The government of the United States has been stymied by division, obstruction and criticism, with much of the rancor focused on the war in Iraq. How long can the system withstand the strain?
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Bitter partisan wrangling is not new to American politics—there are plenty of examples to be found in the nation’s history. This has been especially true in Presidential elections. The mudslinging, insults and general nastiness of the elections of 1828 (Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams), 1860 (Abraham Lincoln vs. Stephen A. Douglas) and 1884 (Grover Cleveland vs. James Blaine) rival recent campaigns.
However, with few exceptions, when the contests were over, the government and the nation attempted to move forward, and there was at least some semblance of respect for the offices of those who were in power.
Despite the diverse melting pot of different types of people among the population, Americans had some sense of a cohesive national identity. This was especially true when the nation was at war. The following proverb was applied: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). When faced with adversity, Americans thought and behaved like brothers.
But how does this compare to the present?
In every war that the U.S. has entered, there has been some domestic opposition—citizens and politicians who believed it was unwise for the country to involve itself in the conflict. However, in generations past, once a Commander-in-Chief had made the decision to send troops into battle, there was a sense of wartime protocol. Open criticism of a war effort was largely withheld, out of consideration for the soldiers who were in the line of fire—and in the interest of troop morale, which has a profound impact on the eventual outcome of a conflict. Most recognized that once an enemy was engaged, victory was in the long-term best interest of the country as a whole.
This concept and the etiquette that once accompanied it seem to have been forgotten.
Congressmen and other political figures now openly second-guess and denigrate the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, even as the military fights on two fronts—Iraq and Afghanistan. One representative, in a Capitol Hill news conference, called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Two weeks later, the same man predicted that most troops will have to leave Iraq because the Army is “broken,” “worn out” and “living hand to mouth” (Associated Press).
The national chairman of the opposition party has gone so far as to assert that the very idea of victory in Iraq is “just plain wrong.” He compared the Iraq war to the Vietnam war, and likened the controversy surrounding the White House’s justification for attacking Iraq to the Watergate scandal.
Criticism of a sitting president by former presidents was once virtually unheard of. However, former presidents now publicly criticize the current administration and its leader. Through news media, members of the opposition party voice criticism of President George W. Bush on a broad range of issues—even while he is visiting other nations, officially representing the country abroad!
Understanding the poisonous atmosphere in Washington, and breaking rank from his peers, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who supports the Iraq war effort, stated, “We undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril” (The New York Times). His statements quickly resulted in sharp criticism from others in his party. He assessed the controversy over his viewpoint in the following terms: “The positive and negative reactions… [reflect] the terribly divisive state of our politics” (ibid.).
A former U.S. attorney general, now known as maverick defense lawyer and a radical political activist, has written formal Articles of Impeachment against the president, which consists of accusations largely involving the Iraq war, and to a lesser degree Afghanistan. It is posted on a website that advocates impeachment—again, mostly focused on America’s war on terror.
Another senator summed up the situation this way: “There is no political consensus in this country. Democrats [and] Republicans are struggling. We’ve lost our national unity when it comes to Iraq” (Agence France-Presse).
The war has not been the only sticking point between democrats and republicans. There has also been unprecedented obstruction of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees. Although these nominations are a constitutional mandate, Congress confirmed only 53% of the President’s circuit-court nominees during his first term in office, compared to an average of 85.5% for the previous nine four-year presidential first terms since World War II. To look at this process from another angle, since World War II, there was an average of five circuit-court nominations that were returned (turned down) by Congress during a president’s first term. From January 2001 to January 2005, 30 nominations were returned (Washington Times)!
Vigorous attempts have also been made to link the president to scandals (real or imagined) involving members of his party—from advisors and aides to senators and representatives.
In addition, the opposition party has also pushed for investigations into nearly everything that the administration has done, from the response to Hurricane Katrina to the treatment of detainees from Afghanistan.
Much of the media keeps close watch over and publicizes every round of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. This unprecedented coverage is quickly wearing down public tolerance for the war effort. At this writing, the Iraq war has been in progress for just over 1,000 days, and U.S. military deaths number just over 2,100. Compare this to the Vietnam conflict, which after 1,000 days had resulted in nearly 12,000 deaths. Yet, according to polls, more than half of Americans believe that the Iraq war is a mistake—a threshold of disapproval that, in the Vietnam era, was only reached after the loss of 20,000 soldiers (Associated Press).
Pundits are sure to tie every perceived roadblock or setback in Iraq to the president himself, and to his party, attempting to define his presidency by the war and to gain leverage for a power shift in upcoming elections.
Media outlets also pounce on any minor gaffe involving the president, or any negative development affecting a member of his party. Also, the results of opinion polls and approval ratings that reflect poorly on the White House are given top billing in print and on television, with headlines quick to portray the entire administration as being back on its heels, ineffectual, reeling from misfortunes, out of touch with the country, and adrift.
A guiding principle of American democracy has been “The majority rules, the minority restricts.” In actual practice, the approach seems to have deteriorated into “The majority proposes, the minority opposes.”
Jesus Christ stated, “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). Many in America, and even many politicians, seem to believe that this verse does not apply to the country—that the political system can sustain severe and widespread internal strife.
It is as though the opposition party has no comprehension that they can bring their country to a close—to a complete end—if the adversarial nature of partisan politics continues its course. No matter what the party in power—whether Republican or Democrat—does or says, the opposition party undercuts it, and usually does so with fierce denunciation of the motives, competency and purposes of the current leadership. If the leaders say up, the opposition says down—if the leaders say go, the opposition says stop—if the leaders say left, the opposition says right—if the leaders say backward, the opposition says forward, and so forth. And this extreme adversarial state of affairs has spread to state, regional and local levels.
Consider. Could a once-strong marriage continue if the wife went through the neighborhood publicly undercutting every decision that her husband made, even fiercely attacking him? Could even the most powerful company survive if the president or chief executive officer was continually lampooned, ridiculed and accused of corruption by other senior officers—no matter what he did? Could a winning professional football or soccer team remain in existence if the coach continually challenged and opposed the decisions, policies and judgment of the corporate leadership and management of the team? Could a school survive if every decision made by the principal was attacked and repudiated by senior teachers on the faculty?
Why, then, do the leaders of the world’s superpower not understand that they can bring their country to complete collapse and ultimate destruction—putting themselves at the mercy of foreign powers—if they do not cease the open hatred and hostility so powerfully and almost routinely evident today? It is as though they have no comprehension of the tremendous destructive capability of adversarial politics—that it can ultimately lead to anarchy, from which, after a certain point has been reached, there can be no return.
We are left to ask: How long can a country get away with what members of a family, a company, a sports team or a school could not begin to endure—and would not even be foolish enough to think that they could?
We need not wonder whether the United States can somehow defy logic and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Bible prophecy clearly shows that America will not continue to exist for much longer. As one of the nations descended from the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob), the U.S. (along with Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and certain nations of Northwest Europe) has inherited tremendous birthright blessings. However, these blessings are accompanied by an ongoing obligation to obey God, which these peoples have long ignored.
In a simpler time in American history, Abraham Lincoln stated, “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide” (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume I, Roy P. Basler [ed.], p. 109).
In hindsight, Lincoln was partially correct—the downfall of the United States has started from within. However, he could not foresee the current decline of American power, and rising competitors in Europe and Asia.
A passage from the Old Testament indicts the modern-day descendants of Israel and cuts to the heart of the basic reason for division between human beings: “Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:1-3).
The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is a resounding NO!
The disagreement among America’s leaders is preventing them from walking together. This is crippling the nation as a whole, and slowing the pace of national progress from a walk to a crawl!
And, as the passage above shows, the more serious problem is that Americans, like all the other Israelite nations—and the rest of mankind—are not “agreed” with their Creator. They are not walking together with Him in harmony with His immutable Law.
The purpose of The Real Truth magazine is not to take sides in politics, since neither the political left, nor the right, nor the center can bring lasting solutions to the table. And the tactics used by those on each side of the aisle are often identical—the key difference being who has the upper hand (the majority) and who is on the ropes (the minority).
However, there is good news! Eventually, the government of the United States—along with the flawed, corruptible systems of governance found around the world—will soon be replaced by perfect, just, everlasting and unified government. It will rest on the shoulder of the glorified Jesus Christ at His Second Coming, and will be shared with His resurrected saints (Isa. 9:6; Dan. 2:44; 7:18). Mankind will learn that God’s Way is the only way that works, and will finally come to walk together in agreement with Him—and with one another!