The divide between the two main political parties in the U.S is widening, and the effects of this will ripple outwards and impact the entire world – we already have evidence of this.
With the emergence of the Tea Party, representing the far-right fringe that is potentially safer to ignore, it seems Congress can’t work anything out. The debt ceiling talks went on far longer than were necessary, and why? Oh, just the Tea Party making ridiculous demands in exchange for doing something they, as elected representatives, should be doing anyway – looking after the interests of their people. It seems to me many Republican and Tea Party politicians don’t really want to look after their constituents so much as they want to stabilise and ensure the fulfillment of their own agendas. This attitude to politics is extremely harmful – you can’t make everyone happy, no, but if you pull bills out of nowhere and try to force them through, you’re protecting the interests of absolutely no one.
On the other hand, there are some Americans who share these views. Those people are a result of poor education, to put it simply. They know little to nothing about other countries (as many of us, with access to the internet, have experienced firsthand), and the information that they do know has been distorted by the media. All citizens from the Middle East are terrorists, all Scandinavians are socialists, all Australians own kangaroos and what is a New Zealand? The amount the average American knows about other countries is truly appalling, but we all knew that anyway. Of course, some Australians know little about other places too – but they aren’t as large in numbers, simply because of our smaller population. Therefore, as a group, they are less vocal. It’s nicer that way.
This partisan divide, with one side trying to simply keep up with most other democratic countries, and the other trying to take America back to the 1950s, is detrimental to their economy, the morale of their people, and their international reputation. Honestly, if I were an American right now, I would be embarrassed at how my politicians were behaving. Granted, as an Australian, I’m embarrassed by Tony Abbott every other day, but his stupidity is not my focus. America, the self-proclaimed ‘greatest nation on Earth’ (see my earlier post), is dragging itself down. These parties can agree on almost nothing, and this unwillingness to put aside their moronic agendas and compromise is causing the rest of the world to question America’s ability to lead not only itself, but the democratic nations it claims to represent.
Earlier today, Standard & Poor knocked their credit rating down to AA+ – embarrassing. In their press release, amongst other things, the company stated “Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.” This gulf is becoming so wide that it’s rippling outwards and impacting upon America’s economic reputation; not to mention, stock markets worldwide were affected as America took an age making a simple decision about raising the debt ceiling.
These politicians really need to consider the wider implications of their actions. In 2011, their actions no longer only represent themselves, or their party. One small action could potentially represent, and damage the reputation of, the entire country. The debt fiasco is an example of that. I cannot understand how these politicians don’t care about this – no longer can they simply consider what the American people would think (if half of them even consider that at all…) – they have to think about the global implications. It is ignorant of them to behave in this pathetically partisan way – the US isn’t the only country guilty of this, sure, but Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott disagreeing over something doesn’t impact the world in the same way Speaker Boehner continuously pushing his own agenda does. An unfortunate truth, really. I think that some of these American politicians (see Michele Bachmann) are so ignorant that it really could cause great harm to many people. And the fact that these people have supporters and people who vote them in truly frightens me.
The US Congress could seriously benefit from a bit more bipartisanship. Perhaps I’m too hopeful – perhaps I’ve seen too many episodes of The West Wing, and am giving these people too much credit. Perhaps America will just continue down this path of saying goodbye to bipartisanship with little consideration of the consequences. A terrifying thought, but one that may soon be a reality we all need to face.