Richard Brand: Try Our Souls

These are differently times that try our souls. Maybe not at the same level yet as Thomas Paine’s times but the whole fever of this country is troubling. No one can deny that there is a great dissatisfaction with the whole way our national government has not worked. It is simply that those responsible for doing the job have just not done the job. They do not stay in Washington to meet. They do not hold committee hearings as often as they should. There are long vacations when they are not in session. But most importantly they have not struggled and compromised their way to solve in some way the major issues of the day: immigration, veteran’s benefits, climate changes, increase revenue, reduction in military spending, control of the interest on the debt, responsible gun supervision, renewal energy, and you can add to the list your major concern.

This is not about Republican or Democrat. David Gergen, who has been a wise adviser to many Presidents, said at Elon that the change is that we have stopped electing leaders and started electing ideologues. People who are unable or unwilling to compromise. We have come to believe that we, the voters, have to elect somebody who will “stand up for our values” and never compromise. Renee Ellmers is being attacked because she voted for the compromise worked out by the Republican leadership on the Budget. Her opponent refused to follow that leadership and voted against the budget.

It is not just one party. There are ideologues on both sides of the aisle. The Democratic struggle for Presidential nominee has an determined ideologue in Bernie Sanders and his followers. He has taped into the great anger and frustration with the political realities in Washington and has rabid followers who want to see him President. As far as I can tell he shows little interest in compromises or cooperation with others. His whole career has been the lone radical voice fighting against the windmills.

These are difficult times for all of us. I have a sister and brother-in-law who have declared that they will vote for no incumbent. Throw everybody who is in office out and get a whole new bunch. That may be a hollow hope as we, the voters, keep electing more and more radical, rigid, “strict something, conservative, liberal, moralist, anti- abortionist, women’s rights.” The choices in the election do not offer us moderates who are willing to work together to solve the many, many issues that are in front of us. Who would have ever believed that the Senate would refuse to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. They would have the right to reject the nominee in a vote, but to refuse even to hold hearings and take a vote is but a clear evidence of the refusal to do the jobs needed and to compromise to solve the problems.

Presidential Scholars suggest that there has never been an election campaign like the one in 2016. Perhaps that suggest that our democratic process is at a real crossroad and our system of government may be in trouble.