As we reach the end of another week of challenge and heartbreak, I can see how some would simply hold their hands up and say 'I give in'. I understand that the problems America faces come from the misguided belief that the US is the greatest nation on earth. The irony is, it could be. It has the awesome power of the greatest military on the planet and technology giants that have changed the way many of us lead our lives. It has current leadership with a vision to make transformative change and yet in reality, it's buried in debt, the Capital is a fortress and the seat of power is in a green zone worthy of comparison with Afghanistan. If ever there was the need to wake up and smell the coffee it is NOW.
If we accept that the raw materials for greatness are there, then we have found a great place to start in Joe Biden. However, with a deeply flawed political system, it's going to take a shift in understanding within the electorate, to recognise that slim majorities deliver nothing but social stagnation. The problem is, progress for the 98% of Americans that earn below $400,000 a year, can easily turn to regression, as the two main parties engage in their political bun fights. The one thing that remains constant throughout, is the top 2% simply get richer and richer, so in reality, they really don't care who's in power, they can always find a way to make it work.
In 2008, America was given a gift in the form of Barak Obama. He was a president that had the chance to change the US forever. An opportunity to address age old inequalities, with innovative policies that could have dragged those left behind back into a society that cared and left no family behind. There was an opportunity to heal the racial divide, transform healthcare and introduce meaningful gun control, to name but a few measures. The tragedy is, 'Yes we can' became 'No you won't', as the political system showed how totally open it was to abuse by the minority. Even with a clear mandate from the electorate of 57 seats in the Senate and 233 seats in the House, the super majority enabled Mitch McConnell as minority leader in the Senate, to completely obstruct the Obama legislative agenda. Not only was this wrong, there should have been no mechanism in government that allowed it to happen.
The super majority makes the US unlike any other western democracy, limiting the majority party's ability to govern. In that respect, you have to ask, is the US really a democracy? If the people give a president a clear mandate to run the country, but he or she is unable to enact the platform the people voted for, then what's the point of elections? It is simply ludicrous and has become a roadblock to much needed change. There is constant outcry about the use of executive orders by presidents, but it is just a symptom of the reality that unless you have a majority of over 60 in the Senate, you can get little done by way of proper legislation.
I make no excuse for my admiration of Obama, not just as a leader, but as a man. Armchair critics look back on his tenure in the White House and claim he was an ineffectual president. I can tell you right now, had he been afforded the legislative mandate in line with his electoral mandate, America would be a much better place today. There certainly would not have been over half a million people dead from Covid 19. In Obama, America had a world leader the likes of which come around once in a generation. His ability to articulate the issues and speak to the world was a sight to behold. Still today, I can't listen to some of his speeches without becoming flooded with emotion, that is a connection money simply can't buy. Did he make mistakes? Without doubt. I had real disagreements with some of his foreign policy decisions, but could he have transformed America 'Yes he could', but that was lost forever because of a brutal GOP fear messaging machine that effectively said 'You can't trust a black man'.
Race is at the heart of everything that is wrong in America. If the GOP had their way, just like the Taliban have sharia law, the GOP have 'the good ole days' as their underlying philosophy. It is not sensationalist to call them a party of white supremacists akin to a domestic terrorist organisation. This is a valid assessment based on their actions and words relating to the storming of the Capitol Building on 6 January. Their deafening silence in the wake of multiple mass shootings and racial executions at the hands of errant law enforcement officers, is abhorrent. In addition, their new adoption of the 'white replacement theory' and obsession with the southern border, tells you exactly who they are and what they stand for. The co-ordinated effort to pass voter suppression laws across states is a clear intent as to their electoral strategy moving forward. This is what GOP sharia law looks like.
The beyond tragic shooting of a 13 year old boy, Adam Toledo, by a Chicago police officer, is just another example of a broken society. The wide availability of firearms is an epidemic and the consequences are tragic. In recent days, police find themselves rightly in the spotlight for killing yet more young men of color. We all know these are just a fraction of the many police involved shootings that blight the lives of minority families. No mother should live in fear that their child won't return home. Law enforcement across the country is constantly under scrutiny regarding what often appear to be racially motivated fatal shootings. Some people have already come to the conclusion that all police are racist and whilst I understand where this is coming from, it must be soul destroying for good honest and caring officers that give their lives to serving and protecting their communities. I am simply not prepared to accept that all law enforcement officers are racist, but sadly we rarely hear about the actions of those who go the extra mile to do good.
Until we break the political stranglehold on progress that is the filibuster, there will be no progress. It's no exaggeration to say that it's the single biggest roadblock to transformational change in America today. McConnell, whether you like it or not, has a point, when he says that the current electoral mandate is not robust. However, we know that even when it is, it still makes no difference. To overcome any legislative roadblock would need the Dems to hold upwards of 65 seats in the Senate allowing for dissent from moderates in their party. This is not going to happen anytime soon unless there is a techtonic shift in US politics. The fact that McConnell can say that nearly 8 million votes is not a mandate may seem ridiculous in itself, but the reason he can say that, is because of another flaw called the electoral college. Unless meaningful change is made to the electoral process, you will forever be a victim of disruptive minority obstruction.