The persistence of memory

Friday, March 31, 2017

Much to the dismay of some in my family, Dr. Oz was interrupted on Friday for a breaking news story. The bulletin informed the public that the vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act was not going to be voted on yet. Thatís right. We are at the point in our society when we feel the need to let everyone know nothing is going to happen.

Granted, a lot of people were watching for that vote because they arenít sure exactly how things are going to go for them afterward. Unfortunately, that uncertainty probably isnít going to go away soon. A lot of the lime light has been given to Republican lawmakers in Washington lately and theyíve been promising to repeal Obamacare. Heck, theyíve been promising that since the day it was signed into law. Before anyone sits down to write me a strongly-worded letter, telling me the exact date Republicans voiced their disapproval of the ACA and calling me an inexperienced cub of a reporter, know that I donít think it was literally on "the day it was signed into law." There, I put it in quotes so everyone knows itís just an expression Ö like "wiretapping."

Letís move on.

Despite all the promises made during past sessions, the government has still not been able to deliver on that paramount promise to repeal. Some have said that the bill had to be pulled because infighting among Republicans, particularly from the House Freedom Caucus, caused a divided front. Iím no political commentator ó but I am commenting on politics, so maybe I am ó but the way I see it, if a party as a whole opposed a piece of legislation for approximately seven years and turns down the opportunity to repeal that legislation, thereís likely something wrong with the new legislation.

Then Rep. Ted Poe resigned from the Freedom Caucus, essentially saying that his membership in the group made him a less effective representative of the conservative agenda. For the record, I try to avoid saying broad groups of people carry agendas, but thatís the term he used. Boy, I could go several ways with this one. A group of self-labeled conservative leaders didnít support a Republican-backed piece of legislation. To me, that shows that perhaps the terms Republican and conservative are not synonymous.

Now, in northwest Iowa, itís a pretty safe bet that a majority of readers support stereotypical Republican values. So, by extension, itís a pretty safe bet that most readers support actions like Poeís resignation from the Freedom Caucus because, at least in the mind of many a voter, heís supporting values over a certain group. More broadly, heís putting principles before party. Thatís a good line. I feel like Iíve read that somewhere. Oh, I remember. It was in David Johnsonís response to a letter from county chairs in the region who said he recklessly abandoned the party.

Friday, Aug. 5, 2016:

"It's another example of why I made the decision I did,Ē Sen. David Johnson, I-Ocheyedan, said. ďIím not wiling to put party before principles which is exactly what the chairs have done. That's why we're having so much bipartisan bickering going on.Ē

As the saying goes, whatís good for the goose is good for the gander. The situationís arenít congruous, I know. I just find a slight bit of humor in the similarities. No oneís mad at Poe for leaving a group in favor of Republican ideals. Johnson resigned from the party because he felt it wasnít upholding its own values but thatís unacceptable. At least thatís how I read the mood of the room.

Thereís just a heavy sense of the same themes being repeated on several levels. From Capitol Hill to Hill Avenue, the budding stem of principle versus party is starting to break through the concrete, but truthfully it was always there beneath the surface.

Monday, Sept. 19, 1796:

"Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."

Those are the words of George Washington. Iíd say theyíre eerily relevant, even surreal.