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To fix our country, we must first break Congress, not try to put it back together

Sometimes, the best way to make a political point is by disengaging from politics altogether.

The recent announcement by Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) that he would not seek re-election in 2010 has sent a shock wave through the national punditry. Figures at the right wing of American politics have praised Bayh’s decision, with one post by an “Experienced Debater” on Sean Hannity’s online discussion board reading, “He just acknowledged in an indirect way what the Tea Party movement is all about. He sees it, and walked out.”

Whether that’s the proper analysis or not is debatable. But it is interesting how the adage “Politics make strange bedfellows” comes to reality. On the issue of Bayh’s retirement, I find myself aligned with the political right.

Of course, I don’t take Bayh’s retirement to be indicative of massive Tea Party success. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t; it really doesn’t make a tremendous difference. What Bayh’s retirement really suggests is frustration with the inefficiencies of Congress.

While that point may be valid, a more efficient Congress operating on the lines pursued by Bayh and/or the Tea Party Movement would be even more frightening than the stagnant swamp of corporatocracy currently sitting in Washington. But the idea that everyone currently in office ought to be voted out is one I can’t help but share with the Tea Partiers.

Much of the current anger with Congress, from the perspective of the Tea Partiers, stems from the alleged attempt to “ram a socialist form of health care down Americans’ throats” or some such thing. Such a view of what’s going on is so twisted it’s as “Catch-22” author Joseph Heller described American politics in both praise and condemnation, “ludicrously funny.”

In reality, we’d all be better off if Congress did something along the lines of ramming a socialist form of health care down our throats. Prior to the massive propaganda campaigns launched by the likes of FOX News and talk radio, Americans were overwhelmingly in favor of a universal, single-payer health care program. Now, the numbers have apparently turned, with poll after poll expressing American disapproval of both the plan itself and the way both Republicans and Democrats are handling it.

A recent Rasmussen poll suggests Americans want to vote out as many incumbents as possible in the midterm elections and urge Congress to begin the health care discussion anew. Such a tactic is a nice idea but probably wouldn’t do any real amount of good. The idea of getting a new batch of Congressmen, all with visions and determination of their own, will just lead to the same clashes we are currently experiencing.

Bayh’s complaint, and the complaint of many Tea Partiers, is that Congress is too divisive, too partisan. The real problem is that Congress isn’t partisan enough. Ralph Nader accurately described the two parties years ago, saying the only difference between them is the “velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door.”

Congress has staged a successful show, appearing partisan with Democrats and Republicans arguing viciously about very minimal differences. Were they truly polarized, Republicans might be arguing for the dissolution of Medicare (they wouldn’t dare) and Democrats would be arguing for universal single-payer (they haven’t the guts).

Watching the Tea Party movement hold up signs expressing their very real fear that the government is going to take away their freedom by giving them health care is one of the saddest things on television. It’s too strange to think there are people, who come from the heartland and have lost jobs and insurance, looking to figures like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck as figureheads and campaigners for their situational improvement.

At any rate, Bayh’s complaint that the Senate is broken is valid. Where I depart from Bayh and his sympathizers is that I don’t believe the best way to fix the country is to repair Congress. The best way to fix the country is to break Congress even further and experiment with something new — letting the American people have direct, participatory power.

Even the Tea Partiers.

Respond to Kyle at [email protected]

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