(by Justin Short, CCU Senior) North Korea has become a major foreign policy issue recently. It worsened almost immediately after Kim Jong Un became the leader and began making aggressive moves with their nuclear arsenal. Hindsight is 20/20, but it still needs to be said that North Korea could’ve been dealt with earlier. This is the lesson that must be applied to our domestic politics. It has become politically advantageous to avoid tough decisions and kick the problem down the road a few years, until the elected official has safely moved on to either retirement or a well-paid lobbyist position.
However, politics is downstream of culture, so the politicians do not bear all the blame. Americans have made procrastination a national past-time. We don’t save our money, we buy our Christmas gifts at the last minute, we put off car maintenance. Naturally, I’m not talking about you; I’m talking about your neighbor. Nor am I talking about your congressman; just the one a district over. In all seriousness though, politics does follow and reflect culture. Our American culture must change to one that rewards political leaders for courage and doesn’t re-elect those who demonstrate cowardice. This need is becoming clearer every day. Examining the North Korean crisis alongside several approaching domestic crises shows that need.
It is easy to focus on the very recent past, like the liberals criticizing President Donald Trump’s rhetoric or conservatives pointing fingers at Former President Barack Obama’s negligence in dealing with North Korea. However, North Korea has been opposed to the United States since the armistice in the Korean War. This has been a decades-long train wreck in process as the North Koreans have continued to pursue a nuclear warhead and the missiles to send it anywhere in the world. It has grown exponentially more dangerous after a change in the North Korean leadership. The North Koreans may now possess the ability to produce thermonuclear weapons and miniaturize them, which is a deadly threat.
At this point, there are no good options. But the options that exist are the same as they were decades ago, when our Presidents were the Bush’s and President Clinton. Domestically, we have many situations in which Americans desire leadership and solutions. Those demands have not been met and they present the same problem North Korea does: an unpleasant situation growing exponentially worse very quickly. Look to this brief list of problems that politicians have and will continue to kick down the road until we make it better to lead.
The Republican party promised for years to repeal Obamacare. Now that they have the opportunity, there is far too much division in the party to present a working legislative solution. To make matters worse, no Democrat would compromise in the current political climate.
Social Security is slowly but painfully running out of money. While the numbers and estimates may vary, the consensus is that in a decade or two the Social Security trust will be out of money. After that, it will rely on tax revenue to pay its obligations and will not have enough for all its payees.
It is fashionable for the minority party to criticize the growing federal deficit but when given power they make little effort to cut the deficit.
The enormous federal tax code is another topic that needs serious work. While its estimates of length vary by source (and the source’s political bias) most American’s want something to be done about it.
The immigration system needs reforming to better serve our national interests, but both parties tie any reform to their positions on illegal immigration, making it a poison pill for the opposite party.
Our politicians love all these issues because they can make grand statements and appear to be the reasonable ones on these issues. Politicians must be pushed to act, rather than just appear. Americans must decide that if we want our politicians to lead on these pressing issues, we need to make it more politically advantageous to do so than to kick the can down the road. Any future politicians we elect will be affected by changes in our culture. Changing the American culture to encourage tough decisions and not put off responsibility will yield results in the future. Most people have no grand ability to influence culture through their media presence, but lots of people have influence in their church, family, and local associations. This ideal of personal responsibility is quintessentially American. It is also fading. Politics is downstream of culture; a revival in personal responsibility in culture will lead to one in our politics.