A Geneva Convention for Politics

Posted: Jan 08, 2007 12:00 AM
A Geneva Convention for Politics

Proud Papa Alert:

This will help explain what the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices and I were doing sitting in the fifth row of the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium watching the inauguration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this past Friday:

From Sunday's WashPost:

"California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's reelection was one of the few bright spots for the GOP in November, so it's not surprising that Republican presidential aspirants are raiding his team.

"Sen. John McCain of Arizona has turned his presidential exploratory committee into Arnold East, hiring not only campaign manager Steve Schmidt as a senior adviser but also Schmidt's deputy, Reed Galen, to serve as a deputy campaign manager "

* So, that's The Lad's name and that's what he's going to be doing.

* We have discussed before the matter of Schwarzenegger getting over 90% of Republican votes in the election in November despite the fact that Arnold is no Conservative. But it turns out he's not a Liberal, either.

* In his inaugural address Schwarzenegger said this:

"I believe we have the opportunity to move past partisanship ... to move past bipartisanship ... to post-partisanship.

Post-partisanship is not simply Republicans and Democrats each bringing their proposals to the table and working out differences. Post-partisanship is Republicans and Democrats actively giving birth to new ideas together."

* Schwarzenegger might be onto something. I don't mean that post-partisanship stuff. That reads well and he delivered it wonderfully, but in the absence of two (or more) political parties - partisans to their core - you have one political party controlling everything or, worse yet, the cult of an individual controlling everyone.

* But in another part of his speech he said:

"We don't need Republican roads or Democratic roads. We need roads. We don't need Republican health care or Democratic health care. We need health care. We don't need Republican clean air or Democratic clean air. We all breathe the same air."

* Which is true.

* Maybe what the America political system needs is not the dissolution of the two-party system, but a Geneva Convention of Political Engagement to which both parties agree to abide.

* The leaders of both parties should sit down and agree that there are some issues which are outside the bounds of partisan sniping and there will be swift punishment for anyone who violates that principal.

* The highest and best use of partisan debate is not the WWE slap-down nonsense (often scripted, phony, and played solely for its entertainment value) we have seen out of the US Congress for the past two decades - under both Republican AND Democratic control.

* The best use of partisan debate is to allow the minority to test the plans and theories of the majority; and allow majority to be comfortable with the minority adding depth, breadth and texture to big issues.

* Let's take roads as an example. Gov. Schwarzenegger is correct: Better roads are not a partisan issue. But if you decide to expand the highway system, there are questions which have to be answered, some of which are:

* Who will pay for the new road? Who will benefit from it?

* Are they the same? If not, is it fair?

* Will the road expand a four-lane boulevard into a six or eight lane highway? If so, who's homes or businesses will have to be torn down to make room?

* How do we reconcile the desire to wean our society away from oil dependency with the need for more highways on which to burn oil-derived fuels over longer distances and at higher speeds?

* Will a new road add to urban sprawl? Will it accelerate major cities turning into night-time ghost towns because it will make it even easier and more appealing for commuters to drive into work in the morning, then leave in the evening to their farther away lawn-scaped homes leaving downtown abandoned to gangs and drug dealers?

* Are those partisan questions? No. They are questions whose answers have serious societal, cultural, economic, and environmental components. Both Democrats and Republicans have interests in helping to find those answers.

* Having a Geneva Convention of Political Engagement to deal with a new superhighway in California won't solve the squabbling in Congress, but it might provide a path for leaders on Capitol Hill to follow when deciding which issues are worth having a firefight over, and which can be settled by open and thoughtful discussion.