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Opinion

What Has Happened to the America We Love?

america-we-love

What has happened to this America we love?  Why are we so disunited?  So insecure?  Why so hostile and untrusting of one another?  Have we outgrown confidence in ourselves? In those seminal ideals – individual liberty, equality of opportunity and limited government? 

Have we lost compass and confidence in our own ability to solve problems, lift ourselves and each other, without government direction?  Do we not remember how we got to this blessed moment?  Don’t free speech and religion, independent and responsible press, fair trials and accountable institutions matter? 

And why do so many national leaders puff, preen and point, defining themselves by hatred for those with whom they disagree, failing to see that victory is never secured in America by infinite, emotional, mutual recrimination?  Historically, even in recent history, this is not who we are, we Americans.

I was speaking today with a Republican who came to Washington from Maine in 1974, with a onetime young Republican Congressman, named David Emery.  Emery had won an upset election at age 26.  When he got to Washington, a seasoned Democratic Senator Ed Muskie, also from Maine, took both men under his wing.  Muskie, the archetypical Democrat, spent hours explaining congressional processes, rules and traditions to these young Republicans.  Muskie was down to earth, not self-impressed.  That kindness cost Muskie nothing; it was remembered forever by my friend.

In the late 1990s, when I worked as a staff director and counsel under the US House Oversight Committee, we examined issues tied to drug abuse, national security, public health and safety.  My job was working for Republican congressmen, eventually running a task force for then-Speaker Gingrich and bipartisan working group on the period’s drug crisis.

A shock:  While differences existed, members of both parties talked often and respectfully with each other in and out of hearings and briefings.  Current Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), spoke regularly on shared concerns with Republican committee members, such as Bob Ehrlich (R-MD), Mark Souder (R-IN), John Mica (R-FL), and Dennis Hastert (R-IL).  Respect was real and two-way. 

As a staffer, I managed the US House bipartisan drug policy caucus (1995-1999).  It was amicably and earnestly co-chaired by Republican Bill Zeliff (R-NH) and Democrat (D-NY) Charles Rangel.  They cared deeply about kids, public safety and ending that period’s drug crisis.  Those two, and a dozen others, including later DEA-head Asa Hutchinson (R-AK) and future Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), as well as countless senior Democrats, talked privately and publicly to get to solutions.  They got there, too.

Representatives from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to Karen Thurman (D-FL) would assemble regularly with common purpose – listening privately to FBI Director Louis Freeh, DEA Administrator Tom Constantine, US Coast Guard Commandants Robert Kramek and James Loy, Cabinet Drug Czar and General Barry McCaffery (a Clinton appointee).  No one interrupted, refused to come for effect, leaked things to the press, betrayed a confidence, or put personal ambition above solving America’s drug crisis. 

Similarly, running Speaker Gingrich’s Task Force on Counter-Narcotics, speakers came from both parties to share ideas, Clinton appointees like General McCaffery and Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Rand Beers, non-profit leaders of groups like Partnership for a Drug-Free America, DARE America, and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.  The Conference of Mayors and National Governors Association worked with us.  Party was secondary.

So, I ask again – what has happened?  Agreement was regularly reached with relative ease between leaders at every level in both parties – over hundreds of billions of dollars, in an effort to save the country from that period’s drug crisis.  Members of both parties cared more about kids, public safety and public health than the next day’s news.  They really did, I saw it up close.    

Today, we face even more serious issues.  The present drug crisis, rather than taking 14,000 lives annually, takes 72,000 young lives annually.  Borders are being tested and need securing, along with better drug prevention, treatment, and support for law enforcement. 

Public health and safety are not a game.  They are deadly serious.  American individuals, families, towns and cities, states and regions, and nationally – want real answers.  We need to start talking again – and once again become that “One Nation, Under God” to which we pledge allegiance.

You heard it:  Conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan and liberal Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neil met monthly for dinner, with common purpose, no press, no posturing for public consumption, just two Americans talking about getting things done for America.  The story is true; I worked in Reagan’s White House.  But I ask you – where are those leaders today?

 “We, the People” have to make clear – with urgency – what we expect.   A return to being proud, cooperative Americans would be a nice start.  Average Americans want “real answers” on things like exponentially painful drug crisis, better border security, stronger treatment, prevention, and law enforcement.  

How about leaders modeling adult behavior, and appealing in that way to our “better angels”?  There will always be rabble rousers, crazy socialists wildly out of sync with America and promising everything for nothing, as well as those who would use centralized government for other intolerance.  That is not us. 

America is one nation, and we should – at family, community, state, and national levels – start acting like one.  This notion that no one can talk to anyone who disagrees with them is hogwash, and frankly – about as un-American as anything on the airwaves now or ever.  Americans are just tired of it.

Big problems are not solved by finger-wagging, loud shouting, or an unwillingness to talk and compromise.  They are solved by responsible leaders stepping up, being accountable for the solution as if the whole mission depended on you.  That is a principle of moral leadership.  Now, enough of words.  How about leaders sitting down and leading – to outcomes for which they were elected.   That is the America we love.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

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Keith Clark

Any time I disagree with a Democrat I’m called a Racist, a Nazi, A White Supremacist.
This tactic is used all day every day to kill any communications.
It seems to me the Left is looking for a fight, a Civil War as their actions and demands get more Anti-American with every passing day.
They should beware of what they ask for.

Kim

As long as we don’t define America by the rights and privileges we have in common, and instead see America as the bottomless trough from which citizens and non-citizens can take and take and take, there will always be a Grand Chasm dividing this country. Border security in the form of a physical barrier, supported by technological and human interaction, should be the obvious route for protecting our citizens. That alone would solve a large portion of the drug problem, and a huge part of the criminal activity that flows over the border as predictably as coastal tides. Why 100% of us can’t agree on that baffles me, especially because prominent Democrats voted for it in the past. (I know; they hate President Trump.) And building a barrier along parts of the border that need it would cost us taxpayers a very small amount compared to the enormous costs generated… Read more »

Arn

What Happened? There is a non-shooting Civil War happening. In order for any government to operate reasonably well, there has to be agreement to support the elected leaders. Without universal support, there is no respect. Without respect, there can be no compromise. Without compromise there is only hostility. Today we have unbridled hostility. We are just short of a “shooting Civil War.” The left was so angry about losing the 2016 election that they have since refused to accept the elected President. Today they prefer to destroy America rather than work with the elected official. It is childish, yes I know. That’s why we nicknamed them “snowflakes” because they melted with their disappointment. These are not adult Citizens, they are immature children. The Left-leaning leaders took on the mantle of non-cooperation until impeachment. This is Civil War — until everyone accepts the duly elected leader, we are going only in… Read more »

General Patton

I believe the media constantly distorts matters, and wants constant friction between both parties. Second, we have never ever had such true Marxists scumbags like Pelosi, Ellison, and Schumer , truly vile people. They hate America!

Cathy

I agree – its become extremely scary. A small but prime example can be found where I live. The state I live in is considered one of the major swing states. The county I live in has close to the same number of Republicans and Democrats. In the last election there were two main candidates for County Sheriff: One was a Republican with over twenty years experience in law enforcement, including being the current chief of a major city. The other was a Democrat who literally had a criminal history going back many years which included several felonies. Needless to say this fellow had never even been to the police academy, let alone worn a badge. The results of the election shocked me to my core. The convicted felon came within five percentage points of winning the election!!! This can be verified through Google. Since when did the good of… Read more »

Glenn Lego

I think two words could define what happened—Barack Obama!

Diana Erbio

Sadly, divide and conquer has become the mantra of progressives, in politics, media & many in the public.

Karen

One root of the problems we have today is the media. Groups of radicals feed the main-stream media with false information and rumor. It is unfortunate what they (media) have become with their hatred and willingness to misinform the general public. They are not journalists and they cause everyone to mistrust whatever is reported.

Linda

I never understood how the civil war happened until the last two years. All because the left hates this President so much. I blame the opioid crisis on Hollywood and the media. They show how to do drugs, and how to get them. I even saw a major news network order drugs online from China. Just to show how easy it was. What’s wrong with this picture?

Rick

Really? Rangel, Cummings are good people? Learned from Muskie? This author seems to be part of the go-along, get-along country club Republicans that are nearly as much to blame as liberal dimocrats for getting us into the mess we’re in! Every “compromise” they’ve had with dimocrats has given them everything they wanted and Republicans walk away with nothing most of the time! Instead of getting along, Republicans need to fight for their principles! The downfall of the country can be traced back to progressive dimocrats- any way you want to look at it! Their allies in the media are hammering President Trump every day and gutless Republicans won’t help!

Tom Reiva

The left is still so upset that Hillary did not win. They are the ones who picked her to run. But Trump clearly outcampaigned her and he won. It’s beyond my comprehension why they’re still upset and trying every trick to discredit Trump instead of working together, debating, etc. in the interest of we Americans. Congress has a great opportunity to fix many things needed to help the country, but Trump has done so many things on his own to make our life better. It’s confusing!

Julia T.

Stop hating Trump and love America! This is the best article I have ever read and it is so very true! The Liberals and the media are so intent on hating Trump that they will not try working with him!

JoeM

There is no patriotism any more. The demo-rats and liberal socialist communist have made it so that anyone who shows any support for this GREAT country is labeled as a subversive, BUT IT IS THE DEMORATS AND GREEDY POLITICAL ELITES CAUSING THE DESTRUCTION IN THIS COUNTRY. I say “if you do not like our country then LEAVE and MOVE to some country that will have you!

Donna W

You hit the nail on the head, exactly! Wonderful article. All Democrats and Republicans must read this and take to heart!
NOW!

Silas Longshot

The US population was somewhat contentious for all of my voting years (52 years of that) but seemed to get along pretty well for the most part. However, when 0bama was elected, from the first day, he sought to drive wedges between every possible cooperative situation, in driving wedges between race, sex, religion, political stand, rich or poor, age, ANY ISSUE that could be thought of, while at the same time encouraged ‘confrontation’ with those he thought his followers should oppose. After 8 years of this BS causing festering anger and resentment (as carefully crafted by 0bama’s minions) naturally inflames BOTH sides of every divisive issue. And should ANY hostile group (ANTIFA for instance) imagine even for one minute that the political result of their actions worked in their favor, it will truly explode across the country. The gain in democrat positions (thru voter fraud in no ID states) may… Read more »

Bob

What happened was ” diversity”. This is what you get when there are so many different types of people living in one country. 25 years ago I told friends of mine that diversity would be the ultimate downfall of this country. It is impossible to have so many different kinds of people who think so differently than the normal that nothing but conflict will be the end results. Funny, my friends said I was crazy. Wonder if they still feel that way now. Hey, no problem with different people entering the country, as in the past, but when we push 2 for Spanish, that should tell you enough.

Wingleader69

I rarely see negative behavior from the Republicans.

Bob Ireland

Bob: I believe we the responsible public. probably in 2020 will have to vote in, like we did with President Trump, responsible people, and probably not lawyers, to get this country back on its feet. President Trump is crude to say the least, but I believe he has done so much more for this country than has been done for a long time. He is a business man, not a politician and understands, I believe the business of these United States. Just my thought. I agree with what all the responses say, and I think none of it is new news. We must take a stand as members of the Great Nation.

Don

Our big problems in the USA will only get worse because of the Democrats and Republicans.I have learned this from the 50s.People returned from World War 2 and went to work to raise a family.People knew their neighbors and mothers stayed home to take care of their children.We go to War and after we start to rebuild their country and start the cheap trade with them.Mothers had to go to work and someone else had to take care of their children.This and our future is in a book.It is all based on Greed.I was told at a young age that people are numb to the fact we are in decline and the Majority do not care.This will not be repaired because money is in the way.

Tom

We stopped paying attention to what was happening. We sat down and watched the 6 O’clock news and looked no further for the truth. We became afraid to say the truth. Don’t be afraid to support or not dismiss someone if the truth hurts!