America’s middle class is agitated, angry, and/or weary of political theater and of confrontation that has little to do with the challenges the nation faces. Ironically, by expecting politics to settle so many issues, we have diminished the possibilities of what good politics can accomplish.
Politicians and their endless confrontations are not harmless eccentricities of a few ideologues. They seriously damage the rapidly disappearing American political center and the ability of our democracy to facilitate a better life for citizens of this country.
The red, white and blue imagery and carefully planned zingers, the motivational slogans and slaved-over speeches, the prepared spin and contrived cheers are all as familiar to television audiences as the interchangeable video of spacious skies and amber waving grains. And it accomplishes nothing.
The self-righteous moralizers that now play a big role in picking Presidential candidates in both parties have become passé to half of the country. Even the language of politics has become more like Hollywood and less like public servants. Candidates no longer worry about issues when they prepare for a debate; they “rehearse” and they are judged on the quality of their “performance.”
It is now a huge benefit, if not an unqualified prerequisite, that a candidate for high national office be a good actor. Ronald Reagan’s delivery of his lines was that of an experienced thespian, and intermittently there is a natural, like Bill Clinton. And above all, a convincing candidate must be able to act authentic. Not be authentic. Act authentic. The theater of politics is a gigantic effort to construct a sense of authenticity around what used to be a real human being.
As voters, our consciousness that politics is mostly showbiz theatrics has made rare glimpses of authentic highly sought after. But in a distressing irony, the only political performances that are sure to be considered genuinely authentic are the disasters.
Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign was so scripted because every time he went “off script” it was obvious that he was clueless about how 99 percent of Americans lived. The huge importance of gaffes is that they seem to reveal something that the candidate is trying to hide, which means that genuine authenticity almost always harms those who commit it. Al Gore had the same awkward inability to appear sincere. If he could have convincingly acted sincere, I have to assume he would have, but he just could not pull it off. And because of that inability, we were cursed with Bush/Cheney and the most destructive Presidency in a couple of generations.
We Need Problem Solvers Not Problem Makers
What has become lost in all the theatrics are representatives who simply want to keep getting elected instead of wanting to actually solve problems. The people who were actually interested in solving problems have become so disenchanted with the theatrics and the gridlock that they’ve simply given up.
Members of Congress are so fed up with gridlock, they are leaving the body in droves. In the past four years alone, almost two dozen incumbents have thrown up their hands and decided not to seek reelection, a number that is unprecedented in modern political history. Over the past three decades, this rate of departure is almost double that over any other four-year period.
And it’s leaving our country devoid of qualified representatives to the point of being vulnerable to enemy attacks of all kinds.
There’s almost universal agreement that the U.S. faces a catastrophic threat from cyber attacks by terrorists, hackers and spies. Washington policy makers just don’t seem able to do anything about it.
Even with the consensus about vulnerabilities in U.S. networks, and with hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, Congress failed to pass cyber security legislation that was four years in the making and had sponsors from both parties.
The bill’s failure reveals how partisan bickering, tactical errors, industry lobbying, conflicting interests, and ignorance can trump even national security concerns, according to documents and interviews with advocates and opponents in the Senate, the administration and the business community.
Measures of polarization show a more divided Congress now than at any point since the Civil War. That’s why respected members of Congress like Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Lieberman are all leaving after this year — they no longer think Congress is the best place to make a difference.
The REAL threat to America is Congress and their inability to perform simple tasks for the good of all of the country, whether the danger comes from under-tested food, under-tested pharmaceuticals, cyber attacks, or spreading our armed forces too thin.