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Lance Simmens Headshot

Cynicism Versus Commitment

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I guess I will never cease to be amazed at the gross and unadulterated hypocrisy spawned by some politicians. And, of course, in the minds of the citizenry, seemingly incapable of discerning between change agents and cynics, politics and all politicians simply get thrown into the dung heap of self-serving opportunists. Hence, the public over time loses interest in the people and processes that effectively govern their lives. In this environment, cynics thrive and prosper. It is this environment that has existed over the past nearly eight years, and it is this environment that truly needs cleaning up.

I can vividly recall the 1980 election, one arguably defined by the anti-government rhetoric of the Reagan campaign, in which the public made a conscious decision to turn government over to those most fervently opposed to the fundamental role of government itself. I recall asking several acquaintances that had enlisted with the Reaganistas and immediately sought to secure government jobs why they were so interested in participating in the governmental bureaucracies they had so little faith in? Especially those who joined agencies they sought to eliminate. I figured that as a true believer they would want to make a principled stand and refuse to engage is such blasphemous activity. Yet, I suppose the allure of an appointed Federal position, a high-level Federal paycheck, the excitement of Washington, DC, was just too strong to let principle get in the way.

Of course, maybe it was actually a sign of true commitment to prove that government actually does not work, and who better to populate the senior levels of bureaucratic decision-making than those who actually believed such. If that is the case, they should have worked for free. You see, I don't have a problem with those who say we can make it work better. More power to you, have at it. But to those who maintain that government is the enemy, it is these people we most ought to be afraid of.

This is what scares me most about the current election campaign. The proverbial "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" mentality finds security and comfort in a cynical electorate. Throw in a healthy dose of fear and you have a combustible mixture. And God knows we certainly have seen an overdose of fear these past eight years or so.

What disturbs me most about the Palin pick is not so much the woman's lack of experience, judgment, honesty, or intelligence, but rather the cynical calculation that these things really don't matter. If it helps you capture the prize, we will worry about those things later, or maybe not, winning is all that matters. The Republican Party has shown an amazing ability to manipulate the electorate and the processes of choosing a President. They have been very successful over the past 40 years at convincing the American people that government is the problem and not the solution. Hence, when people become desensitized to the notion that their elected leaders can perform their jobs in a competent manner, in a way that maximizes the public interest, they lose trust in the institutions and people who run them, they become cynical.

The current Republican campaign is forthrightly designed to exploit this cynicism, it is clearly evident in the Palin pick, and it harkens back to the very incompetence that such a movement engenders, i.e. the Iraq War, the assault on civil liberties, torture, rendition, evisceration of environmental regulations, politicization of the Justice Department, the FEMA follies, Haliburton, Enron, the housing crisis, sub prime mortgages, mountains and mountains of public debt, devaluation of the currency, and last but certainly not least the squandering of our international prestige and the loss of our moral leadership worldwide.

This is the legacy of cynicism. It is ugly, demoralizing, and dangerous. It is unsustainable, unsettling, and unacceptable. We must as a nation put an end to the culture of cynicism that pervades our politics and our political institutions. Thus, the real choice this year is to reject cynicism and usher in a renewed commitment to improving government. Stop bashing and start building. We must fight, but we must fight for the positive choice. The time for positive choice is long overdue.

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