As kids we learn at an early age that if we can change the question or the context we stand a chance of hiding the facts. You know we have all done it. For example: Mom: “John, have you done all of your homework?”John: ” Sort of, uh what’s for dinner? I hope it’s that great meat loaf you make.” Though he did not know the word for it, he was obfuscating. He was trying to muddy the waters and change the subject to avoid dealing with the reality. We have all observed adults doing the same exact thing. Some would say that this is the primary task of defense attorneys . Isn’t their job to provide the jury with a plausible alternative theory of the crime? We have also observed this kind of behavior on the international stage. It was particularly prevalent during the Cold War. The UN Security Council sessions during the Cuban Missile Crisis provided the world with an extraordinary example of Soviet obfuscation. Today we see Putin’s behavior following the downing of the Malaysian Airlines plane as another prime example of obfuscation. We have come to expect this kind of behavior on the international stage whether from North Korea, Hamas, Iran or the many other bad actors we must deal with. However, we have a right to expect more from our own elected officials
Max Weber, the noted 20th century economist and sociologist, stated that “politics is the art of compromise….” While our nation has been faced with many difficult choices during what has at times been a tumultuous history, our ability to ultimately compromise has been a hallmark of our democracy. Certainly, the Civil War is a major exception to this pattern and there have been other battles, but while not literally tearing the nation apart, have stretched the fabric of America to its limit. But the art of compromise has been an ideal respected and sought throughout most of our history. Yet, we seem to have lost our desire to achieve this goal over the past several years. On the one hand we are told that we are an extremely polarized society. Yet, on the other hand, polls on many social issues indicate consensus. There is consensus on gun control and immigration for example. I don’t need to provide you with the numbers, we all know them. Yet, when we look to Congress to enact legislation that reflects that consensus, all we see is obfuscation. Has ideology become a straightjacket that so confines our legislators that compromise has become impossible? Do our legislators truly reflect the attitudes of the many rather than the attitudes of the few to which they are beholden for their reelection? Has being reelected become so important that it overshadows the obligations inherent to the office? Is obfuscation the new art of politics because it is safer to take no action rather than take action and risk offending those who disagree with that action? Has, in fact, obfuscation become the new politics of survival for incumbents?
Whether or not this kind of behavior becomes the new standard for our representatives is up to we, the voters. We have a choice in November. We can reward those who have done everything possible to avoid taking action on critical issues confronting our nation and support them at the ballot box. However, if you are as disgusted as I am by the cowardly, dishonest and destructive behavior of the GOP leadership in Congress over the past five years, you will do everything in your power to send that message in November. The GOP leadership has clearly adopted obfuscation as their new definition of the art of politics. We need to show them that obfuscation is the road to defeat.