Are we capable of restoring American values and ending the governmental logjam created by Democrats and Republicans alike? Do we have the moxie and patriotism necessary to address the increasing challenges facing America today? The sequester struggle again suggests we can't — at least under current circumstances.
But maybe, with a new political party, we can.
Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum's new book, "That Used to Be Us," describes America's regression since the Cold War ended and outlines our critical challenges posed by globalization, the information technology revolution, out-of-control debt, rising energy consumption and climate change.
They rightly claim that we must boldly address each to recover the strength we have lost but submit that to do so, we need the integrity, united sacrifice and long-term thinking that characterized America's approach toward the Great Depression, fascism and communism. Today's challenges, they write, are just as menacing but even harder to confront, thanks to their incremental impact and our political paralysis and eroding U.S. values.
I've voted for politicians from both parties but have contributed to neither. I am a nominal Democrat but cannot be pinned down as either wholly conservative or liberal. Messrs. Friedman and Mandelbaum think moderates like me from both parties must rise up as the "radical center" to change today's political conversation and force a candid dialogue about America's harsh realities. They suggest the need for a new political party to advance an agenda of essential but difficult actions America must take.
Such a party would be unlikely to win, because its platform of "short-term pain for America's gain" would be unpopular. However, it could shape a more honest discussion of America's needs and the sacrifices necessary to successfully address them.
But what should this new party be called?
The Macmillan Dictionary defines "patriot" as: "someone who has strong feelings of love, respect and duty toward their country." While not easily inspired by political rhetoric, I remember being patriotically moved as a youngster by John F. Kennedy's exhortation, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." I feel similarly about how we must all pitch in now to correct America's current course.
Therefore, I suggest we call ourselves "Indepatriots," to reflect both our autonomy from special interests (corporations, unions, even the AARP) and the patriotism motivating us. We wouldn't view government as either "the enemy" or "the answer" but as an instrument to help us move our country forward together — just as majorities of congressional Democrats and Republicans collaborated to pass milestone legislation such as Social Security, Medicare and the Civil Rights Act.
As Messrs. Friedman and Mandelbaum propose, we'd view education — especially in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math — as our top economic and national security priority. We'd emphasize the historical importance of a strong infrastructure and basic research investments to our economic strength.
But we'd also underscore the reality that both decreased spending in most areas and increased taxes on most Americans are needed to balance the budget. Thus, Social Security adjustments, defense cuts and health care reductions (especially during the last year of life, when 20 percent of Medicare spending is consumed, often with no meaningful impact) would be part of our platform. Can you see why we won't get elected?
Indepatriots would support job-creating small businesses trying to stay afloat and establish incentives for them to improve infrastructure, retrofit buildings and develop alternative power. We'd welcome immigrants who would better themselves and energize our society, companies and universities.
We'd unashamedly promote taxes reflecting carbon's true environmental cost to decrease our demand, stimulate renewable energy development, and free us from foreign oil dependence. And, just as America developed successful World War II conservation and 1960s anti-littering campaigns, we'd actively promote studying, saving, volunteering, exercising, eating right, working honestly, conserving and collaborating to take better care of ourselves and our country — patriotic undertakings all.
Indepatriots would also promote service as a responsibility of all citizens (not just high school students) to foster national solidarity, restore values and contribute to critical American defense, educational and social interests.
While Indepatriots would argue for the shared sacrifice and delayed gratification needed to transform America back to what it used to be, we would also endorse any helpful, honest compromise that moves our country forward.
Could we dare discuss the really hard truths about what is necessary to bring America back? And are there any bright, charismatic leaders with impeccable values willing to get this party started and find out?
Mike McGrew is a school psychologist from Carroll County. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun