Jerry Kremer

American politics is in the gutter

Posted

I follow the developments in the political world to keep myself up to date on the issues. Sadly, the more I read, the more I’m convinced that the American political system has been poisoned by aggressive partisan politics and legislative gridlock. Some of you will say that it’s been that way for a long time, but as a factual matter, today’s politics have reached an all-time low.
I served in state government for 23 years. During that time, I was fortunate to have been a part of the legislative leadership. On countless occasions I would accompany the Democratic Assembly speaker to a meeting with the Republican State Senate majority leader. During those meetings, we would go over our legislative wish lists and agree on what legislation could be passed in both houses. When the meetings ended, we shook hands and moved forward on an agreed agenda.
There are so many things wrong with the American political system today that it’s hard to pick the worst examples. Congress is inhabited by a bunch of do-nothings. The Republican members have tied their fortunes to former President Donald Trump. They live in constant fear of antagonizing Trump, and of having him seek primary opponents to oust them. They have pretended to buy into the bogus claim that the election was stolen and promote the lie, even though they privately admit that the election was fair.
The Democratic Party doesn’t deserve any accolades, either. A small group of progressives is torpedoing the programs of their own president and refusing to accept any compromise. President Biden’s Build Back Better proposal contains many programs that should be embraced by elected officials in both parties. Everyone knows that child care is critical for working mothers. The nation needs better-funded child care programs now. Biden has proposed that there be free tuition at community colleges. That could help many young people get a start toward a career.
For the past 20-plus years, there has been an ongoing debate about allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug costs, and that idea should be a winner. But the drug company lobbyists have contributed heavily to the campaigns of many members of Congress, and this proposal will die in committee.

I’ve been voting since age 18, and I never once heard anyone criticize the voting process. Some candidates have won or lost elections by a handful of votes, and they have accepted the results. For the first time ever, our voting system is being challenged by the former president, who refuses to accept the fact that he lost fair and square. At his suggestion, a number of states have been forced to do audits of the 2020 election results, and all of the audits show that the election was conducted honestly. Thanks to Trump’s campaign against the ballot process, dozens of hardworking election officials have gotten death threats.
The partisan poison has been responsible for making our health care system a red state-blue state battle. Most of the states headed by Republican governors have refused to encourage people to wear masks or get vaccinated. Emergency rooms in their states are at capacity and emergency surgical procedures have been denied to their residents. Every day there is a new story about families losing loved ones due to their failure to be vaccinated. Those tragedies could have been avoided if the system had not been politicized.
The vitriol created by the former president has even found its way down to the local level. School board members have been verbally attacked over mask requirements and faced threats of physical harm. It is horrible to think that America’s political system has sunk this far. Maybe the voting public will awaken before it’s too late to stop the avalanche of partisan fighting. Let’s hope so.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.

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