When the right and the left agree more than the center, it tells us it's time to fix our very broken election system.
The sun didn't shine at midnight. Cats and dogs weren't lying together. But it was a topsy turvy world this week when progressives and freshman right wing congressmen were in close agreement that the Bush/Pelosi/Reid bailout was bad news.
The reasons may have differed-- Republicans opposed it because it was an affront to their conservative values, verging on socialism, and Progressives opposed it because it sold out mains street for Wall Street-- but it has created an interesting dynamic, one that is worthy of exploration.
If the opposite ends of the political spectrum agree to disagree with the middle, what does that tell us about the middle?
We know that not a single freshman Republican voted in support of the bailout bill. Yet even some of the most liberal Democrats went with their party leadership to pass it.
One thing that's clear is the Republicans have lost control of their people, while the Democrats had far more discipline. Since the Republican party has been so misguided lately, that may be a good thing for them. Of course with congressional ratings below 10 percent, perhaps the Dems could have used some rebellion too. The vote certainly did not help their popularity.
No, my enthusiasm for most of the congressional Democrats has waned even further than I thought possible. To me, they sold out the average American with this bailout and showed ever more of the same spinelessness, jumping when Bush told them to jump, being afraid and panicked when instructed to do so.
Some progressive congressional stalwarts stood up to the wave of panic- Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold-- but most caved and allowed the outrageous 450 page, pork-loaded bill pass, handing an obscene gift to Bush.
More than ever, America needs to institute term limits and new laws requiring equal treatment for third parties AND instant runoff voting, which lets you pick your first, second and third choices, and requires a majority victory. If you no-one wins on the first pass, then the candidate with the least votes is dropped from the count and the second choice of all voters who voted for the dropped candidate is counted. This way, voters can cast true protest votes or vote for third party candidates without throwing away their vote.
The advantage incumbent members of congress now have is bad for democracy, bad for America. We saw it here with this vote, where all of congress ignored the clear message they received from 90% of their constituents not to pass the bill.
By the way, I'd bet that Obama and McCain cut a deal that they'd both support the bill so neither could attack the other on it.
Now we sit and wait. It won't be long. Within a few days or weeks, we'll see more banks failing. I doubt the $700 billion will put a dent in or slow down the economic crisis we're experiencing. Too bad we can't, like we'd be able to do if there was instant run-off voting, send a message to our incumbent legislators, that they truly let us down. If we did have instant runoff voting, I bet that message would have become a landslide and a lot of incumbents either wouldn't be coming back or would be coming back quite chastened.