Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A House and Senate Divided

Tonight I watched Jim Lehrer on the PBS NewsHour interview President Obama on the eve of Christmas Eve. After much discussion of the Health Care debate and the three votes 60 to 40 in the Senate, Lehrer asked the President if he as President of the United States could do anything about the current abuse of the Senate's filibuster rule. Unlike the historical background of this rule, in 2009 just about everything that comes up in the Senate is now subjected to the paralyzing invocation of an organized partisan filibuster.

The President replied about his experience as a Senator and talked about putting oneself in the other party's shoes. He thinks the country soon will express disfavor on the practice that handicaps efforts for the government to address its urgent matters. As he put it, "Governance is more important than Politics."

Watching this President from Illinois put me in mind of another Illinoisan
one hundred and fifty one years ago. In the 1858 U.S. Senate race Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln debated Senator Stephen Douglas and a speech of his from that campaign has become known as "The House Divided Speech." I went over to Google and read the transcript of this historic event. The subject was the expansion of slavery into the territories as the nation then was growing westward. Lincoln discusses the alternatives before them. He quoted Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, "No house divided against itself will stand."
Lincoln simply said, "A house divided against itself will fall." And he concluded, "It will not continue to be divided."

From the Bible I read in full at Matthew 12:25:

Knowing their thoughts he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand."

Moving from the First Century to the Ninteenth to the Twenty First Century, I can see the American Government in its present crisis of partisan combat setting up a such a "fall" as Lincoln spoke about - shortly before he became the War President to settle the slavery question finally - through bloody civil warfare.

Today our national challenges include health insurance reform, war policy in the Middle East, global climate and energy choices, deep recession, high unemployment, and a huge national debt. We are at a crossroads.

Will the people rise up and demand intelligent leaders to speak the truth that all need to hear? Stay tuned in the next decade.

Happy New Year, I hope.

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