Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) It's a little late for timely comments on the 96 election (I'm writing this in May of '99), but I just found your site recently and have read with interest the opinions and arguments you've put forward. I don't agree with all your positions, but I admire the tone of polite reasonableness with which you present them and respond to comments.
(MB) Since we are still greatly affected by the results of the '96 election, any comments upon its outcome are still appropriate. I'd be surprised if everybody agreed with everything I've written, but, the purpose of this forum is to encourage debate on issues which inspire various and differing opinions. Reasonable people can always agree to disagree while each makes their case.

(R) I agree with your conclusion that forced moderation is the best hope for true progress in Congress and the White House, although I'm coming into this position from the opposite direction of your own (I was disappointed that the Republicans retained so much legislative control, and pleased that Clinton was re-elected).
(MB) Given that special-interest groups and one-issue money have so much power in government these days, we would seem to be much better off without extremist elements from either side of the political aisle having too much of a influential voice. The Republicans are fast catching up to the Democrats in that respect and both parties are threatening to alienate the majority of the voting public.

(R) I would welcome any sign that the American voter is maturing a bit, and growing tired of the hype, hysteria, and blatant emotional manipulation that has characterized (or defamed?) the extreme ends of both major political parties.
(MB) I agree completely. Perhaps Jesse Ventura's gubernatorial victory in Minnesota is such a sign? At least it shows that voters may finally be willing to get out of lockstep with the old two-party system and are looking to embrace decent alternatives. Despite all of Ross Perot's faults, his efforts have convinced a lot of people that there aren't just two choices any longer. This can only be A Good Thing.

(R) For the record, I don't consider myself a Libertarian, either (that would be a subject for a different essay). I try to walk an ever-narrowing tightrope to call myself a "moderate"--hopefully a rational one. In that light, I find myself coming to the curious conclusion that a mixed result in the 96 election was probably the best of all possible outcomes.
(MB) I think that your position is shared by a substantial number of people. Now, too many of them are still not ready to break out of their old voting habits, but viable third-party alternatives may be more acceptable than ever as people become increasingly disillusioned with the Reps and the Dems.

(R) My perspective on the political scene is that self-interest on the part of the powerful is almost inescapable. Consequently, whoever is in a position to exercise influence will largely do so with an eye towards the betterment of their own interests, rather than the true best interest of the country overall. Perhaps that's a cynical attitude, but I'm hoping it comes closer to the label "realistic."
(MB) I think that your view is right on the mark. For all of the brave campaign talk, anything approaching altruism in government is all but non-existant. Sure, our elected representatives will help us out if it's also in their own best interests, but precious few of them are willing to commit political suicide even if doing so would be the best thing for their constituents. I'm not sure that any system of government could totally avoid this.

(R) Therefore (in my view), the key to a stable and strong society is the interplay between the goals and agendas of the various factions wrestling for power in the capitol. That's why we have a constitution to limit the "mob rule" of democracy, a checks-and-balances system to prevent any one branch from seizing power, and even the notion of a democracy itself (i.e., constant accountability to the public).
(MB) Exactly. It is not in our best interests to allow power to rest exclusively in the hands of a few privileged individuals or groups. The cynical version of the Golden Rule ("He that has the gold makes the rules") does not produce too many decent systems of government. We all should have our say as to what goes on and the range of possible solutions to any given issue should not be strictly two-sided.

(R) You can see where I'm going with this. I would be delighted to see in every election, the White House occupant belonging to an opposite party from the legislative majority, solely to preserve the gridlock. If either main party were given a free hand to accomplish their goals, I'm convinced that the result would be to the deteriment of society. The best way to prevent the extremists on either side from advancing their cause is to block them with extremists from the other side. That way, only the moderate (and hopefully, better reasoned--or at least more acceptable to a larger majority) positions can advance.
(MB) I see what you're saying, but I don't think that will work well in practice. If both sides are infested with extremists, there will be little room for the venerable system of compromise since neither side will be very willing to budge from their views. We shouldn't be electing extremists in the first place. A one-issue candidate should be a pariah at the voting booth.

(R) So in a way, I guess I'm saying God Bless Gridlock. May the Sea of Red Tape never be parted! Every time I hear that a party's major initiative or primary cause is being blocked, delayed, and frustrated by the opposing party, I take heart. The system--flawed, unbalanced, and confusing though it is, and certainly in need of reform in many areas--still works, exercising restraint over the zealots and forcing compromise and moderation in politics. Whether your man or mine wins the next election, here's hoping that the pace of reform remains slow and steady.
(MB) I think that the country is in good enough shape after 200+ years that there is no need for massive, sweeping and sudden changes in the system. There can always be minor tweaks to smooth out the rough spots, but, I think that one venerable rule still applies: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". In my humble opinion, this is where the Clinton gang makes their biggest mistakes. Their biggest "success" has actually come from relative inaction in that they didn't mess around with the economic boom that began under Reagan and Bush. When they try to make drastic changes or do "great" things, they fail miserably. See health care, military "reform", and Bosnia/Yugoslavia for examples.

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