Politics as Usual?

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Americans are often very idealistic. What I mean is this: many Americans, maybe most Americans, believe that you should try to live according to high principles (beliefs about what is right and wrong) even if it’s not always possible or practical (realistic).

If you are familiar with American history, this shouldn’t be a surprise. The first official document, The Declaration of Independence, is very idealistic. Before the writers of the Declaration listed their grievances (complaints) against the king of England, they made these idealistic statements:

  • Everyone is equal (no one is better, or should be treated differently, than anyone else).
  • Everyone has certain rights (something you are morally, legally, or officially allowed to have or do) that can’t be taken or given away – the right to life, the right to liberty or freedom, and the right to pursue (find and work for) happiness.
  • The purpose of government is to guarantee and protect these rights.

If you listened to the first speech Barak Obama gave after he became president, you might remember that he was very idealistic. He called for an end to the politics of “petty grievances” and “worn-out dogmas.” A petty grievance is something small and unimportant that upsets you and a worn-out dogma is a strong belief that is too old to be used any more. Clearly, he hoped that the Republicans and Democrats would stop quarreling (arguing) and begin to work together.

It didn’t take long for the idealism to disappear! For example, the new health care law was passed only after a lot of disagreement and argument. There was very little real discussion and cooperation. The law passed because the Democrats, President Obama’s party, had enough votes to win without help from the Republicans. It was a partisan decision (supported by only one political party), not bi-partisan (supported by both parties).

Many Americans were upset and disappointed because the two parties weren’t able to work together. In some countries, this would be politics as usual (the way politics is always done).

Should Americans have been surprised? What does history tell us? I found two interesting articles, one from a web site called History Now and the other from the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch (newspaper) web site. After reading the two articles, I don’t think Americans should have been surprised, even if they were disappointed. Partisan politics may be bad now, but it’s not new, and in the past it might have even been worse.

In the history of the U.S., there are many examples of partisan politics. In the early years, the 1800s for example, there was even occasional physical violence (fighting and hurting each other’s body) among the politicians. According to the Times-Dispatch article, the only time we have enjoyed bi-partisan politics was during World War II and the Cold War (between the Soviet Union and western countries, especially the United States).

Like President Obama, George Washington, our first president, called for the political parties to work together. He warned that there would be extremely negative results if they didn’t. The American political system may not be as ideal as Presidents Washington and Obama and many Americans would like it to be. Partisan politics may be politics as usual, even in the U.S.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/English language coach and creator of successfulenglish.com, where you can learn more about how to improve your English.

Cartoon by dbaldinger used with permission.

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8 Responses to Politics as Usual?

  1. Kuong Do says:

    I have been listening to the program “America History Series: The Making of a Nation” on VOA special English so I understand quite detail about America Politics System. It could be much more liberal than many country.
    I like America!

  2. dongsung says:

    Physical violence among the politician in the national assembly can be seen in the past in our country also. They don’t seem like physical violence anymore but partisan politic is look worse than before. They emphasize that their party work for the nation, but no one believe that any more.

  3. emiliano says:

    Sorry Warren, but what I think about politicians now is that their mouths are full of beautiful words without any sense and what is even worst without any will of doing just what they are calling to do.
    Here in Spain our politicians are so bad that all of them are not approved by people, and the first minister have told the citizens so many lies once and again that I do not can understand how he has the hard face of not dismissing just today.
    I have not any hopes of a future solutions of all our problems, the goverment is awful but the opposition is really very bad too.
    We don´t know who are we going to vote.

    May be we need Obama, and it is real as last tuesday Obama called Zapatero and commanded him to do something about Spain´s economic problems, because we are caving euro stability and usa stock markeet with our bad administration.

    Yes, this is the first time usa president call spanish president giving him some command in the necessity of doing something.
    Also Angela Merkel and Sarkozy are searching what this spanish goverment are doing about our economy.
    Now retired people and administration workers are going to be punished by the goverment. Yes, it´s so easy to get money
    from the poor state workers or the old retire persons that it is the first idea this first minister had in mind instead of doing
    other necessary king of actions. Very awful and ilegal action as the pensions of retire persons are increase every year by law,
    where is the law now?………….yes, laws are for changing them depending of the moment, I know it very well.
    and the public adminatration workers have their agreement already, sighned two or three months ago….?
    Another big lie for the two groups, made by the first and second minister here.

    Just along the last two years I have been saying here not good things about our politicians and now I am sorry of having the reason to do that. It is a shame for all us what is happening now and here.

    Thank you Warren, I don´t have any belief in a single word said for our actual politicians here and now., this is the true world.

  4. Eryck says:

    In Brazil, there are a lot parties.
    The are a lot multi-partisan decisions.
    (Sorry, if anything I wrote is incorrect.)

  5. Tania says:

    Hi! We have a lot of political parties. Unfortunately they do not want to work together regarding the economic and financial crisis. Just puerile talks and no cooperation.
    Sometimes it is necessary a partisan decision. Our President is blamed for his partisan decisions alongside austerity measures to avoid becoming a new Greece with a violent
    financial market reaction. A nightmare with these austerity measures. Hard times.

  6. Tania says:

    Hi! It is easier to read than to explain all I’m thinking about politics as usual. Maybe with your help… who knows?
    Anyway , an interesting topic. Thank you.

  7. Tania says:

    Hi! Now I can answer to you : if I visited the U.S. I would like to take a tour of Yosemite National Park – a departure from reality.

  8. link says:

    hi! i think there is only one party to do the political things in our country. but that’s not a good idea. many decision they made seems to be good for us. but i tell you it’s not.
    what’s the situation in my country now? few people even have the whole money in this country. most of the people do not have enough money to buy themselves a house to live in. we even can’t afford the cost in a hospital.
    i wish one day i can enjoy my own life without considering if i have a place to live in tonight.
    P.S. sorry i try to write better 🙂

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