Words of Wisdom

March 6th, 2010

by Jane Thomas

I’ve been reading Zell Miller’s book, A National Party No More, and, although I think he is a conflicted man in his approach to politics, he makes some very interesting comments on the process in the Senate. This book was published in 2003, but his comments resonate even more today.

He tells that shortly after he arrived in the Senate he was approached by Senator Joe Biden who told him new members of the Senate with gubernatorial experience tended to go through three phases. The first was disbelief regarding legislation and how decisions are made. The second was anger and a desire to reform the system to make it more efficient and transparent. The third phase was acceptance of the system as it currently exists.

Miller wrote that he never reached the third phase:

I’m still angry because of the petty partisanship on both sides of the aisle. Angry that one single senator representing less than one-fifth of 1 percent of the American people can stop any president of the United States from making a crucial appointment to his own team.

I’m angry because of the thoughtless and needless waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Angry because soft money—big money—from special interests to both parties controls things in a way that is nothing short of bribery. Angry that this money pays for cynical consultants who sneeringly brag, “We do campaigns; we don’t do government.”

I’m angry at a process in which 59 votes out of 100 cannot pass a bill because 41 votes out of 100 can defeat it.

In recent years, the process has become so politicized and so polarized and so ingrained that we cannot even put it aside in time of war. It is a system that “Cuisinarts” individual thought into a mushy party pudding—a system that expects one to go along with the team even if the quarterback is calling the wrong signals.

One of these days, someone, smarter and younger and more articulate than I, is going to get through to the American people just how really messed up the federal government has become.”

Jane Thomas has a B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University and a Master of Letters from Kings College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She has taught at the high school and college levels in the US, Thailand, and Scotland. She’s now an archivist and does research on terrorism and disaster recovery.

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6 Responses to “Words of Wisdom”

  1. Brianna |

    “I’m angry at a process in which 59 votes out of 100 cannot pass a bill because 41 votes out of 100 can defeat it.”

    Really? I’m not. Contrary to the positions of so many these days, the Republic is not and was never intended to be a democracy, and was never intended to be ruled solely by the will of the majority.


    Okay, I’m reading this guy’s bio on Wikipedia and it’s interesting. Supported segergation in unsuccessful 1964 and 1966 House election bids. Supported a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, but also supported legislation that would have called violence against people because of their sexual orientation a hate crime. Also supported a repeal of the 17th Amendment. Supported the Bush tax cuts, and supported Bush in 2004 election. Wanted to create a “Council of Decency” to advise the FCC on “standards of decency in broadcasting.” Fiscally conservative, former Marine, endorsed a Republican to replace his Senate seat. An interesting character. Not necessarily one I’d support, but I think he’s basically honest.

    I must say though, after reading your “State of the Union From the Kitchen Table” article, that I’m rather surprised to find you holding him up here.

  2. larry |

    Miller would find that many of us feel the same disdain for national politics that he does.
    The system is completely out of control with little chance of being corrected. The average citizen has little hope of single handily changing anything. Those that attempt to change the system are ridiculed and labeled as backward and uneducated. Trying to stand up for America is being made more difficult with each passing day. Maybe the Tea Party movement will take hold but for now a lot of us are just tired and disheartened.

  3. Tom |

    I don’t agree with many of Zell Miller’s political positions, but I admire his honesty, integrity, and willingness to speak his mind without regard to the political consequences. We could use more politicians like that.

    Miller, a Marine (there’s no such thing as an “ex-Marine”), forever endeared himself to me in 2004 by calling out John Kerry for the scumbag dunderhead he is. By telling the truth, he proved that the country was more important to him than his political party.

    Finally, in an interview during the 2004 Republican convention, he came very close to challenging Chris Matthews to a duel. It doesn’t get any better than that!

  4. Brianna |

    there’s no such thing as an “ex-Marine”

    Yes, I know; you’re not an ex-Marine unless you try to kill the President.

  5. Tom |

    Well, yeah, I guess in that case…. Lee Harvey Oswald, scumbag that he was, had been in the Marine Corps. And he was not a particularly good marksman, either.

    But, to offest Oswald, two other “ex” (there is no such thing) Marines saved or helped save presidents’ lives during assassination attempts — Billy Sipple saved President Ford in San Francisco, and Joseph Downs helped save President Truman outside Blair House in Washington. Maybe that gets things back in balance….

  6. Brianna |

    Tom, that’s just what a Marine friend of mine said when I accidentally referred to him as an ex-Marine. Though of course, since he’s re-joining as an officer (he was enlisted before), I can’t even call him a former marine anymore 🙂

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