We are mired in a morass of cynicism that is destroying us from within. Forget the swamp, forget forget the wall, and being sick of winning, we are enmeshed in a hopelessly divided nation run by corrupt officials who care more about power than party, and whose actions are singularly motivated by the extent to which it benefits their careers more than any semblance of conviction.
Politics in its vilest sense is now the only calculus by which to measure success, policies that actually have direct impacts upon people are irrelevant, generous to winners and catastrophic to losers, the difference owing to the amount of money raised to support policy makers. And this is meant to be a pox on both houses, Democratic and Republican, although it is still fair to assess the largest portion of blame on obstructionist conservatives which sprung out of the Tea Party movement some seven years ago.
But hopelessness and cynicism over the past three and a half decades have overtaken the sense of opportunity that has been the hallmark of the American capitalist economic system. No longer do children have better than a fifty-fifty chance of doing better than their parents, a mere coin flip. Since 1980, the advent of Ronald Reagan’s perverted supply-side economic theory, the top 10 percent of income earners have made spectacular gains while the bottom 90 percent have stagnated. Today the top 10 percent now capture a greater share of national income than the bottom 90 percent.
The incendiary core of disenchantment, resentment, anger and frustration is legitimately extant among people who were promised that if they worked hard and played by the rules they would reap financial rewards commensurate to their efforts. This has turned out to have been a lie, like so many political promises made in the heat of an election campaign that disintegrate into the ether after election day. Politicians lie and instead of holding them accountable most people shrug their shoulders and go about the business of trying to make it from paycheck to paycheck. Of course, then there are those who are denied even the pretense of participation in the most sacred of democratic processes through an extensive and effective effort of voter suppression, intimidation, and theft.
It has never registered in my mind how any political actor could in good conscience work to limit public participation without betraying their oath to uphold the Constitution and suspend belief in the democratic institutions that lie at the core of our existence. Yet that has been a critically key component of the Republican playbook for decades and beyond. We have passed from Jim Crow laws to literacy tests to poll taxes to voter registration and identification restrictions such as the Crosscheck system so eloquently exposed by Greg Palast in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, here. Poor people and people of color are discouraged from participating in selecting their government, working class people are so frustrated and angry because they play by the rules and are penalized that they are easily duped into supporting crooked politicians that have no intention of living up to their promises, and the richest among us use their financial resources to skew policies and politicians to meet their individual needs.
I have spent nearly four decades dedicated to the notion that participating in the policy and political process from the inside was a noble vocation. Unabashedly liberal in political identification I still feel that Democrats offer a better chance of helping the vulnerable among us far better than Republicans. I am not naive enough, however, to be blind to the fact that often politicians of both parties will bow to perceived or actual political winds that betray their better policy judgments.
The lack of conviction among the current crop of political wizards that occupy state legislatures and the Capitol in Washington is so pervasive and disturbing that it is turning a stalwart defender of the system into a critic if not yet a cynic. But make no mistake about it, cynicism is the order of the day amongst a large swath of the electorate, and make no mistake about this, it is legitimate.
Revelations this week that the Obama administration was aware of the pervasiveness of Russian meddling into our electoral system prior to the election yet decided to let it slide in hopes that Hillary Clinton would win and then she could deal with it are not only sobering but heartbreaking. What an abdication of responsibility on the part of the President. We must call it as we see it and as I see it I would be apoplectic if this had happened under a Republican President so it is only fair to register my ire here as well.
It points to a much larger problem, the overt politicization of decisions large and small that we trust our leaders to make. The Russian “problem” needs to be thoroughly investigated, even though it is after the fact and after whatever damage it may have contributed to the current situation has already been inflicted, but at the very least to prevent it from ever happening again.
But it is illustrative of the degree to which our elected leaders can second, third, and maybe even fourth guess how to measure the impacts of their decisions. Why not just do what your God-given common sense tells you what is right? It is the absence of integrity that has so many Americans in a fit of pique these days and this sorry episode merely feeds into the narrative that neither side holds the moral high ground when it comes to doing what is best for the rest of us.
Unless and until we rectify this shortcoming, or better yet this malfunction, in our decision-making calculus the public will continue to harbor deep resentments that will break down along partisan lines, and we all will suffer. Far more significant, however, fewer people will participate in the process of electing those who represent us. When you combine those who voluntarily withdraw with those who are forcibly prevented from voicing their concerns you are left with a bitterly divided electorate reinforced by media segregated into respective echo chambers that fuel an already raging political/policy inferno.
Nothing is more illustrative of the weakened state of affairs we find ourselves in than the current perversion of process to repeal Obamacare and replace it with an ill-conceived, special-interest concocted remedy that will inflict misery and pain upon millions of Americans. It is symptomatic of the degree to which our system of government has been hijacked by the enemies of the common weal, and unfortunately it appears the collusion has been widespread, if inadvertent, by a conflicted and confused leadership, aided and abetted by an angry populace.