Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's All Politics

Four years ago I was pretty pumped up about the presidential election.  I think part of it was just the elation that GW would be out of office.  But also, I was truly excited about Obama and his vision.  Four years later, the shine has warn off.  Yes, I still support Obama.  But his vision was a little too big.  I recognize that change takes time.  And I can sympathize with the tremendous amount of work the current administration was confronted with when Obama took office.  But it's the little things that get this liberal democrat down -- the failure to deal effectively with Guantanamo, the too-little-too-late on marriage equality, the appointments of Larry (women-can't-do-math) Summers and Tim Geithner. 

Yes, some major things have been accomplished: health care reform, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, auto company bailouts and their subsequent resurgence, Bin Laden, increase in Pell Grants.  All good things.  And I am mindful that governing is about choices and they are not easy choices.  Maybe my frustration stems less from what the Obama administration has not done but from what they haven't said or effectively communicated. 

In fact, all of the accomplishments have been downplayed (or ineffectively communicated) for so long, that it was a relief to finally hear Bill Clinton talk about them at the Democratic Convention.  Was he long winded, yes.  But he was flat out honest. No, things aren't great.  But they are better than they were four years ago and they are getting better.  And he backed up everything he said with data!  If there's one thing this girl likes, it's hard numbers, evidence. Yes, I love the personal stories, but back that up with some numbers people.  It's the beauty of mixed-method research.

And now we have Mitt Romney knocking at the door.  Oh Mitt.  So, so out of touch.  And there is no evidence more damning than the video that surfaced yesterday courtesy of Mother Jones.  If you haven't heard about it (although how could you not), I encourage you to click on the video. 

Now here's what people haven't been talking about: in the video you see waitresses/waiters going back and forth, picking up dishes, filling water, etc.  I would venture to say that these individuals are not among the richest in America.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a number of them relied on some sort of public help -- Head Start, for example.  If they don't, perhaps they know someone, a friend or family member, who receives public help, perhaps in the form of Medicare or Medicaid.  Perhaps there is someone there who works 2 or 3 jobs to keep their family afloat.  Perhaps there's someone that pays very little income tax because of low wages (never mind that there is still payroll tax, sales tax, etc. to be paid -- perhaps Mr. Romney doesn't consider those taxes).  The fact is, we don't know their stories.  How might they have felt listening to Mr. Romney? 

And really, that's the issue with politics.  I believe the average voter says, "What will this government do for me?  What is in it for me?"  And the Romney campaign understands that.  And they play to it.  They aren't talking about sacrifice for the greater good, because somehow that gets translated into socialism.  The Romney campaign and it's surrogates mocked President Obama's assertion that individual success is a product of the help from others.  Well, guess what?  It really is.  Local, state, and federal government provide essential services that help businesses grow and succeed.  If Mr. Romney doesn't understand that, then he's not the great businessman he claims to be.

All of this to say -- I'm more cynical than I want to be.  I want to believe that generally people care about the welfare of others, the future of all children, the health of the environment, the well-being of our elders.  Sadly, I'm coming to believe that it's not the case.  Instead of spurring me to act, it's leaving me in a state of apathy in this election.  Of course I will still vote, but I don't feel that I can influence others when minds are so set.  But I truly hope that President Obama can.

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