‘Building Something New’
Terry H, Schwadron
Nov. 15, 2022
However rare — or maybe by mistake — we heard a good post-election idea about politics from Sen. Josh Hawley, (R-Mo.), of all people, though perhaps not for the reasons he was suggesting it. We will ever keep the memory of Hawley raising his fist in support of Jan. 6 insurrectionists seeking to overthrow popular and Electoral College votes.
Now, here was Hawley this week tweeting that the election results that had badly disappointed Republicans mean the current Republican Party “is dead.” Without detail, he called for “building something new,” adding that the election had showed him that “You can’t expect independent voters to vote Republican unless you give them an agenda they care about.”
Of course, Hawley and some of his more extreme Republican Senate peers meant this notion as a slap to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, foreshadowing a challenge to the crusty leader’s continuing vow to remain the GOP’s top dog. Naturally, Hawley just skipped by the role Donald Trump had pressed– over McConnell’s objections — in choosing and promoting bad candidates and insisting that they base their campaigns around Trump’s baseless election fraud claims from the 2020 election.
But there was a kernel of political truth here.
Hawley’s remarks reflected that the Republican agenda was merely opposition to any number of Biden or Democratic plans rather than an assertion of an understandable platform of Republican solutions. Yes! Knowing that candidates stand for something might be a whole lot better than the flood of inane, wasteful and seemingly endless glut of negative advertising tearing down the other candidate.
Of course, the only problem with this idea coming from Hawley and friends is that the solutions that Republicans have promoted, ranging from a national law to ban most abortions to threats against Social Security and Medicare, are not popular nor helpful to the very basic things that Americans say they need. To hear this issue-based idea of governing from an active election denier like Hawley, who opposes almost everything sensible, including tightening the language around the ceremonial role of a vice president presenting Electoral College results to Congress, is strange at best.
What Could Be New?
For a moment, let’s take Hawley at his word. What might “something new” look like? And how might address the worst of what we see currently both in campaigning and in the ways we approach governing?
Almost without regard to these midterm election outcomes, what we have achieved in these enormously disruptive, expensive elections is a House and Senate with tiny majorities working under legislative procedures and unwritten practical rules that leave the institution unable to do much of anything most of the time.
Gridlock and blocking are more important than doing the work of the nation towards addressing immigration, education, jobs, foreign policy, military issues and the like. It is simply nuts that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to adopt policies when we have two giant parties that square off with the idea of stopping the other.
I’m sure that Hawley does not have in mind a set of independent-thinking senators who, based on fact-finding, could and should vote on legislation on the merits without regard to party positioning. It’s the Joe Manchin model: In the end, it elevates the importance of a single vote in a tightly split Senate to decide what American policy is going to be on all kinds of issues. It’s the politics of persuasion rather than slogans.
But the parliamentary systems do offer us some suggestions that clumps of senators or congress members could form coalitions around issues rather than around party flags.
On those relatively rare instances in which we see a group of eight of ten senators take themselves out of the partisan fray to study possible solutions that would meet more bipartisan approval, we are always surprised.
Coalescing around issues rather than around party loyalty would indeed be “building something new.”
However clumsily in these elections, U.S. voters have seemed to make clear that they want election nonsense to stop, that they want attention on controlling inflation and crime, and that government should keep as far from limiting abortion rights as possible.
Of course, I haven’t heard Hawley behind any of those efforts.
Start With Campaign Finance
“Building something new” might start with dropping ever-present fund-raising towards re-election and addressing campaign financing with sunshine laws to ensure we know the source of who’s supporting our politicians. Both parties have taken advantage of every workaround here to have politicians spending each day in search of wealthy donors and the work to keep the sourcing out of sight.
Something new might include more enforcement against misinformation and disinformation, and an agreement among politicians to say what they are for rather than what they are against. Instead, misinformation is at the heart of the daily political and governmental report we hear.
Such a politics would not require undue fear from sketchy cherry-picking of fact and would promote a desire to study social policy with an effort towards patching the inevitable holes in any system.
It would require a politics of issues rather than personalities,
In short, “building something new” is a commitment to finding solutions that actually work, that are enforceable and that acknowledges the desires of an increasingly pluralistic America in constant need to expand its notions of civil rights.
“Building something new” might mean an end to black and white thinking that a win for one side comes only at a loss for the other, or even that winning is the point at all.
That Donald Trump, a twice-impeached serial violator of ethics and of federal law, is scheduled to announce a third bid for the presidency today, on the heels of a midterm that he helped Republicans to lose, is a repudiation of any sense of “building something new.”