Just how divided is Congress? A political film débuting in November, Patriocracy, tackles that thorny subject. Featuring an expert cast of Senators, Representatives and journalists, Patriocracy outlines the extreme polarization plaguing America and preventing lawmakers from addressing some of our most critical issues.
This gridlock did not happen over night. “These last couple of years are the worst and the nastiest and the meanest that I can remember in the 41 years I’ve been in Washington,” says CBS News’ Bob Schieffer in the film.
Produced by Brian Malone and executive produced by Stephen Nemeth, Patriocracy identifies numerous causes for the discord. For example, is it really a blessing that 21st Century Americans have access to a multitude of news outlets? He film does an excellent job of studying how commentary disguised as news increases partisan behaviors.
Commentary disguised as news
The film analyzes the same news story covered by two different networks. Both networks display their political leanings, resulting in facts being misused, the film argues. It’s human nature to follow sources that share similar beliefs, the film stresses. The problem is conservatives are strictly getting news from conservative-leaning sources and liberals are sticking to liberal-leaning sources. If individuals fail to seek a well-rounded news palate, then confusion ensues, the filmmakers warn
Patriocracy also focuses on another root of the problem: The 535 Members of Congress mostly are strangers to each other. In the film, former Oklahoma Congressman Mickey Edwards explains, “What we have is a partisan problem.” People get elected thinking “how does this affect my political party.” Patriocracy traces how friendships across party lines have decreased compared to times in the past.
According to Congressman Jason Altmire, a member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, “We have allowed the partisan divide in Congress to bring our action almost to a screeching halt.” Deals made over late night drinks in smoke filled rooms are scarce, he laments.
In fact, co-chairs of the powerful Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Jeb Hensarling, had never met until the 12 appointees gathered for the first time. This may be difficult to believe, but it is true. Most would bet that friendships and past relationships are a must if leaders of this “super committee” are to reach a deal cutting the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion during the next decade.
Quest for campaign cash
Lastly, Patriocracy identifies money as yet another reason for confusion and extreme polarization across the country. As the 2012 election season unfolds, more money than ever will be needed to run a campaign.
The increasing quest for cash is tied closely to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The court declared that political spending is a form of speech protected under the First Amendment, and that the government cannot prevent unions or large corporations from spending money to influence or support political candidates during elections.
Former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak sums it up saying, “If there’s a place where money is going to corrupt campaigns, the Citizens United decision did it.”
The film does not focus solely on dysfunction. It also explores movements and ideas that have surfaced as solutions to a crippling problem. Former Oklahoma Congressman Mickely Edwards offers a six-step plan calling for reform of the campaign finance laws, reform of Congressional committee appointments, open primaries, increased transparency, non-partisan congressional districting, more civic participation and parting with party allegiance.
While some ideas, may seem extreme, in Edwards opinion, fixing these issues will lead to a more agreeable political climate. Obviously, these solutions are not immediate fixes. If implemented, it will take time to know if any of these reforms will work and whether America might overcome these struggling political times.
As Senator Mark Warner of Virginia explains, “If we leave this to the activists on right or even on the left alone, then we are going to have more of the same.”
For more information about the film visit www.patriocracymovie.com. Be on the look out for Patriocracy’s world premier on November 5 at the Starz Denver International Film Festival.