August 6, 2010

Fear and Loathing on Capital Hill. ~ John Spina

Gonzo Politics.

The political environment in this country has become completley absurd, resembling something out of a typical Hunter S Thompson article. The fair and equal system that the framers of the constitution had once dreamed is seemingly falling apart brick by brick. Instead of collectively fighting to secure the prosperity of our nation, politicians today are so caught up in defeating the opposition that morals, decency, and any level of dignity has flown out the window. I am too young to remember the “good old days” of politics directly following WWII, however, from what I read, the documentaries I watch, and the lectures I attend, American politics was so much more civil, though none of the issues less controversial. Candidates, Congressmen, Senators, even the President would actually sit down over a cocktail with their opponents and talk like two citizens of the same country about certain policies. Unfortunately, the trend seems to have died with Ted Kennedy. Maybe it’s the modern media craze, or simply the lack of having a “bad guy” in the soviet union, either way, it is almost embarrassing being apart of this disorganized, school-yard banter. Congressmen are being spit on and having bricks thrown through their windows, even the president was openly called a “liar” by a state representative at the State of the Union Address. Are you kidding me? What in the hell happened; everyone seemed to forget we are on the same team.

I blame this partly on the American public, for is not what it used to be. From the inset of the modern presidency and governmental form, usually denoted to FDR, grew a lackadaisical and selfish population who only care about their own welfare. Most have completely removed themselves from the political sphere, only about half of American citizens vote each, and many of those who do, vote for a president who “[they] would like to have a beer with.”

Karl Marx spoke of this socio-political phenomenon, far before its time, in his infamous Communist Manifesto. In creating a community focused entirely on individual gain, due to the nature of our ruthless capitalistic system, the sense community deteriorates along with any feeling of responsibility to a fellow citizen, producing a divided nation where the rich get richer and the poor will remain poor. As this division in the country grows deeper and wider, Marx believed it would cause a bloody revolution and the overthrow of the bourgeois class by the proletariat. Much like the bourgeois overthrew the aristocracy as the industrial revolution took hold.

To be honest, I feel as if Marx’s apparition is growing closer by the day. Our economy has crashed, unemployment is rampant, people are losing their homes by the hundreds of thousands, we are in the middle of a endless war, and are suffering the effects of the worst man-made environmental disaster in history. How much longer can we continue in this current system of trade and governance before the poor and exploited workers have reached their breaking point?

However, last year, as all faith in our government was teetering on the edge of a cliff, a ray of hope found its way to Washington and filled our country with a conviction I had never witnessed in my life. Finally we elected a man to the Presidency who realized the systemic woes of our country. A man who had plans to progress the stale government and fight for the little guy. Despite these promises, our system of government is so infected with greed, so convoluted, and indoctrinated in its ways that even the President could not change its course.

In this way, it has been quite sad to observe a man such as President Obama, who was so idealistic, so optimistic, and so progressive be crushed so absolutely by modern day politics. Having recognized the drastic division in our country, which was slowly deteriorating everything our forefathers worked so hard to create, he attempted to work in concert with the Republican Party, opening paths of communication between the parties and making concessions to the liberal platform, essentially putting the first foot foreword in loosening this political dead lock. Nonetheless, the Republican Party was as stubborn as they Elephant that represents them and simply refused any of the progressive legislation passed down from Obama.

Instead of making efforts to help the country, by passing important legislation, the Republican Party stalled any development, threatening filibusters,  and bashed Obama in attempt to win support back to their party. Crazy enough, it seems to have worked, and in the upcoming midterm elections the Democrats may possibly lose the majority in Congress, making it even more difficult for Obama to enact any law promoting the change he so fervently spoke about during his campaign.

Speaking about health care reform alone, America is one of the only modernized nations without socialized health care. We are the world’s super power (for now) and we have 43.6 million people without health insurance, equating to about 15.6% of the entire population, which is unprotected within our very own boarders.
In terms of the banking crisis, housing foreclosures, widespread unemployment, and even the war in Afghanistan, everything Obama does has been heavily criticized. He was so pressed to literally save the economy, he dolled out trillions of dollars using the TARP program, which was created under the Bush administration, and was heavily criticized by republicans for its massive spending, not applauded for hauling the banks out of the furnace that the republican president before him had lit. When Obama increased troops in Afghanistan, attempting to finally end this egotistical war, again started by Bush, he was met with the same harsh criticism from both sides. He even had to fire General McKrystal due to his insubordination and open disregard for the office of the President. Obama has had to fight tooth and nail for every inch he has gained, getting criticized the entire time, while former president Bush was handed absolutely everything and actually praised until it all caught up to him and crumbled as he was handing it off.

Now it seems as though Obama is at the whim of the Republican Party. Due to constant criticism, strong opposition, and incessant inspection of his administration, his presidency has fallen in line with the current political environment instead of rising above it has he had preached. The lobbyists and the Republican Party seemed to have got the best of him and proved that we are socially and politically stuck in mud. I do not believe Obama would have handled the oil spill in such a conservative manner nor dealt with this recent Sherri Sherrod debacle so coldly had the political pressures not been so intense.
If Obama, the actual personification of the American dream and one of the most ideological and up beat men to enter Washington in recent years, cannot alter our course, who will…. And when?

John Spina currently attends the University of Vermont in Burlington where he will graduate with a double major in history and political science in 2011.  He writes sports for the school paper, the Vermont Cynic, as well as publishes weekly articles in the Mountain Ear, a local Nederland paper, and works as an Intern for the Elephant Journal. He loves spending time outdoors with his dog, McKinley, and being home in Colorado working for the summer.

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