I never thought that America’s two political parties would hit rock bottom, but it’s a fact that both of them are in the toilet.
The Republican Party is a rudderless ship that looks like “Mutiny on the Bounty.” It is caught between the right wing and the moderates, looking for a consensus that will never come. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, is somewhere up in the high clouds, waiting for the sun to come out and in a political daze.
And we normal people are down here on planet Earth, waiting for a real leader to emerge who will provide us with some fresh ideas and restore our positive image around the world. Last year the country was looking for a third voice that would bring the parties together and get us back on track again. Thanks to the weakness of the Democrats and the cleavage among the Republicans, Donald Trump, using some of the messages of Bernie Sanders and the public’s dislike for Hillary Clinton, and with the support of some fringe groups, stole the prize away from both parties.
So as we enter the second half of the year, let’s take stock of where the American political system is. The Republican Party, once home to Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, is split into a number of factions in both houses of Congress. The House of Representatives is being run by 60 members who are to the right of Attila the Hun. The moderates are vilified, but the leaders will gladly take their votes if they are for a health care bill that destroys the poor.
Speaker Paul Ryan reluctantly took over the leadership of the House. He has no true platform to inspire the party. Without a PowerPoint presentation, he looks like a lost soul. Every speech of his sounds like a speech in a locker room, except the players aren’t listening.
His style of governing is very much like former Speaker Newt Gingrich. The first rule of the House these days is to avoid working with the Democrats. But as mean-spirited as Gingrich was, he worked with President Clinton and got many things done in a short time.
Even though the Senate is considered more open to discussion and more capable of bipartisanship, its majority leader, Mitch McConnell, isn’t interested in getting Democratic votes. With only 52 votes in his pocket, he can’t afford to lose more than three members on any contentious issue. But when the Democrats offer help, he makes it clear that there’s a No Help Wanted sign on his door. Because of the many different views among his majority members, McConnell feels that any Democratic help would cause a revolt.
There isn’t any good news for the Democrats, either. Still smarting from the loss of the White House and Hillary Clinton’s campaign missteps, they have yet to develop a consistent message, other than to talk about how the Russians helped elect Trump. There is no doubt that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his investigation, there will be proof that the Russians did everything they could to undermine Clinton and promote Trump. But the Democrats have to move on to a solid message that helps them get back their traditional voters.
Sen. Chuck Schumer is a very smart minority leader, but the nation isn’t going to elevate Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren to be the new face of the party. Schumer has done a good job of keeping all the factions together, but it’s time to pick a handful of fresh faces and turn them into his team for the future. There are a number of bright, articulate senators in the party conference, but they have to be moved into the spotlight to generate public interest.
In the meantime, we have to get through the days being exposed to a president who tweets on every subject, including the most sensitive ones. The latest surveys of our allies around the world show that almost half of them think Trump is bad for the image of our country. I’m sure that on his next trip abroad, he will find out from the people in the streets how unpopular he is.
There is no law on the books that allows a country to declare bankruptcy, so for now we’ll have to hobble along, stuck with what we’ve got. I still believe in miracles, but they’re not likely to come out of Washington.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.