Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Silly Season, Part I: Politics As Usual

Put no trust in princes, in any one
Who has no power to save
Psalm 146: 1

Let me say from the outset that, though I may refer to the current unpleasantness, and I may ramble on about it from time to time in other posts, that it's not primarily (of course it was) about the outcome of the Democratic party's Presidential selection process. I have been disgusted, almost without exception with the choices on both sides since 1964--more so with Republicans, surely--this season is not the worst I remember, by far. I have high standards for such; the first choice I was offered by the American political process was Humbert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace.

The questions that have intrigued me, and continue to do so, are those dealing with why it seems to be the case that our party system only rarely offers any good candidates, and usually only one at a time. I incline to the view that the last good President was FDR, who was hardly without fault: personal or political; since WWII they have ranged from "tolerable, given the context" to "shockingly horrendous". Is this due to the pernicious influence of the bad post-war policies and politics that helped create and sustain the Cold War; that is, have our goals been such that good candidates and policies are sifted out long before they reach national prominence? Or is it our two-party system, and the groups that have dominated it for the last century and a half? Do we deserve better candidates, or are we, as we like sometimes to think, part of the problem? Or maybe it's just the media, mainstream or "liberal" or corporate--plug in your favorite villain.

Still, as one European paper put it in a 2004 cover story on our most recent choice for President, how can that many people cast such a stupid vote? Put it another way; it's not just that the choice looks like Clinton or Obama vs. McCain, it's why and how these three people have been selected to be our choices to lead this nation. What I think I looking for, in this silly season, is not so much a candidate or a policy to support, no matter how much I may want the U S out of Iraq, but to identify signs of hope in the political process. How will we begin to know when "things" are getting better? From whence does our relief come? How are we to read "the signs of the times" to do those things which we may, "from the bottom up," in our local contexts, to improve our lot? Voting doesn't seem to change much, however necessary it may be, if only to prevent the kinds of disasters we have recently been subjected to.


Paul said...

While I find much to discourage me, daily, I see at least two signs of hope at the moment.

One is the flocking of youth to vote. I do not know how much credit Obama or anyone else should get for this, but I find it heartening.

The other was the large turnout we are seeing in state after state. There has been so much apathy among the American electorate and our turnout stats have historically been miserable and embarrassing among the nations of the world. Yet, in the recent caucus in New Mexico (yes, I know, still counting the votes; please, NM's rep is sad enough without picking on us) there were lines and people waiting, often out in the cold, for anywhere from half an hour to two hours to vote. And they did so in good spirits, eager to cast their ballots.

These may not be sufficient signs of this nation turning around but they speak to me of the American People wanting their voices heard and counted. Who knows, we make take our country back. After all, the authority for our Constitution is the People.

(Yeah, I'm a cockeyed optimist, I know.)

Grandmère Mimi said...

The wonder to me is that anyone would want to follow Bush as president. As to whether our political system can be rescued, I don't know.

It will happen only when enough folks care more about the common good, than their own peculiar circumstances. Many of our choices in the near future will be moral choices. Not religious choices, but moral choices, choices about justice, kindness, and humility.

Do we, as a people, have enough of a commitment to make moral choices? I doubt it. Self-interest may take us a way down the road to recovery, but not far enough.

I hardly see how we could have a worse president than Bush, but I have the sinking feeling that if McCain is elected, it might be possible.

From whence does our relief come?

From ourselves, or it doesn't come at all. There is no politician who will save us from ourselves.

Paul said...

Mimi is always good for a dose of reality.