The Beltway Beast

One cannot underestimate the power of the Beltway Beast, whose tentacles tap into every city, county, and state. But there is so much more to the Beltway Beast's immensity and complexity. The Beltway consists of Washington, D.C., and surrounding counties, and the Beast includes defense contractors, lobbyists, Wall Street, think tanks, advocacy groups, journalists, foreign agents, and everyone else who wants something from our government. All of these congregate in the Beltway and are actively engaged in soliciting legislative favors and taxpayers' money. Then there is Congress and the White House, which both need the lobbyists and Wall Street for campaign funds. All of these groups are living in a bubble that makes the Beltway Beast.

Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey described Washington as 26 square miles surrounded by reality. In the words of Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, today's Washington has become a "permanent feudal class," a massive, self-sustaining entity that sucks people in, nurtures addiction to its spoils, and imposes a peculiar psychology on big fish and minnows alike. The Beltway Beast is controlled by two major parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Last night's election results show that the political infighting and policies against middle-class America will continue and that nothing will change.

Honorable people go to Washington filled with idealism but immediately find themselves enmeshed in tribal warfare instead. They go to Washington to serve their country only to realize that Washington has its own universe, one that is far removed from the daily realities of America. They find themselves unable to function in any meaningful sense apart from the unwritten rules and expectations of the two-party system. Consequently, before they can make a difference, they get sucked into the belly of the Beltway Beast and become part of its machinery. The preservation, perpetuation, and enshrinement of the Beast become an end in itself where getting elected, not serving people, is the priority.

The Beltway Beast has its own logic that often defies common sense, where our leaders are considered "patriotic" when they send our soldiers to get killed in a war based on flawed policies, while those who oppose the war are considered "unpatriotic"; where pulling the gun seems to be the first step to solve international problems; where the way to win the hearts and minds of people is by occupying their country and bombing them; and where a president is considered "weak" unless he takes military action in the international conflicts that are regional or civil wars.

We have been conditioned by both major parties to believe that a two-party monopoly is best for the country. This may have been true in the 20th century, but not in the 21st century, as reflected by recent polls showing that a record 42 percent of Americans do not identify with either party. The dissatisfaction and the anger with Washington reflected in yesterday's exit polls offer the best opportunity to think anew and start supporting a mainstream third party that speaks for all Americans.