With the election nearing one cannot escape the vitriol and ignominy of the campaigns in full swing. From both sides we are thrashed with moral indignation, recounts of political missteps, and chronicles of supposed sordid pasts. The problem for us, the political middle, is we’re the folks looking for compromise not controversy.
In a sensationalized, scandal-driven modern culture in which the inadequacies of Amanda Bynes or Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel are considered top news stories, it is no surprise that the majority of level-headed, calm-tempered Americans find it most comfortable to stay on the fringes of the political mosh pit. The major news networks are succeeding in their quest to make news entertaining to the point that most people take a passive and detached stance on political happenings. This is happening on both sides of the spectrum and as the great majority of Americans just sit back watching the dramedy unfold our political system is being hijacked.
Widespread disinterest in politics is not a new phenomenon all together. So many of us simply have other things to do — we’re busy working, studying, playing with our children, partying, traveling, drinking, cooking, making-out. We’re all busy living our lives and making ends meet. Some believe the system is working for them and therefore need not burden themselves with upkeep. Others believe the system is corrupt, will never work for them, and therefore need not toil fruitlessly. Ultimately, the stark truth is politics are boring.
It takes a special personality to enjoy watching real politics in action. When was the last time you spent an afternoon engrossed in C-SPAN? Sure, 45 minutes of interest is do-able. Maybe it can hold your attention for an hour. Perhaps if it rolls in the background of your daily life it can be tolerated for an extended period. For many though the soap opera antics of the news stations are far preferable to the dry, winded discourse that characterizes Congress or the Senate. After all, Bill O’Reilly or Jon Stewart are sure to get the good parts, right?
Those wishing to participate in the modern American political arena must come ready to fight. Sarah Palin and Sandra Fluke are not the first ones to learn this lesson the hard way. On the left and right the rules are remain the same:
1. If this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.
2. Fights will go on as long as they have to.
3. Nothing is off limits.
The problem isn’t so much that the fighting is dirty and vicious but rather the fighting ultimately doesn’t result in a clear winner. There is no 3rd party, no neutral bystander, no authority that both sides will recognize. As a ever-expanding wedge is forced between the right and left the ability of our country to adapt and respond to the needs of our country is disappearing. So, in ushers a seeming stalemate in congress, restricted movements for the elected president, and a system in which real discourse is silenced because there are no sanctioned referees.
For instance, while there was nothing stopping Paul Ryan from delivering a convention speech laden with inaccuracies and lies, it should have been unanimously, unwaveringly identified as fallacious and his credibility should have been obliterated. A clear win for the American public, a clear win for democracy, the coverage of his speech should have added wind to the sails of representative government in action. Instead, the spin machine kicked into overdrive as Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson along with a slew of other television personalities championed the speech for the way it humanized Mitt Romney and bolstered the spirit of the convention — a striking choice given the fact that contributors from every news station including FOX was debunking almost every politically relevant claim in the speech.
We see a similar example in the recent efforts to restrict voting in this election. It is bad enough that a subset of the American population believes their vote is worthless following the controversial Bush-Gore election. Now, clearly worried that voting might actually change something, a select group of Republicans are trying to make it illegal. Once again, we see dirty, vicious fighting in which everyone looses. The image of the Republican party is tarnished, minority groups and the urban poor are stripped of one of their most basic political rights, and the more important issues like stabilizing the economy, narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, and the status of our troops in Afghanistan are left by the wayside. This debate was settled almost a century ago as the 19th amendment filled in the voting-eligibility gaps left open in years prior. The clear win here should be on the side of democracy — republicans and democrats alike should be rooting for the voice of the American people to be heard.
I believe if a strong, intelligent conservative were given the Republican nomination they would win in a landslide. Unfortunately, the only true conservative in this election is running on the Democratic ticket. Obama has earned his conservative stripes to be sure in his role as commander in chief and in his handling of the stimulus package that heavily benefited big banks and their CEOs. The ironic truth about Mitt Romney is that deep down he is shallow and his running mate is a compulsive liar.
Plato once wrote, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. Moderate Americans need to start speaking up. We’re seeing Plato’s prophecy come to life in America and the news outlets don’t have what it takes to negotiate with the clowns holding our system hostage; indeed, they are complicit. Democracy shouldn’t mean the possibility of being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least. But it will not change without the American people, one by one, holding their representatives accountable for their words and deeds.
Obama could not have possibly lived up to the hype and dreams of his supporters following the 2008 election. Even among the more realistic expectations, Obama’s commitment to compromise resulted in a significant degree of dissatisfaction among supporters. However, I believe he was the best candidate running in 2008 and he remains the best candidate in the running now.
The implications of a Romney presidency for our national debt, women’s rights, foreign policy, healthcare, and for education are enough to secure my support for Obama. In light of recent events, I champion the president all the more. I do not support a man’s delusions of adequacy when he is willing to alienate 47% of the country. I do not condone his efforts to lie to the American people or to circumscribe minority rights. I will not vote for Mitt Romney.