Is anyone else desperate for an infusion of adult behavior in Congress? The only thing that seems to be flourishing is sophomoric identity politics and the play into the 24-hour news cycle to see who can exhibit the most sensational behavior, get the most headlines, the most “likes” and the most celebrity.
Name the issue: climate change; who’s “woke” and who’s not; immigration; public health care; Medicaid expansion; Medicare; debt ceiling; inflation; library books; school curriculums, African-American history; gender identity; abortion; vaccinations; trade; the 2020 election; voting protocols; women’s health; guns; sex education; Social Security; diversity; artificial intelligence; and the judicial system — every one of these issues has become ensnared in politics.
Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat summed it up for me in a recent column. It’s that we “increasingly start out… in a posture of reflexive distrust, where if an important American institution takes a position, the place to be is probably on the other side.”
If they say it’s white, we are going to say it’s black. If they say up, then we’re going down.
Life is so politicized it’s exhausting. Family and friends are fracturing over hyperdrive politics. Litmus-test politics on trigger issues have become more important than broad-based party politics.
Here’s what worries me the most. Rising citizens of Generation Z are emerging into adulthood and those of Generation Alpha are coming into their teens. I know from extended family that there are some if not many of these fledgling Americans (more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations) frustrated and done with power struggles and playground politics. With so many critical issues that need serious political attention, I fear that cynicism will cause pessimism, distrust or even worse, disengagement. If leadership in Washington is incapable of nothing more than attention-getting food fights, I fear that the palsy of indifference may set in.
The immigration conduit between Central America and the U.S. is the busiest in the world. We need to stop illegals and we need to enhance the efficacy of processing legitimate immigration, immigration that has historically fueled American strength and vitality.
Almost all business stakeholders argue that the U.S. economy desperately needs immigrants, particularly in the food services, health care, construction and farming sectors. All of these disproportionately employ immigrants. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post recently wrote that “U.S. immigration agencies are backlogged, and have had trouble processing work-permit applications and other documents in a timely manner.”
Local consequences? Rampell sights Ohio examples: “Around the country, companies tasked with setting up new semiconductor factories, battery plants and infrastructure projects report shortages of construction workers as a major ongoing challenge. In Columbus, Ohio alone, three new factories in progress currently require 10,000 skilled construction workers — more than are available across the entire state.”
Why can’t Washington come together to effect a solution to immigration issues without the tiresome zero-sum games of who’s scoring the most points?
Artificial intelligence has been described by many specialists and commentators as our collective generations’ Industrial Revolution. It’s a huge evolving double-edged technology with wondrous possibilities as well as scary Orwellian, dystopian prospects. But we seem to be more concerned with what’s in our libraries, what are the right pronouns, and arguing endlessly about the 2020 election than how to capture and control the biggest economic challenge of our times.
Then there is climate change… but alas, you get the drift of my concerns.
Kenneth Craycraft, a member of the Cincinnati Enquirer Board of Contributors and adjunct lecturer in theology, recently wrote that, “While some may be reluctant to admit it, ultimate commitments and loyalties in America today are quite often limited to political victories and losses. As the reactions to the last presidential election have shown us, for some people, politics is everything. Because that is the case – because nothing transcends and supersedes political questions as ultimate questions – politics becomes blood sport, rather than a civil conversation about how we should govern ourselves.”
His article was headlined, “Everything is political, but politics isn’t everything.” My sentiments exactly.
Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.