After weeks of venomous partisan chatter from the halls of Congress and the White House; after an embarrassingly dishonest and juvenile debate on an issue of profound importance to America’s future; our nation’s debt ceiling will be increased by another $2.4 trillion while the United States continues reckless spending, borrowing another $3 billion every day.
America is truly sickened and actually frightened by our nation’s inability to properly address its fiscal challenges. Our two-party political system appears broken beyond repair. No corporation, community, family, or personal relationship could survive similar gridlock, mired in conflicting ideologies that prevent civil conversation or any semblance of mutual respect, thus blocking any substantive reforms.
This failure is the result of decades of political gerrymandering and anti-business rhetoric from the media and academe, resulting in a too-often misinformed, confused, conflicted and deeply divided America.
The only winners in the dialogue were the tea party and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. The tea party forced D.C. to at least discuss much-needed spending cuts, framing the debate for the 2012 elections. Rubio distinguished himself as a rising star; a youthful voice of reason in a sadly dysfunctional Congress. Otherwise there were only losers.
And as a pathetic, watered-down deal is enacted with zero structural reform to the irresponsible spending that created this mess, America finds itself more dangerously divided than at any time since the Civil War.
One hundred and fifty-three years ago, on June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln addressed 1,000 Republican delegates in the Springfield Illinois Statehouse. As he accepted the nomination as candidate for the U.S. Senate to run against Democrat Stephen Douglas, Lincoln delivered his momentous "house divided" speech, establishing the choice of slavery versus emancipation as the framework for what followed.
For months Lincoln and Douglas crisscrossed Illinois participating in seven scathing face-to-face debates before large crowds.
Douglas pictured Lincoln as an extremist "Black Republican" who wanted to incite civil war, emancipate the slaves and make blacks the social/political equals of whites. Lincoln countered by insisting that all Americans were equal in their right to life, liberty and the fruits of their own labors. He argued that slavery, unless abolished, would ultimately reduce all laborers, white and black, to a condition of virtual servitude.
In that election, Illinois citizens were unable to vote for either candidate because state Legislatures, rather than individual voters, elected U.S. senators back then. In the final balloting, the Republicans out polled the Democrats. But the Democrats had skillfully gerrymandered the voting districts, kept control of the Legislature, and Lincoln was defeated.
Although defeated in 1858, Lincoln’s Senate campaign catapulted him into the national spotlight and to the White House in 1860, leading to the abolishment of slavery.
The most memorable part of Lincoln’s "house divided" speech, and its relevance to America’s current class warfare, should be pondered again today.
This time America’s division is not about slavery based on race, but about a more insidious form of slavery — dependence upon the state. It’s about individual freedoms versus statism.
Let’s play with Lincoln’s words just a bit, replacing "slavery" with "socialism" to reflect today’s chasm:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half on productive taxpayers and half on government welfare. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
"Either free enterprise or socialism will triumph. Our nation will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of socialism will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is on the course toward ultimate extinction; or the advocates of socialism will push it forward, till it shall become alike and lawful throughout the States."
We face another historic choice today. The recent debate was not really about raising the debt ceiling. It was and remains about class warfare: individualism versus collectivism, free enterprise versus the nanny state. It’s about wealth creation versus wealth redistribution. Limited government versus government largesse.
To resolve this clash in the only correct and sustainable way we need strong leadership. That leadership can only come from the office of the president. We need a uniter not a divider in the White House — because a house divided cannot stand!
In the aftermath of the just concluded nauseating debate, America’s best hope rests in the 2012 elections. But we need a candidate to emerge who can excite and unite a significant majority of Americans behind the core principles upon which our nation is founded. This candidate must reject vitriol and negative attacks against his/her opponent in favor of a clear vision of the American Dream and the preservation of that dream for future generations.
Tymann retired as Westinghouse’s President, International, where he led business development in 75 nations. He is currently managing director of Naples-based SEP World (Sustainable Energy Partners). Email him at email@example.com.