EricN
EricN

Adults in the Room

February 3, 2021

 

What this country needs are courageous adults, people who are willing to stand up and tell people the truth – and do it courteously and respectfully.

It was a sad day for me when on September 29 I flicked on the television to watch the first presidential debate of 2020. It was disheartening to see two grown men fight like children, and to see our president be anything but “presidential.” I made a life-changing decision that night. I was not going to vote Republican. But neither was I going to vote Democrat. I decided to vote Libertarian. Yes, I stopped drinking the Cool-Aid offered by our two-party system. I have been Republican since 1982, yet when I look at the past few decades what I have seen in Washington is sickening. It is a preponderance of money and power that has consumed both of the parties. While I must say Trump’s behavior has been disappointing, the inability of our politicians in Washington to tackle the issues that gravely affect our country has disappointed me more. I am done with them.

 

Regarding Donald Trump, I will confess that I had to hold my nose and vote for him in 2016. Being in Alaska, without cable TV, I am not affected by the political consumerism that is dumped over the airwaves. What news I gain is through reading articles over the Internet from a wide range of sources. What I observed in 2016 is the media jumping all over Trump as soon as he announced his candidacy. Since it was early in the race, it got my interest because of his entertainment value. But he gained my sympathy because he was crucified for his platform – and it was a platform that made sense. There were several other candidates running at that time and they all held similar views – so I wasn’t all that surprised that Trump was not much different in that respect. But I was a bit disappointed as I saw one contender after another fall to the Trump wave. I liked Trump’s policies. I despised his lack of respect for people who differed from him.

 

As President, it is essential that the man or woman who holds that office understand the power of that position. I refer to Presidential Power, written by Richard Neustadt in 1960. It is a fascinating analysis of the office. It is the office that holds an intrinsic power. The men who have filled that office are measured by their ability to use that power effectively. It has been my experience and view of history that it is that intrinsic power that is vital to uniting us as a nation even as we are divided on numerous issues. To achieve that standard, you begin with courtesy. Politically, I am polar opposites in most respects from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. But they are not only elected by their constituents, they are chosen as leaders by their parties. They deserve respect. Courtesy and respect are the epoxy that holds this country together. Maybe a bit of humor is icing on the cake. (And by the way, that critique applies to Pelosi and Schumer as well).

 

Trump broke from that tradition. In some respects, on hindsight, you can almost excuse him when you look at the legal assault that was made not only on him, but his staff, even before he took office. That was unprecedented. Yet he still had the choice. He chose to not only alienate himself from civil dialog with the Democrats, but from the moderate wing of his own party. As President, he should lead and unite. As President you are not Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh. You can’t afford to label Republicans who don’t agree with you as RINOs (Republican in Name Only).

 

As President, Trump would not have to verbally assault Joe Biden to win a debate. But it was apparent that Trump could not understand that.

 

But as I stated earlier, the problem is bigger than Donald Trump. It is a political system that can only offer us a choice between Bombast and Dimentia. It is two parties that have marginalized adults who can sit at the table and work out solutions. Tulsi Gabbard was crucified by the Democrats. Welcome to my life, Tulsi. As a former Democrat, I understand. Yet I have seen too many Republicans get marginalized as well: Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Flake, Liz Cheney and even Pence. I almost vomited when Trump assaulted John McCain, a man who spent several years in a dark, hot and humid cell for our country. Folks, when you can’t even get Dick Cheney on your side, you have a problem!

As to the rest of the adolescents in Congress, I see two parties that have not passed a budget on time since 1997! I worked for the federal government for twelve years, all funded through a “continuing resolution.” If that doesn’t describe a broken system, I don’t know what does. In the meantime, our budget deficit is in the trillions. We have left a legacy of indebtedness that equates to $70,000 per capita. That’s per capita. So add your spouse and children and you have a staggering figure. Add to that the reality of two important elements, and you have impending disaster:

 

  • We have two major entitlements that will soon be drawing from operational budgets to cover disbursements: Social Security and Medicare.

  • We are servicing a debt with record low interest rates. Currently 8.5% of our budget is servicing debt. Lord have mercy when interest rates go up.

 

Adults pay their bills. Adults structure their lives on what is reasonably achievable. Our political structure since World War II has been based on platitudes paid through kick-the-can-down-the-road politicians. And it is not just the politicians to blame. Try blaming ourselves. I can’t count the number of the times politicians were crucified for merely suggesting that we raise taxes to cover the cost of Social Security or Medicare. But it is the honest answer! Medicare for all? You got to be kidding! How about paying for Medicare for some first.

 

What this country needs are courageous adults, people who are willing to stand up and tell people the truth – and do it courteously and respectfully.

 

….

 

Two weeks later, I return to this essay. I must say that I am a bit more optimistic. Having retired at the end of November, I began following various issues on YouTube and the Internet. What I discovered was encouraging. I saw a lot of young voices saying what I just said above – we need adults in the room. There are real problems out there that require reasonable people to sit at the table, iron out their differences, and come up with real solutions.

 

Are the Libertarians the answer? I am not sure. But I sensed in the 2020 election that there is a dire need to have a third party that can breath some sanity into the electoral process. There is a distinct possibility that the innovations of social media may by-pass the hyper-funding of elections, reaching people directly. The electorate will need to listen differently, ignore the advertisements, and seek sources of information on the candidates. I believe people can do that, but not certain they will. Time will tell.

 

Ideologically, the Libertarians have a lot to offer. Fundamentally, their focus on liberty is a desperately needed element in our political discussion. Their focus on limited government is another. The third element is their focus on rationalism – an honest presentation of the problem and the cost of proposed solutions. If Libertarians can pull this off without selling their souls to large campaign donors, we may see Libertarians as part of a political realignment.

 

No doubt, if Jo Jorgensen had been on that stage in September 2020, she would have been the only adult in the room. She would not be calling Biden and Trump names. I seriously doubt she would have butt into another candidate’s time. She would have most certainly cut through all the platitudes by presenting real facts. If she were the President, she would have most certainly have been the conduit of consensus and compromise, rather than accusations and division.

 

Something to think about for the next four years.

Resources

 

Presidential Power, by Richard Neustadt, 1960

 

"Congress has long struggled to pass spending bills on time", Pew Research,  Drew Desilver, January 16, 2018

 

Per Capital Debt figures were obtained through Statista -- unfortunately limited access.

 

Cost of Servicing US Debt obtained from SeekingAlpha -- unforutnately limited access.

By Eric Niewoehner

© Copyright 2021 to Eric Niewoehner. Use of this document is provided at no cost as long as the recipient does not replicate this document for profit.

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