For my entire adult life, I have been, politically, a conservative. By my measure, anyway. Hard to know what that really means any more and I identify not at all with the Republican Party as presently constructed. My political beliefs are rooted in fiscal responsibility, a minimum of government intervention and self-reliance. At the same time, I've supported many socially-conscious issues, with the caveat that they are efficiently run and targeted to those in need, rather than the wasteful "throwing money at a problem" ethos so popular with our leaders. I've long tired of the primary "issues" being abortion and other polarizing politics, such as gay marriage. It is my belief that, regardless of your position on either, it is not the government's business to legislate such personal choice. I mean, I'm against abortion. For me. I don't like it. It's also not my place to judge or restrict others in situations that are not my own.
There's euphoria in the country today. Mourning, as well. An historic result, to be sure. But, and forgive me for waking up on the cynical side of the bed, that's all it is.
I read some overseas papers this morning and nearly all glowed about "America's capacity for change." Interesting. As I see it, President-elect Obama did indeed tap into a simmering resentment of the direction this country is heading. The result illustrates the electorate demanded a shift in priorities.
We are in a big heap of shit right now on every front. Hell, it took the Russians less than 8 hours to put out a big raise. Under the gun. And so it begins...
My skepticism amidst the flag-waving is not an affront to Mr. Obama. When I assess his value to the country, the top vote-getter is that he has engaged the nation like no candidate in my lifetime. There's an energy among the electorate that's new. And wildly important. But it must continue. Because what will rescue this country is not altering the income tax or universal health care or peace abroad. A president working within the confines of our political system can not reverse our course unless he destroys the system from the inside out and completely changes the way our country is governed.
Yes we can?
Doubtful. Because the people we elected yesterday all have an investment in keeping the status quo. It's not a system that changes every four years, not a system that changes with a new party in power. It's a system that needs to be torn down.
So...how engaged are you?
I've read/heard a lot of sentiments along the line of, "That was invigorating but I'm glad it's over." It. Is. Not. Over. It is never over. Mr. Obama has drawn us into the discussion. And now our voices need to be heard louder than ever.
Special interests drive government policy. Not the citizens of this country. We get to speak every four (or two or six) years, our only true referendum to shout our opinions, but after the balloons pop and the streamers are swept up, we go back to satisfied malaise. Which is how they want it. During the campaign, we've been made to feel important. Seduced, aroused, infuriated. Engaged. Now we're sated. But the people with the checkbooks, the oil companies and the health care industry and the vampires on K Street are at work this morning trying to get theirs.
Our government is ineffectual, a sloppy morass of competing goals, backroom winks and dissemblance. Partisan politics, polarization of the electorate and laser focus on fringe issues allows our leaders to slip curveballs by us with frightening consistency, keeps monied interests wiping their asses with hundred dollar bills while you and I sweat out an unexpected expense. Many of us have faithfully pursued the American Dream, only to find ourselves awash in difficulty and confusion. You may have placed 20 years--and your faith--in your employer and watched them cut your benefits and pension to maintain the appearance of profitability for their investors. You may have moved to a neighborhood to give your children a better life only to see fiscal irresponsibility cause debilitating cutbacks in local services and schools, teachers to be fired, out-dated learning materials. You may have carefully adopted a retirement strategy, only to watch your nest egg plummet thanks to wild mis-management in the finance industry, knowing you can't rely on Social Security. You may wonder what it is you can do?
No single man can not turn this ship around. Three-hundred million men women and children might have a shot.