Monday, November 06, 2006

Why it matters

Everybody who's not a committed politcal junkie is sick of it by now. Sick of the candidates, sick of the commercials, sick of the partisan bickering. True Believers of each side are a minority; there's a lot of people who align themselves with one side or the other because they feel that side will do the least damage. And then there's those, perhaps even a majority, who have no use for anyone of either major party and have that general sense of "pissed-offedness" - which I take to be a sense that America has some serious problems needing to be addressed, but neither Democrats nor Republicans have the maturity or the common sense to tackle them.

And yet I have a sense that tommorrow will give Americans an opportunity to make changes that will begin to turn things around, or at least start on a path to a more mature perspective in the way our legislators take care of the business that we send them to Washington to handle.

Our curent Congress has shown themselves to be interested in little more than looting the federal coffers; their primary accomplishment has been to line their pockets, and the pockets of their friends, with the cash provided out of the taxes of American citizens. The Republican majority has manipulated the rules to prevent Democrats from having any meaningful say in legislation. They have given the President carte blanche to wage a war in the Middle East that wastes American lives and resources, and is counterproductive to the stated goals of controlling terrorism and establishing a better life for the people of that region. Perhaps worst of all, they are flat-ass lazy, bound and determined to turn their ideological belief that government is inherently ineffective and corrupt into self-fulfilling prophecy.

At this point, the American people have the temptation to say, "They're all bums. One side is as bad as the other. The only way out of this mess is to strip the politicians of any responsibility for anything apart from those things that individuals cannot accomplish for themselves. They can't steal when there's nothing for them to steal."

What we have to realize is that America is one great balancing act. We are an amalgam of races, cultures, opportunities and lifestyles. Mature political leadership recognizes that they are the ones responsible for balancing the diverse interests within American society. Whatever anger I have at our current crop of legislators is because of their refusal to do their jobs - and that on those rare occasions that they decide to pursue an issue, they frame it not in terms of solving the problem, but as a means to re-election.

Governing, in the end, really is about filling potholes, making sure the fire department has enough water to put out fires, seeing to it Grandma gets her Social Security check - things like that. And this is where our current Congress falls flat on its face. Hurricane Katrina, although an extreme example, and one in which fingers can be pointed in a multitude of directions, nevertheless serves as an example of where today's "every man for himself" approach to political and social problems can lead us.

I don't wish to give the impression that electing a Democratic congressional majority will instantly usher in a golden age of progressive good government. Lord knows that it was Democratic corruption and inattentiveness to their constituency that caused them to get kicked to the curb in 1994. And in many areas Democrats have yet to get a handle on their internal problems, and at times have difficulty in presenting a coherent message. But we have seen the results of twelve years of almost unbroken Republican domination of Congress, and many of us can hope that the Democrats have learned something during the years of wandering in the wilderness. With the election of a Democratic majority tomorrow, we can at least take the first baby steps towards establishing a more mature and effective approach to tackling our political and social problems.