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American pendulum and political change
February 17, 2017, 05:00 AM By Jon Mays

Change is difficult to accept for many. Some embrace it, others loathe it. It depends much on what type of change is occurring as well.

In the case of our new president, many in these parts are less than enthusiastic about his actions, his statements, his decisions and his proposals. Others, even around here, like the change and are emboldened by it.

People talk about being in bubbles, especially in areas where many are like-minded, but the United States is a very large nation with divergent interests and character. Change is bound to happen, even though we remain on a progressive arc established at the beginning of the 20th century. In that arc, there has been progress in equality, and also a growth of social programs and the cost associated with that.

In recent years, our nation veered to the left under the guidance of President Barack Obama. Even he evolved over time from his previous stance against same-sex marriage to being firmly for it. That bending of the arc further to the left created an inevitable hard right we are now experiencing. For many, it’s frightening. For many, it’s exciting. It is change for all.

But it is now part of our collective experience and conjoining onto that pendulum that is the American experiment. In the 2000 election, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that George W. Bush was to be president after a dispute over the vote count in Florida. Because of the balance of the Supreme Court at that time based on appointments of previous presidents and approval of previous congresses, it could be argued that the decision was meant to be — the nation’s balance of power was slightly to the right at the time. In the most recent election, the popular vote was won by Hillary Clinton, while the Electoral College vote was won by Donald Trump — and thus our president is the Republican candidate. The movement to change the Electoral College may get momentum, but it will not be a quick process — just as the shifting of power is not usually a quick process. But the pendulum has taken a hard right, and that can be jarring. Change, especially this type of change, can be hard.

It is important to note, however, that the American style of democracy, with its checks and balances never allows too much change too quickly and never allows one particular branch of government to have too much power. Look back, for instance, on the makeup of two of the branches after the 2008 election, in which the Democratic party had control of the executive and legislative branch. That changed within two years, in part, it could be argued, because of an overreach when it came to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law in March 2010, that is such a hot topic to this day.

New presidents always try to hit the ground running to enact their policies. No president did that more than Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. His first act was to pass the Emergency Banking Relief Act within eight hours and call a special session of Congress. After that, it was a whirlwind with the beginning of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Federal Emergency Relief Act and other New Deal measures. Obama too was on a quest centered largely in part because of the crumbling economy. In his first two years, he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in reaction to the Great Recession. Granted both Roosevelt and Obama were responding to severe economic conditions, but it could be argued Trump is doing the same for significant areas of the nation. It’s hard to see that here where we are dealing with the opposite problem of too much economic growth.

Trump definitely started out with a bang, and some of his decisions have been called into question by the courts, the media and the public. And those questions have led to a change of course. That too is part of the American process.

While there is a definite concern that change could devolve into chaos — since it is simply not sustainable to continue the current frenetic energy coming from the executive branch — a period of stasis is inevitable. That could mean disappointment for those enthusiastic about the pace but it could also mean solace for those concerned, and even alarmed, by it. Whichever camp you are in, it is important to note that while the political pendulum swings in this country, there are mechanisms in place to assure it does not get off track. Keeping this in mind is important, as is the ability to keep discourse civil and productive. It is the only true path in the United States toward progress, however you personally define that.

Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jon@smdailyjournal.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.



Tags: change, could, president, american, previous, process,

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