearings last week demonstrated that the most important part of the process was not the information and legal qualifications gleaned from the questioning. In fact, virtually all the parts expected of a legal confirmation were minimal and sidelined, and those tuning into CNN hoping to discover whether or not Judge Alito was qualified enough to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court were likely disappointed.

Those who tuned in for entertainment, however, saw quite a show. A sharp verbal exchange between two high-ranking senators, long-winded harangues from another and total anarchy dominated the coverage. One would think it was an episode of “Survivor” or “The Real World” rather than a meeting in the U.S. Senate.

In an atmosphere of ever increasing partisanship, such an occurrence should not be a surprise and unfortunately it served only to underscore the decaying environment of politics. What is best, what matters most, and who is most qualified to lead are criteria that no longer count. What should have been several days of weighing legal matters simply degenerated into a match of who could shout louder, satisfy their interest group more and make a woman cry.

Many feel there is no way out of the political partisanship that has consumed our system – as long as blame and ideology dominate the process.

Not until both sides set aside partisan bickering will the American people begin to see substantive results and government policies that benefit everyone – not only interest groups. While some may call that idea a lofty dream, empty rhetoric, or simply impossible, a look at recent history in a country not unlike our own shows that it can happen.

A quick glance at Germany about a year ago reveals a political system that reminds us a lot of our own. Two major parties dominated the scene and a corrupt culture of smoke filled rooms dominated by old men who cared more about party line than national policy was pervasive.

Partisan positioning strangled the economy and led to soaring deficits, blocking needed reform and stimulus. Political maneuvering and lobbyists determined foreign policy and scandal often permeated the government. There appeared to be no way out of the mess.

As election season rolled around, the parties offered more of the same, attacked each other, played the blame game and offered the usual prophecies of doom should the other side win. The constant mudslinging turned off many voters. Pre-election polls showed it would be a tight race, with either side likely to only get a razor-thin majority.

What happened after the vote, however, surprised almost everyone; neither of the major parties received enough votes to govern. Weeks of negotiations yielded no ideological majority, forcing both major parties to share power, blame and credit – together.

What many thought would lead to gridlock has brought successful foreign policy, deficit reduction, a start to economic reform and soaring approval ratings for both parties. When everyone had to share blame for failure, things began to happen. Granted it is still early in the government and not everything is perfect, but the signs for success are heartening.

For those in America who view the partisan bickering and gridlock as never-ending, the German example shows there is a way out.

However, not until the American people decide for themselves to punish the ideologues and special interests at the polls and force the major parties to work together can we expect that kind of change.

The Germans have shown that the average person does have the power to change the system, but until voters choose to challenge the safe-district fiefdoms of congressional elected leaders, one can only expect more of the same. Until that happens, the political idealist will just be the king of wishful thinking.

Jeff Myczek is a junior in LAS. His column appears on Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected]