I’ll admit I’m a bit depressed about the state of things.
I’ve been in and around politics for most of my life, which my gray hair is now telling me, is a long time. I fully understand and appreciate that sometimes your team wins, and sometimes, they lose. Sometimes, they lose big. Big as in Epic Fail. I fear that my team is on the verge of one of those losses.
The road to cataclysmic failure is usually easy to identify. Anyone who has read any of Farris’ postings lately should be able to understand what’s going on in the mind of those of us who have tried to fight the good fight. A long association with politics and politicians will make anyone with a modicum of intelligence cynical. And anyone who has spent decades trying to build the party of “smaller government” has a right to be bitter. Very, very bitter.
And I am, to some extent.
Ronald Reagan didn’t use scare tactics to move his agenda. He killed the opposition with kindness. He didn’t lament the poor condition of American industry that needed to be rescued with government intervention, he promised to get government out of the way so that innovation and ingenuity would show us the way forward. He certainly didn’t talk about “spreading the wealth”, he talked about, and created the climate for, making the pie bigger. And it grew bigger.
As the Gipper faded off in the sunset, we’ve gone through a succession of “leaders” who have dumbed down conservatism into something that Reagan himself probably wouldn’t recognize. More importantly, we’ve turned it into something he wouldn’t approve of.
I don’t know what conservatism is even supposed to mean anymore. A large portion of our party believes it means cutting taxes anywhere, all the time. Reagan sold conservatism as the original hope and change. He converted the Reagan Democrats because he offered hope, he offered a better way, he dared to offer change. Democrats only offered “malaise”. Tax cuts were merely a tool. They weren’t the end game.
Now, when someone asks about access to health care, we offer them tax cuts. Better schools? Tax cuts. National Security? A bigger and more expensive military, a new department of homeland security, but also tax cuts.
Reagan, as the great communicator, was able to break it down into simple and easy to understand rhetoric. He was hopeful. He was reassuring. He was willing to challenge the presumption that government could and should solve everything.
Now, we accept the premise of a government solution to anything, and usually offer a tax cut in return. Every time there is a crisis, we must have a large unfounded expense or extension of government power, with little explanation as to cause and effect. Details will be worked out by Congress, no need to look behind the curtain. But we’re working on more tax cuts, so don’t worry about it.
Another large part of our party believes that conservatism means protecting America’s “Christian Values”. The party that once believes government was the problem now seems to want government to advance their religion. I do not want the government interfering with anyone’s practice of their chosen religion, but I equally don’t want the government trying to advance my religion either, given their track record with education, or even Amtrak.
So is this why I’m a bit depressed? No. These are just the things that keep me cynical and somewhat bitter.
I’m depressed because the movie Idiocracy is already coming true.
In order to explain, I’d like to digress for a moment. I enjoy discussing politics with people I don’t agree with. I have a few friends and relatives in particular who are so unmitigatedly liberal that they often choose fringe third parties in presidential elections because the democrats are “too conservative”. These are well educated professional people who are normal in everyday society, but have a belief/value system that is way different from mine. In each of our political discussions, I try to drill down to why they believe what they do, or why they advocate for the policies that they do, in hope to either find common ground, or a flaw in their logic so I can one day change their mind.
But more and more, these aren’t the kinds of people that I’m up against. They and I are up against the bigger evil: The undecided voter.
Last week, I was at a social gathering, and was introduced to a guy who could be Atlanta’s own “Joe the Plumber”. He was a manager (and I think part owner) of a blue-collar company, and when he found out I was in politics, asked for some advice on government assistance for his company. We talked for a bit about his specific issue, and then the conversation moved to the Presidential election.
He told me he had made up his mind, but then was having real problems with the Palin pick. We talked a little more, and he discussed his belief that she was picked because she was an attractive lady, and wasn’t ready to be president. He was adamant that she was a horrible pick, and for that reason, he couldn’t vote for Obama.
I asked to make sure I understood. And I did. He had decided not to vote for Obama because he had picked Palin as his V.P. choice.
After a moment of somewhat stunned silence, I suggested that he may want to review the facts of the matter, as Palin was, in fact, McCain’s pick. He protested, until his wife, 3 months pregnant, spoke up. “I’ve been telling him that for 3 weeks, and he won’t listen to me”.
The presidential election has been going on for 2 years. We’re down to days left, and by many polls, more than 10% of the country is still “undecided”. The two major party choices offer the most stark differences in the country’s direction in a generation.
We spend our time here trading barbs, exchanging ideas, and at least making some half-assed attempt to understand what’s going on in the world.
But we’re not going to decide this election. The undecided’s are.
We wonder why we get campaign commercials like the DSCC attacking Saxby for voting with them, or why Margie Lopp might have her home made jingle given $5 million of airtime.
It’s because the undecideds can’t bother to figure out what’s actually going on in the world.
Yet, they’re in charge.
And I’m depressed.
I’m sure I’ll be fine after a couple of drinks of Brawndo. It has electrolytes.