March 9, 2010

Hope, Change, Yadda Yadda Yadda

Though it often seems much longer ago, a little over a year has passed since Barack Obama took the oath of office after riding a tidal wave of buzzwords like hope and change into Washington. I personally hoped he'd be able to deliver but, objectively speaking, it's impossible to tell since the political gridlock in Washington has made it virtually impossible to get anything done.

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I used to think there was something noble about politics, something very Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in this town. Maybe it's just because I'm older or the system is wearing me down, but I'm beginning to think that where politics might have been a noble, admirable profession, it's now only driven by money and ego. I know, I'm 37 and should have come to this conclusion much sooner but I'm a hopeless optimist. This realization really bums me out.

I'm not even going to point fingers here. There's more than enough blame to go around. Republicans are falling all over themselves to block anything from being changed at all, even if it somehow benefits the people of the United States, while the Democrats can't seem to get organized enough to take their collective thumbs out of their collective asses and make a persuasive enough argument to the American people about why things should change. And instead of trying to sort out what's best for the people who put them in office, all any of them seem to be able to do is argue like a bunch of five year olds on a playground. Though they have a very large playground and their arguments are featured on the 6:00 news.

I'm sick of the bitching. I'm sick of the fighting. I'm sick of the ego-centrism. And, most of all, I'm sick of the fact that these people - the people we have elected to go to Washington and do a good job on our behalf because all of us wouldn't fit in Washington and if we all tried my commute would be a bitch - lose sight of the fact that they're elected public servants on, like, day two they're in the District.

I'm not at all a reactionary but when they're up for re-election I say we fire them all. And let's reopen the conversation about term limits. Except we can't leave it up to Congress. That's kind of like trusting Tiger Woods to keep his putter to himself when he walks by a cocktail waitress. Instead of electing people with flashy campaigns, Aaron Sorkin-like speeches and buzzwords aplenty (I'm not necessarily talking about Obama - I voted for him and would do it again), lets find some people who value the country over themselves, our paychecks over their own, our jobs more than theirs.

I ask you - is the country and the world better off than it was last year? How about your personally?

Posted by Chris at March 9, 2010 7:31 AM
Comments

I also am extremely discouraged with our elected public servants. It seems all they can worry about is getting re-elected and making sure that the other party fails or is blamed for anything bad that happens. I am also an Obama supporter and would vote for him again. What is even more discouraging is that the name calling/inability to accomplish anything has spread down into local politics here (in NC). What happened to compromise and working together? When did everything political become so divisive? (I kind of blame Karl Rove, but I am 50 yrs old and should really have figured this out long before now)

Posted by: beth anne at March 9, 2010 8:18 AM

You made it to 37 before you became disillusioned? I hit that point way back in the 90s.

Personally I'm better off now that I was a year ago. The US, not so much. The world may be in a little better place. It doesn't get much play in the US press, but friends from foreign lands tell me that Obama has made a lot of progress in restoring our image with the rest of the world.

So we got that going for us.

Posted by: COD at March 9, 2010 8:37 AM

I love the idea of term limits, finally something we can agree on. I am about the same as last year.

Posted by: linda at March 9, 2010 8:48 AM

I'm still backing Obama, and would also support him for another term. I'm just happy that we now have a president that is upfront about our problems and isn't pussyfooting around the issue. One day at a time...we didn't get in this situation overnight and it sure as hell isn't going to be fixed overnight.

Posted by: Michelle at March 9, 2010 8:57 AM

Oh, Chris, I hate it when someone gets as cynical as I am. And I mean that. :(

Posted by: alektra at March 9, 2010 9:38 AM

Depressing, isn't it. Personally, we're a little better off; mainly because we live on a very small, fixed (so far) income and our needs are few.

Term limits? I understand what you're saying but I've never liked term limits. They sweep out the good right along with the bad. I'd much rather campaign for election finance reform although with the recent Supreme Court decision it may now be next to impossible. One of our better (in my opinion) Presidents served three full terms and was into a fourth. To make sure that never happened again, term limits were added to the constitution.

There are better ways to remove folks from office. I might, for example, go along with a mandatory retirement age. Maybe.

We have term limits for our State and many local offices. It doesn't seem to have made any difference. We're having a gubernatorial election this year and the ads of the two Republican candidates trying to out tea party each other for the primary make me cringe. Probably running for the Democrats? My long time hero Jerry Brown who is in his 70's now. Good grief. Much as I hate to say it, we'd be better off keeping Arnold who has had a much better second term than his first.

And still I keep writing letters and making phone calls. The only way for evil to triumph is for good men/women to do nothing.

Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at March 9, 2010 9:52 AM

Meh, disillusion came a while ago for me.

Unfortunately, our problems are far worse than whatever little economic, political and social hiccups we have been having these past four/five years. As a country we are in the wringer and a washer and bolt fell off so we can't get it back online and out of this mess. Globally, I think that not enough understand what is going on to realize that the problem is not 'just ours'.

And then you have idiots like Eric Massa and Sarah "Wrapped in a Flag, Carrying the Cross" Palin running around.

I support not only Obama, but this administration. Harry Truman once said, "Whenever you have efficient government, you have a dictatorship." AND, since we are not going that route, we should take the next best thing. Relinquish a little control as a people to get ourselves back as a country.

Posted by: Angelica at March 9, 2010 10:16 AM

Chris,

hang in there. This too shall pass.

Austin

Posted by: metawizard at March 9, 2010 11:06 AM

I've been a political cynic since I don't know when. I retain hope, but I'm often disappointed. I'm blessed in that I'm positioned so that I don't need change very much, but I do wish it for those who need it. And I despair that we will ever be serving the poor like we should.

Posted by: Brooke at March 9, 2010 12:05 PM

Television has gone a long way towards messing up our government in my opinion, when the best you could do was read about the candidates in the paper it was a little more honest I think. Now everyone campaigns in sound bytes. Term limits? I don't know. I have to agree with the above poster who pointed out that it sweeps out the good with the bad. Maybe if there was a way to turn serving in office into a sacrifice - something hard and not monetarily rewarding. How about elective officials’ earning minimum wage? Public servant doesn’t really seem to work as a descriptor anymore, more like living high on the hog on the public’s back. About finding people who value the country and other people more then themselves….I’m pretty sure those people don’t run for office anymore.

The country is probably a little better; the world a little worse; and personally we are a little worse too. We knew our finances we going to take a hit with another baby, the reduction in my husband’s hours hurt but it balances a little, with less daycare needed. I just had to go back to work earlier. You just have to do what you have to do.

Posted by: traceyVA at March 9, 2010 12:07 PM

I am a democrat, my dad a republican, and the only thing the two of us can agree on, is that the entire damn congress needs to be fired and replaced. Seriously, shit or get off the pot.

Posted by: Jen at March 9, 2010 1:12 PM

I'm with you they should all be fired. I personally did NOT vote for him, my vote was for the libertarian group. Not that they are any better. I tried to make my vote based on religion. Yes! I am one of "those" ppl. Judge me if you will.

Posted by: soccermom at March 9, 2010 1:36 PM

Yeah, what you said. Exactly.

Posted by: Jess at March 9, 2010 1:36 PM

Gee whiz, term limits. Another "idea" that absolves voters of any responsibility to think or act except for punching a few chads every two years. Yeah, let's dumb it down even more. Excellent.

I don't know why voters have this magical view of their representatives -- that they're saviors until the instant they take office, then they turn to the dark side. Our legislators are human beings like everyone else. When they go to their offices each day, they pay attention to the people who most often demand their attention. Usually, these are special interest lobbyists. They make friends --other representatives-- and try to please their friends by voting on their friends' pet projects, hoping for favors in return. They want to get reelected, yes, so they listen to those who have money to reelect them.

Now, you say term limits will solve this problem. Ha! It only intensifies the focus on elections and electability, instead of rewarding the representatives who actually do good work.

If you want change, you have to *push* your representatives to work for you. Don't just leave them to listen to lobbyists their whole term (and it's only going to get worse now that corporations can pour money into the political system). Call your congressperson, write letters, attend town halls, form meetup groups. Make them listen to you. Like anything in life, if you put no effort in, you're not going to get much out.

The problem is, everyone is busy these days. But look at Maine, which, for such a small state, has produced so many independent, conscientious, and influential senators. Personally, I think this is because Maine's democratic system is a bit more direct; people there, as a general rule, are less corporate-focused, less beholden to their jobs. They have time to participate in the democratic process, and they do. They expect a lot in return, rather than give in to easy cynicism.

But also, once they find good people, they keep 'em in office, allowing their representatives to grow and mature in their jobs, to hone their legislative skills, and to wield the influence that seniority brings. Term limits would bring about the exact opposite results.


Posted by: Laura at March 9, 2010 1:37 PM

I tried to say that exact same thing to my dad the other day, except I was much less eloquent.

I still believe in the big things Obama wants to do, even if I may differ in some of the small details. And it pisses me off that the people who claim he hasn't gotten crap done are the same ones who mock every idea he has and block every change he tries to make.

It's unfortunate that (IMO) it takes a certain kind of person(ality) to run for public office, and it's those same traits that seem to make the worst politicians.

Posted by: Becky at March 9, 2010 1:59 PM

Very discouraged as now is not the time for political gridlock. I feel they can't help themselves. Favor of term limits, but when push comes to shove--rarely do they get the boot. Far too many are suffering with the economy, layoffs and the housing fallout. This is hitting many families hard. I can't complain though, my family is doing great.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at March 9, 2010 2:18 PM

Me? I come from a family that debates politics the way other families chat about the weather, so we tend to become cynical well before reaching the age where we can vote.

Having said that, up here in Canada we currently have a minority government that seems to spend all their time exploiting loopholes in parliamentary law to a) stay in power and b) push their (minority) agenda, leaving as little room as possible for debate or consideration for the consequences of their decisions. They just spent three months with the government suspended, hoping we'd forget why we were angry with them. Judging by the protests it didn't seem to work, at least where I live.

I hope the "opposing for the sake of opposing" gridlock eases up for you, though.

Posted by: Kat at March 9, 2010 6:23 PM

I'm seeing a few more "Now Hiring" signs now than I did a year ago in retail stores. So that's encouraging. But that's about the only real difference I can detect.
I was skeptical about Obama's campaign because it seemed to me that there was this illusion that the president had more control over things like policy and economy than he actually does. Whatever the president may WANT to do, mostly it comes down to congress, which is exactly as you described them.

Posted by: Amy at March 9, 2010 8:16 PM

I think the system made a lot more sense before career politicians, maybe ... I don't know. It's all a bit depressing, really :P

Posted by: Heather at March 9, 2010 8:57 PM

Amen.
I'm so disappointed that health care did not get passed when the Dems had full control of the house and senate. Shame on them.

Posted by: Wackado at March 12, 2010 3:57 PM

Loved this piece.

I live in SA and right now your politicians look like saints next to our. Our president has 20 kids, 4 wives and 1 mistress. (That we know of. We only found out about the mistress when he had his 2oth kid out of wedlock.) Oh and lets not forget that he was aquitted of raping an HIV positive woman. And he though he didn't wear a codom while allegedly raping her, it's okay because he took a shower afterwards. Oh and the leader of the ANC's (leading party in SA) youth league sings songs like "shoot the white man".

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