Is the American political system broken?
Bob Menendez grew up the son of immigrants in a tenement building in Union City. A product of New Jersey's public schools and a graduate of the state's universities, he has served as a school board member, a mayor and a state legislator. Since 1992, he has been fighting for New Jersey families in Washington, where he rose to become the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives before taking office in the Senate in 2006.
In Congress, he has fought to make health care more affordable for New Jersey's families and to improve schools so they prepare our children for a successful future. Now he is fighting to make college more affordable for the next generation of leaders. After September 11, 2001, Bob earned national recognition for his leadership in reforming the country's intelligence and public health systems and for fighting to establish an independent commission to investigate the terrorist attacks on our country. Today, he is working to improve the security of our bus, rail and public transit systems.
Elected by his colleagues in 2002 as the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Bob Menendez became the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history. He previously served as the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus and has led key Task Forces on Education and Homeland Security. After being appointed by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Bob was sworn in to the Senate on January 18, 2006. In November of that year, New Jerseyans elected Bob to serve a full six-year term as United States Senator. He currently serves on the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources; Budget; and Foreign Relations. Bob is also the Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.
Question: Is the American political system broken?
Robert Menendez: I don’t think the system is broken. I think Americans look at the debates that go on, for example, in Congress and say, “Well, they can’t seem to get along with each other. Or they’re just political or partisan.” And there is an element of that; but people come from across the country, and I’ve had the privilege and experience of representing . . . being in both houses of Congress. So I look at when I was in the House of Representatives, there are . . . 435 people come from across the country, from North and South and East and West. They come from great cities and farms. They come from suburbia. They’re doctors, and lawyers, and farmers, and business people, and teachers, and former veterans and a whole host of other things. They’re Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, Muslim. And across the spectrum they’re brought to the nation’s capitol to not only represent the interests of their particular district, but to represent the collective interests of the nation. And they’re asked to face some of the most difficult challenges we have in our country, and to also look at the great opportunities that exist with our country, and come together to lead in what hopefully is a strong bipartisan response to these issues. But at the end of the day, all those different experiences, all those different backgrounds, all the different political ideologies . . . sometimes they are rooted in . . . clearly in very strong views – principled views – as to how we achieve these goals or overcome these challenges. And those principle views can sometimes be in great conflict. And so that . . . Whether it’s in the House or in the Senate, the reality is that it seems to me that what people sometimes view as strictly partisan is the clash of ideas – the clash of ideas that people brought from a very diverse country, but who hold, I think, common goals of achieving . . . making America the best that it can be. And in doing so, that clash of ideas produces differences. Some people look at that as a broken system. I look at that as largely to be the fulfillment of the democracy that we have.
Recorded on: 9/12/07
We've passed from differences in outlook to bitter partisanship.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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