President George Walker Bush delivered his final State of the Union address on Monday evening. Within the first minute of his speech he noted that there are major issues that this country faces in regard to health care, the war and the economy.
Joking about the tendency of Washington to be filled with hot air, Bush remarked, “We have answered the call to debate.” The debate did not end with the president’s usual “God Bless America” at the end of his speech. In the tradition of modern politics, the Democratic party offered its response via Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat from Kansas.
Sebelius touched on many of the same issues that Bush did in his own speech. She spoke often of a “new American majority.” After each issue, she asked Bush to “join us.”
Perhaps it is true that there is in fact a new majority in America that sees eye-to-eye on every issue. Sebelius proclaimed that Americans have “no more patience with divisive politics.” With this new majority, that must not be an issue anymore.
However, it may be true that there really is not a true majority in America. There may be issues which are divided 55-45, but it is doubtful that there is an overwhelming public opinion on many issues that this country faces.
This is not a bad thing. Americans are diverse people. Sebelius even pointed this out in a way. She spoke often of Americans “in the heartland.” Many of them have different needs and different beliefs from city- and suburban-dwelling people.
This is not even to say that all people in either of these settings are the same. The point is that Americans are not all the same. In the same regard, they need the government for different purposes.
It is time Americans reconsider the relationship between state governments and the national government. Politicians need to embrace the differences among the states and reserve the national government for when it is truly in the interest of all people. State governments are often called “laboratories of democracy.”
States have an ability to try programs on smaller scales. When one state creates a successful program, many others are quick to follow suit. However, regional differences do exist, and sometimes programs need to be tweaked, or they do not take off because the people simply have no interest.
An example of this is the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Last year, Bush vetoed increased federal funding for this program. His opponents were quick to label Bush as being against children. However, the issue needs to be looked at in a different context. Bush did not veto increasing the funding for children’s health insurance.
He kept money out of Washington’s – and the Internal Revenue Service’s – hands. It is completely unnecessary to take more money from taxpayers all across America, bring it to Washington and then send it right back to the states.
If states want to increase funding for their own programs, they have every right to do so. In fact, they have a duty to their citizens to govern in their best interest. If the SCHIP programs are working yet underfunded, then the state governments are the ones who failed. The fact that the president has any role in this to begin with is utterly ridiculous.
This country does not need to be a “new American majority” on every issue in order to excel. In fact, it ought to embrace the differences among its citizens.
The partisan bickering that takes place in Washington is much more a result of the attempts to homogenize this country than anything else.
If the national government reserved its efforts for the most crucial issues – the ones that truly require unity from all the people – then it would be much more likely to lead a true American majority.
Ryan Bendinelli is a senior political science major from Millington, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]