Political schizophrenia seems to be a constant in our American body politic. From time to time, such as now, it appears to be fashionable — a peaking wave — and then eventually a declining fad.
One of the most publicized recent examples of political schizophrenia was a constituent at a town hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) demanding to “keep the hands of the federal government off my Medicare.”
It is common to hear numerous examples about government being “too big” or “too intrusive.” Then suddenly — spontaneously — there is a role for government: “A local food service needs to be inspected — now!” “Firefighters shouldn’t have taken so long to respond.” “Our schools need full-time police.” “Why aren’t they seeding the clouds?” “Darn! The state should provide more protection from bears.” It never ends.
Even more noteworthy is the example of some “small government” urbanites moving to the “wilderness” to get away from it all, and yet wondering why government doesn’t restrict wildlife from invading their property to protect their roses from being eaten.
Our elected government very much mirrors the population represented. Suggestion: if one thinks our elected officials are, as Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) recently stated (about members of Congress), “to have no standing except with blood relatives and paid staff” — perhaps one should first look at whom they mirror — whom they represent.
When we have sufficient numbers of political schizophrenics in our population, it is then a reality to also have some political schizophrenics in our representative legislatures. Recently, more than a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted for a food stamp funding reduction (because it was wasteful spending) and then voted for continued subsidies to farmers (which included themselves), as well as known billionaires from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to Alice and Jim Walton, Walmart heirs.
Also, there were members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado who previously voted against aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, but recently voted for aid to Colorado fire victims.
Consider, then, an even more alarming alternative thesis to the political schizophrenia explanation: Are we or have we unwittingly been engaged in becoming more and more just a country — a land mass with people (a population of tribes, i.e., organized narrow special interests only) — and less and less a nation (a population with widely shared beliefs, commonly-held rules and mutually-sought goals)?
Perhaps what appears to be political schizophrenia in the U.S. is our thoughtless drift toward “Balkanization.” But perhaps more and more Americans are beginning to understand and even confront this reality with a common-sense insight that we are all — like it or not — in this together.
And, yes, that includes accepting, comprehending and closely monitoring our government at all levels to assure a balanced approach for an enhanced civil society. Of course, for a representative government to fulfill this function, a more civil people must be its foundation.
Don Carlson has lived in Carson City for nearly four decades.