Posts Tagged ‘political rhetoric’

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Political Monday: The Two Party System

April 30, 2012

In the United States, we have two major political factions, the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party.  Today, control of our national political debate is firmly dominated by these two parties.  This system results in the endless bickering and inability to govern we see today.  It is the single greatest danger to the long-term survival of the United States.

Before the two major parties of today, various ones have led the national debate going back to our Founding Fathers with the Federalist Party (John Adams) and the Democratic-Republican Party (Thomas Jefferson).  Even then, the Founders understood just how disastrous a two-party system could be.  As President Adams put it in a letter to Jonathan Jackson in 1780:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.  This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.[i]

Think about that for a minute.  Before he served as President, before the ratification of the US Constitution, John Adams, as well as other Founders, understood the danger of developing powerful political parties.  He understood that political power vested to parties is political power taken away from citizens.  Look at just how right he turned out to be.

Today, virtually anyone seeking a federal or state elected office needs the backing of one of the political parties.  That is where the money lives; it is where the political power lives.  Our constitution separates power into three branches of government[ii].  Unfortunately, it does nothing to control the political power of our two most influential special interest groups, the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Both are mammoth organizations whose original intentions have metamorphosed to a single purpose of retaining power and not conducting the business of the people of the United States.  Both parties lack the will to govern by debating ideas on their merits and resort to lowbrow rhetoric and political brinksmanship to maintain the status quo.  Moreover, the two parties work in collusion to maintain their grip on power with the rules the parties use in the various houses of government.  For instance, the Senate and House of Representative make internal rules of operation that grants virtually all leadership roles to members of the two parties.

In fact, they have institutionalized the process.  Just think about how leadership roles are addressed.  The Democrats and Republicans have mirror positions in just about every aspect, The Majority Leader and The Minority Leader, The Majority Whip and The Minority Whip and so on.  This is very different from the Speaker of the House.  The Speaker’s role is constitutionally defined; the other roles are defined by politics.

In election years, the scheming of these two parties does not even attempt to remain undercover.  Political television shows are full of guests from both parties speaking on “gaining control” of one house or the other, splitting citizens into two distinct groups, just as President Adams warned over two-hundred years ago.  In the end, some sort of party system is required to get anything accomplished in government.  Unfortunately, the two dominate parties today put party over nation and press their views upon us rather than reflect the views we, the people, hold true.

The Democratic Party has been around since 1828 and the Republican Party since 1854.  Through longevity, they have insured the true political power remains in their hands alone.  It is as if they realize they need the other party to balance things and allow both parties to survive.  In other words, they are in collusion with each other and prevent new political allegiances forming.  Look at the Tea Party.  Only three years ago, it seemed they would change the political landscape in the United States.  Now, it looks more likely they will be nothing more than a footnote, as the Republican Party throttled support for the upstart.

Need more proof as to their unfettered power, just look at voting.  We can walk into a voting booth and vote a party ticket with the push of one button.  No longer do we even worry with individual candidates, they want you to vote a straight party line.  It is better for the party but is it really better for the nation?  Only a moron would think so.  I guess that is really the opinion of party leaders, we are nothing more than a bunch of morons to be led around like cattle.

It is time we, the people, cut these two monolithic and self-serving parties down to size.  Neither has a right to govern, we elect people, not parties.  It is time we demand our elected officials represent us and not a national political party.  It will be messy but the result will be the sort of governance our Founding Father envisioned for us.  I, for one, trust their thinking more than any political minion spouting rhetoric today.


[i] Adams, Charles F. The Works of John Adams. By John Adams. Vol. 9. Boston: Little, Brown &, 1854. 511. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?id=j9NKAAAAYAAJ&dq=John%20Adams%20works&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false>.

[ii] U. S. Constitution, US Const., art.  1 -3 <http://constitutionus.com/>

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Political Monday: Do We Need A National Language?

April 23, 2012

Depending on the source you use, the number of countries with an official language varies.  The number is high and sits around 146 out of 196 countries[i].  That works out to about 74% of all countries in the world claiming at least one official language.  The United States is not one of them.

While many arguments are made regarding an official language, both for and against the idea, most end up being political and leave the legitimate arguments behind.  Regardless of your position, by understanding the issues surrounding an official language, you will be better prepared to make up your own mind without the stupid political rhetoric bogging you down.

First, we must accept there is a de facto official language in use – Americanized English.  While many other languages exist in our daily lives, Americanized English (English) is overwhelmingly our primary language.  About 1.5% of people in the United States speak no English at all[ii] and almost all are first-generation immigrants.  Virtually all second-generation immigrants have, at least, a working knowledge of English.  Given its dominance, English is, in effect, our un-official national language.

So, why not just make English our official language?  As with most issues surrounding a group of 300 million-plus people, answers are not as straightforward as the question implies.  While it is easy to stamp a language as “official,” doing so may have unintended consequences.  For instance, what about our indigenous people, how do we consider their native languages in this debate?  For those of us that only speak English, we may not see the cultural significance of such a matter, and it does matter.  Recently, a young member of the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin was benched from the school basketball team for speaking her native language earlier in the day to a classmate[iii].  It is hard enough today for Native-American Tribes to hold on to their cultural heritage, if we put an official language in place, we must ensure we do not further trample Native-Americans in the process.

Had we, as a nation, been successful in our attempt to suppress Native-American language[iv], it would have negatively affected our war efforts in World War II.  We would not have had

Codetalker in WWII
(click on image to visit site)

the famous Navaho Codetalkers[v] .  Accepting, for the sake of argument, the suppression had the best of intentions, it remains a blatant example of how we are diminished if we do not honor the cultural differences within our boarders.  All citizens can take pride by having four-hundred bilingual Navaho-Americans in World War II.  Those same four-hundred Navaho-Americans have pride is providing their nations (the Navaho Nations and the United States) with service that saved thousands of lives.

About one-hundred years has passed since we attempted to educate away Native-American language and it seems today some of our educators are hell-bent on continuing the practice.  We cannot forget they are part of us.  It is not any “us against them” situation.  We need to honor their choice to preserve their cultural language.  Doing so enriches us, as a whole, along

Carlisle School Pupils (c 1900)

with our Native-American siblings.

Not having an official language has its downside too.  Part of being a nation is having a sense of oneness.  A common language is a primary means to reach that oneness.  Moreover, it simplifies communication and understanding.  It is all too easy to classify anyone promoting an official language for the United States as being racist.  Surely, there are those out there that see it with bigotry, but it is wrong to lump everyone in that category.  Even without English being our official language, knowing it provides benefits, including employment opportunities, education, and social connectivity, to name a few.  Without a basic knowledge of English, immigrants are limited to menial labor and advancement is severely impacted in a negative way.

Several years ago, I worked in an industry that had a high percentage of non-English speaking employees.  It presented management with a real problem in terms of quality, productivity, and worker-safety.  In a meeting to find a solution, it was proposed we train our managers to speak Spanish, as most of the workers in question did.  It seemed like a good solution until one of our senior managers, who just happened to be Hispanic, pointed out our flaw in thinking that way.  As he put it, “if you have a manager that has fifty Hispanic employees working for him and he leaves, you now cannot communicate with fifty employees until you find another Spanish-speaking manager.  It is better to train the fifty employees to speak English, if one leaves it does not have near the same impact.”  He further went on to explain it helps the immigrant employee feel connected to their new home.  It helps them become part of our national identity, and not just a visitor.

As a company, we found we could use it as a benefit to our employees.  Something we ultimately did.  It decreased employee turnover, increased productivity and reduced OSHA related injuries.  The cost of educating employees was more than offset in the savings and increased profits the company enjoyed.  In the end, it was a true win-win situation.

The point is, there are benefits for immigrants learning to speak the language of the country they live in.  It does not have to be draconian in nature or repressive of culture.  In fact, as the Codetalker incident illustrates, we benefit from bilingual citizens and our citizens benefit from having a national identity.

The trick is how to establish a national language and honor cultural differences.  This is where the debate should be.  Let’s forget all the rhetoric and do something useful for the United States.  We must remember, no one of us is as smart as all of us.  Therefore, we must engage opinions that differ from our own to find the best solution to a problem.  We have a tendency to take ownership of ideas and this means we get defensive when we see them being attacked.  A better way to think about it is to take partnership in the solution.  Then the best points from all ideas can form the best solution possible.

The idea of an official language for the United States is not an earth-shattering topic.  If we do or do not pick one the fabric of our daily lives will not change.  This makes it a perfect topic to engage others of differing views and set our petty political personas aside.  Perhaps by taking a small step with a subject like this, we can learn to do the same on issues that really will shake the world.


[i] Wolframalpha. Wolframalpha LLC. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=number+of+countries+with+an+official+language>.

[ii] Shin, Hyon B. and Robert A. Kominski. 2010. Language Use in the United States: 2007, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-12. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. Web,  23 Apr 2012.
<http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/acs-12.pdf>

[iii] ICTMN Staff.  “Student Suspended for Speaking Native American Language.”  Indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com. Indian Country Today Media Network, LLC, 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.  <http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/02/07/student-suspended-for-speaking-native-american-language-96340>.

[iv] “Native American Boarding Schools.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_boarding_schools>.

[v] “The Code Talker Story.” Official Site of the Navajo Code Talkers. Navajo Code Talkers Foundation. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.navajocodetalkers.org/code_talker_story/>.

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