Real Democrats and Real Republicans

We need to evolve to a post-partisan perspective.  Both parties have their strengths but they both need to grow up, stop the bickering, stop selling their influence, and rapidly come together and fix some BIG problems with common-sense solutions.  

We have a great system. America got it right, over two hundred years ago. A sane, Democratic government, elected by sane voters, is the ultimate political system. Our institutions are sound. Our Constitution has worked well. The two-party system seems, by and large, to be a good arrangement. We are a proud, strong, and brave country. But we are human and we have our faults. Over the years, we have endorsed some ignorant practices, including terrorizing and enslaving the original Americans, and denying women equal rights. But we changed. We have made progress in some areas, and we have seriously messed up in others. And now, it’s time for another change.

Numerous recent events have turned the world upside down, and technology has turned on the lights and the microphones. We all can see that the Emperor has no clothes on. He is naked. What I mean by that is this: We see that nearly all of our elected officials in Washington meet the criteria for addiction. They have lost their moral compass. They have become dishonest, immoral, and unethical. We cannot say that they are sane. Many of them went to Washington as good people, but the political system in Washington is corrupt. In order to stay in office, elected officials have had to raise huge amounts of money to buy expensive ads and finance their re-election campaigns. To get money, they have sold out to Big Business, Big Union and the hyper-wealthy. They have given tax breaks and regulation favors to these special-interest groups who have turned around and given the elected officials the money to run their re-election campaigns.

The whole system is too rotten to try to fix from within. Listening to them “debate” makes me want to clean my garage. Our political debates remind me of the conversations heard at 2 a.m. in any local bar. Our leaders are debating while the Titanic is about to go down. We simply need to say “enough” and pick another group of leaders to try to fix this. The local PTA, fire department, or supermarket employees would do better!

Seriously, don’t you agree? I may sound outraged, and I am.

I remember a wonderful ad I saw on TV several years ago. In the ad, firemen are running Congress. They are all in their chairs, wearing their fire-fighting gear. An old, gruff, Irish Captain stands at the podium and asks in a loud voice, “Who wants clean water?” The 435 firemen loudly and in unison say, “Aye.” The Captain says, “Opposed?” There is silence. He waits a moment and pounds the gavel down. “Passed. What’s next?” End of ad.

We all know we have a water problem. We simply need to come together and fix it.

These nitwits in Washington hire tens of thousands of bureaucrats to come up with the same answer that you, I, and a bunch of firemen already know! Then, they form a clutch of committees to discuss the merits of clean water, after which these elected officials go behind closed doors, ignore the scientists, and do what Big Business tells them to do (keep dumping pollutants in the water to protect “economic growth”).

But 20% of us do see this and are sickened. We need to get past our anger, and that means that we need to act. We need to stand up, like aggrieved people around the world have always done. And done very effectively, in recent times. We must be ready to stand up and serve our country, like honorable Americans have done throughout our history. We must be ready to run for President, Senator, and Representative. And we need to do the same at our state and local government levels.

And we won’t need “them,” the moneyed interests, to fund our elections. We need to trust this. We now have Facebook, Twitter, and 24-hour news cycles. We have websites like www.opensecrets.org, that tell us who has bought off federal candidates with big campaign donations. If we all run for office, we need to trust that the best of us will rise to the top.

I know. Some of you may be thinking, “What about so-and-so? I like him or her.” No. I believe we need to “restart,” and begin with a clean slate. If your favorite politician is really good, it will be clear. . But think about this. Right now, today, government-sanctioned, coal-burning plants are spewing tons of mercury into our environment. Today! Has your favorite politician been screaming and yelling and frantically telling everyone who would listen about this murderous practice? I’m not hearing him or her.

Some of my Democratic friends, and some of my Republican friends, are upset at me, because I tell them that their favorite candidates are accepting bribes from special lobbies. Both parties actively support the removal of Pennsylvania mountaintops to mine coal that heats the environment and puts mercury and CO2 into the ecosystem. They do this so that they can get money from the coal miners’ union or from the mine owners. Some Democrats immorally and unethically accept money from the teachers’ union, money that protects bad teachers. The Democrats write regulations favoring Big Law, to get kickbacks. Democrats put their hands out, take millions of dollars from Big Oil, and overheat the planet. The Republicans do the same, but their funding is skewed toward Big Business. None of this is news. These facts have been in our papers and on the evening news for years.

Only those in denial could know the above and think it is “OK.” It’s not. The highly respected U.S. Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald said the following, “You either speak up and do something about it, or you are part of the problem. That’s the only way to look at it.” That’s why we need to see the truth and become ready to stand up and take action. As an Interventionist, I know the entire dysfunctional system must change in order to create the space for a new paradigm to emerge. It won’t work, it only slows things down, to keep “some of the old” and try to meld it into something new.

No. The 1% — the politicians, the Establishment Democrats and Republicans, those who accept cash from corporations, lobbies and PACs, are the reason that we have this mess. We need to keep it simple and pledge in our campaigns to accept only $100 from anyone, and only from individual people. Keep it simple. This is our country, not theirs. They had their chance and this is what they have given us. It is time for the 99% of American citizens not in office to take part in running this country.

As part of this new paradigm, let’s rethink the nature of our political parties. I’ve gone to the Republican and Democratic Party websites, trying to find out what they stand for. Take a look yourself. What’s there is a bunch of gobbledygook. I know what I think they stand for. But I don’t think they know what they stand for!

I believe that Republicans stand for personal responsibility and self-reliance. They uphold the integrity and honor of the individual man or woman, who is strong and independent and responsible. The Republican Party endorses the ideals of self-sufficiency and local government. They believe that every able-bodied man and woman must pull their load, no freeloaders. And they uphold the American values of standing up for our country, and even putting their lives on the line to protect these values and our country.

I believe that the Democrats stand for taking care of those in need, the elderly, the disadvantaged, and the children. They sanction using a central government to protect the little guy and to ensure that business does not hurt people. They see the value of the larger community, and view the role of government as supporting the development of every single individual. They see the larger community’s role in making sure that everyone has access to healthcare, safe working conditions, and education. And they uphold the American values of standing up for our country, and even putting their lives on the line to protect these values and our country.

Which group do you identify with? If you had to pick one right now, which would you choose? Do you lean to the right or left? I have to admit that this is a test. I’ll let you in on my agenda in a minute.

But which party did you pick? You may think of yourself as an Independent, but I’ll bet you did lean toward one of the two parties above. So, if you had to choose, which one would it be?

OK. Now I’m going to put on my Family Therapist hat and give you a lesson in mental health and what makes good families.

When it comes to relationships, every one of us has two goals. And these goals are in conflict with each other. The first is that each of us needs to take responsibility for ourselves. If we are adults, no one can or should take care of us. The second is that each of us must “work things out” with those we are in relationship with: our parents, spouse, children, neighbors, fellow workers, and countrymen. In other words, to work things out with each other. Family therapists call this “the differentiation of self, while in relationship.” It turns out that there is no limit to our personal power, personal agency, and autonomy. And there is also no limit to how close, loving, and emotionally available we can be with another person. If we are in an emotionally close relationship, we have to deal with endless conflicts, because each person is different. Balancing these conflicting needs is the challenge that every person faces, every day. People in healthy relationships will always find a way to work things out and have fun.

A good example of this happens in families with teenagers. Children need parents who will guide them and keep them safe, and who will set boundaries and say “no” when it is appropriate. Upon entering adolescence, a child naturally begins to become more independent. The teen’s drive for independence often conflicts with the parents’ need to keep their teen safe. We want teens to stand up for themselves and to strive for+ freedom. And we want loving parents to say “no” when they feel the teen is getting too out-of-bounds. This process naturally leads to conflict. But in a healthy family, the conflicts get worked out and the teen learns both about boundaries and independence.

We want families who will support the individual development of each of their members (the Republican in each of us, that leads to self-reliance). And we want families who will support emotionally close and intimate family relationships (the Democrat in each of us, striving for cohesion and intimacy with one another).

Are you getting it? The core values of both the Republicans and the Democrats are right. Re-read the paragraphs above that describe the two parties. Both of them are right! They simply advocate different qualities, all of which are generally present in functional families and functional relationships.

Our current leaders are not functioning on the behalf of the American family. Their dysfunction is glaring and obvious. The fact that they are putting each other down, instead of working things out, is a big clue to their dysfunction. As a family therapist, I often ask myself the following question: “For a person of what age would this behavior make sense?” What do you think? To me, it seems that our leaders are behaving more like teenage jocks competing to “win” than grown-up adults, calmly sitting down and working together to solve the problems at hand.

One of the reasons our leaders have strayed so far from healthy relationship behaviors is that the 1% who possess the money, property, and power have wielded a disproportionate influence over the population. They have behaved like out-of-touch parents whose focus has strayed from taking care of the family. The 1% in power has influenced our democratic governments since we started, even though our founding fathers offered a process that, in theory, gives the power to the people. The problem is that ongoing corruption has resulted in a failure to reach the ideal envisioned by the founding fathers – an America that functions like a healthy family.

But something has recently changed. I believe that a combination of America’s psychosocial development, the technological revolution, and factors that I don’t understand, have brought us to a “tipping point.” I believe that America is ready for a new start that will lead us to a much saner democracy, one that operates like a functional family system.

Of course we all support self-reliance and autonomy, and of course we all want intimacy, connection, and emotional availability. Who could be against any of these things? Healthy people embody aspects of both parties. We need to support the core goals of both the Republicans and the Democrats.

We can no longer support the current politicians who masquerade as “Republicans” and “Democrats.” They forgot who they were and what they stood for when they got all mixed up with the fat cats, backroom deals, and lobbyists. The 1% have lost their way.

We all need to support Republicans, as the guardians of individual rights and the sentinels who will support and encourage personal development. There are a lot of individuals who understand this and who would be much better Republicans than those who are currently serving. Almost any good teacher or family therapist would be a “good enough” Republican leader. These folks naturally support the personal growth and self-sufficiency of the individual.

And we really do need to reduce Washington’s role in our lives. Our government has become like a giant octopus that sucks money from us. The first President Bush gave a great analogy for the problem with the federal government. The following is the example he used:

Most of us have water heaters that heat our shower water. We go to the shower, turn the faucet, wait a minute; hot water comes out. That’s an example of local government. Now imagine that the knobs for the hot water were on a water heater located two floors below, in the basement. We would go to the basement to turn the knob. Climb the stairs and see if the water is the right temperature. If the water were too hot or cold, we’d need to go back to the basement and adjust the faucet, perhaps multiple times. And then when we were done, we would need to go back to the basement again to turn off the water.

This, said the senior President Bush, is how the Federal government fails at managing things that should be done at the local level.

We need to move more of the Federal government’s services to the local level. We all could be more Republican, more self-sufficient, and more adult. We need to see that “Big Daddy Washington” is not the answer. Sorry. This means that many of us will need to grow up and become more adult. There should never be a politician or a lobby that supports those who play victim (and there are millions of Americans who currently are playing the role of “victim.”) Everyone needs to stand up and pitch in, even if it is only to do volunteer work planting the many millions of trees needed to suck up excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

And if a business is acting irresponsibly, we will need the Democratic part of us (that says “we are all family”) to come in and lay down the law and set firm limits. There are many thousands of businesses that pollute the environment. Some examples of engaging our Democratic side include: the Clean Water and Clean Air initiatives; or the laws that protect us from lead in paint, or asbestos in insulation. We want a vibrant, free market that allows for innovation and supports business, but we want the common welfare to be protected, also.

We need to support the Democrats as guardians of the general welfare. We need to support that healthy aspect in all of us that wants to protect the family, in this case, the American family. We need to see that our children get adequate education and healthcare. Almost any healthy grandmother would make a much better President, Senator, or Congressperson than the dysfunctional leaders we currently have in office.

We need both of these parties, working together for the best outcome.

But instead of being our humble servants and serving America, our current leaders are driven more by greed than morality. They are obsessively and compulsively lying, cheating, and stealing from us. Right now, they are acting like the out-of-control kids in the book Lord of the Flies. It is truly embarrassing to watch, which is why many educated citizens are too frustrated to even get angry. It really is that insane.

Would you invest a few hours a month to restore our country to sanity? Imagine running for office! Yes, you for President! Yes, you for Senator or Congressperson. Imagine if everyone showed up and brought sanity back to Washington and to local government. Imagine everyone standing up for America!

We can do this. We can take back our country.

I’ll prove it to you. Something like this has already happened many times in the history of the world. The Velvet Revolution occurred when millions went the streets and overthrew the communist government in Czechoslovakia in 1989. The Orange Revolution occurred when people went to the streets in 2004 and forced a corrupt government in Ukraine to re-do a rigged election. Gandhi led millions in non-violent protests that led to India’s independence in 1948. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired by Gandhi’s non-violent approach of public demonstration, led America to sweeping changes in our laws, and a public recognition of our institutional racism.

Last October, my wife and I, and 200,000 others, went to the Washington D.C. Rally to Restore Sanity. That event, along with what has happened in the Middle East, was an inspiration for the creation of my first book, Intervention on America. This gathering, organized by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, was dedicated to countering the craziness and insanity that we all see. It called on us to renew rational conversation at a national level. Two hundred thousand people showed up on the National Mall, with banners and cameras, and peacefully sang, and laughed, and talked, and listened to bands and speeches by both Stewart and Colbert. And, we had fun. Americans like to have fun. We are a joyful and loving group of folks.

We need to do it again. And we need to tell our friends to show up. Tell your good friends you want them to run for office. I’m not kidding. We can do this thing. We have reached the tipping point. It is happening all around the world. The news is coming faster and faster. We are getting linked up, more and more, with one another and with the world.

We need to have honorable Republicans in office who understand their task and are ready to serve our country. We need to have honorable Democrats in office who understand their task and are ready to serve our country. And we need to get off the fence! We are all for healthy families, and we are all for strong, healthy individuals. I suggest, to really and fully comprehend this, that you switch parties. Try it. It really doesn’t matter!

Seriously, if the core values of both parties were to represent the two different aspects of a healthy person, a healthy relationship, and a healthy family then why would you not support both of them? We need to get rid of our pathogenic beliefs from the old paradigm. We need to toss them aside and allow the possibility of a very different political system, in which both parties disagree and struggle with each other as they press their agenda. But at the end of every day, they embrace each other and laugh, because they see the other party is also right and very necessary.

Take a moment. If you can’t really imagine yourself in the other party, seeing the rationale of both, you are not getting the full picture of this paradigm shift. You may still be identifying with your party and rationalizing your affiliation in order to “push your agenda.”

Perhaps it would be helpful to imagine re-naming the parties. The Democrats could become the “Family Party,” and the Republicans could become the “Personal Responsibility Party.” All serious adults would support both parties’ goals. In a few election cycles, we could actually re-name our political parties to reflect new political and democratic realities that are based on sound mental health practices.

Each of us must grow up and take responsibility, and wisely support healthy Democrats fulfilling their mandate, and healthy Republicans fulfilling theirs.

It’s time for a change!

And it is time to start thinking about the wisest among us whom we would love to see as our next elected officials. Seriously. Do this. Dream big. Our next leaders are folks that are not currently on the political stage. We may not even know who they are, and, for sure, we have not imagined them as political leaders.

Until now.

Here is one example of a popular man that no one has ever considered as a political figure. He is an American citizen and was recently on the cover of China’s edition ofNewsweek. He was described as China’s “most influential foreign figure.” He is like a rock star in Asia. People scalp tickets to see him in Japan, South Korea, and China. 15,000 Harvard students have taken his class on “Justice.” Can you imagine this brilliant and popular man as the President of the United States? His name is Michael J. Sandel. This man and many thousands of other principled and smart Americans would be wonderful, inspirational, and honorable leaders.

In this new paradigm, I believe we each need to grow up and take responsibility for our lives, for our planet, and for the children of the future.

I have an amazing life in Northern California. I have a wonderful wife, nice home, great friends, and a rewarding and meaningful job. But I don’t think I have a choice to stay the same. I don’t think any rational, sentient human who knows the reality of our nation’s predicament and the plight of its citizens has the option to stand by any longer and do nothing. It’s that bad. We must all act. This is just like the crisis in the world that led to World War II, only worse. The problem is more pervasive, and closer to home. Back then everyone needed to step up and pull together. They rationed gas and sugar and butter, and everyone understood why they were doing this. We are on the Titanic, and, like the Titanic, I believe our government’s incompetence and corruption, our country’s social inequity and neglected children, and the worldwide environmental degradation, is steering us into an iceberg. Our current path is not sustainable. We’ve got to get together and create change.

A lot of wise people agree with me. A recent poll said that 90% of Americans were unhappy with congress.

The truck driver in Cleveland, the paralegal in Atlanta, the elementary school teacher in Dallas, the insurance salesman in Tucson, the camp director in Wisconsin. You, I, and others can do this thing. We can storm the cockpit of this hijacked country. We can all say, “Let’s roll.”

We all need to rise up and take our country back from the misguided people and the dysfunctional systems that have brought us to the precipice. We need to “occupy” the election process. We need to see that the current parties have become part of the 1%. We are the 99%. We have the numbers to actually use the democratic process to replace the Establishment Democrats and the Establishment Republicans with Democrats and Republicans who are grown up and can simply use their common sense to tackle American’s big problems. I’m hoping that you all run, or that you find honorable men and women who will run, and replace the 537 leaders who are currently in office.

You can count on my vote!