Monday, November 21, 2011

Regarding Politicians, Americans Get What They Put into the System

A little under a month from now, the Iowa Caucus will be held, signifying the formal beginning of the 2012 Presidential Election. A preoccupied nation, consumed with its own worries, has only devoted half an eye to the process. This election cycle has, thus far, been one of the least notable on record. The attention of the American people has focused primarily on outside issues.

Beginning on a cold Iowa day in early January, the race will heat up somewhat, but will not compete with 2008 for voter engagement and participation. Those days seem like a distant dream, one discarded along with the Obama glow, which once held such promise and convivial warmth.

For a means of contrast, four years ago, an exciting primary race for both the Democratic and Republican Party was well underway. Weary of the divisiveness produced by two Bush terms and eager for something new, the country embraced optimism and faith in the political process. Since then, the economic woes that likely cemented Obama’s win have changed from help to hindrance.

A particularly romantic notion states that true leaders are birthed in times of crisis. Almost every major party candidate speaks to some version of this idea while on the campaign trail. This time, the power of positive thinking has been replaced by cynical invective and outright distraction. It is hard to believe that a slate of candidates on the Republican side could be less competent or disingenuous. The true tragedy of all is that the GOP will be obligated to formally nominate one of them.

In response, Occupy protesters speak the minds of many, though individual grievances vary wildly. Complicated problems defy easy solutions. During these anxious times, many would reduce the truth to oversimplification, or failing that, slander his or her opponent. Instead of taking the time to address directly at least a few of the country’s woes, candidates have opted for the easy way out. Gimmickry, invective, and soundbyte policies are superfluous and utterly useless. The Elephant in the room aspect of the forthcoming Republican primary season will be soundly tested.

It remains to be seen how thorough vetting will affect the outcome. Candidates thus far have often been their own worst enemy, showing skill only in how to effectively shoot themselves in the foot. Only Herman Cain, thus far, has seen substantial and unforeseen indiscretions damage his chances. In addition to being a weak field, each candidate has accumulated substantial baggage over time. Most are known quantities.

The need for genuine leadership has never subsided. Our Founding Fathers devised a system of governance where citizens would directly intercede when necessary. We have instead created a new caste of people, that being politicians, who we have designated to do our work for us. It shouldn’t be surprising when we get exactly what we have contributed to the system. We have stood impassively on the sidelines for far too long. Americans can put in a hundred hours a week into a job that inspires them, but will never think to offer themselves as candidates for elective office.

It is, therefore, a question of skewed priorities that faces us today. Politics is an occupation no more or no less dirty than any number of others. The mere perception of purity as we define it harms us as much as the many subpar leaders we consistently elect and re-elect. Every industry in our capitalist system ultimately can be traced back to something ethically and morally repugnant. Still, that should not prevent us engaging directly to do our part. The real change begins with us. Indeed, it always has.

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