Politics is such today that no matter who wins the election, half the country will be left in misery. Remember how half of us used to wake up every morning foaming at the mouth about Bush? Today, half wake up writhing over Obama. Half think he’s the Annointed One who will lead them to the Promised Land, a gold-throated orator who spends every waking hour thinking of ways to make them happy. The other half think he’s the political anti-Christ bent on leading us down the road to serfdom, a tiresome windbag who only cares about imposing his radical agenda on America.
“Winning” in this rabid environment is a delusion. You don’t win if half the nation feels disenfranchised, if winning only provokes the dream of destroying the other party’s handiwork in the next election. This is the price paid for extremism and the refusal to compromise. That’s why Obamacare was a loser from the git-go. Half the country was left out of the discussion. The bill was crammed down their throats, passed by virtue of the crassest bribes with the narrowest of margins, and only by resort to a phony procedural gimmick, absurdly called “Reconciliation.”
The smug retort was “we won” and “elections have consequences.” But it’s not a win if you transform something as fundamental as health care without a broad consensus. And it’s no good to dismiss the other side as wrong or stupid. We have to live with one another. Reform is possible only if both sides feel that they have a fair share of the pain as well as the gain.
Contempt for politicians is almost universal today. Yet somehow we still conjure up faith in them to save us. We must still be in the grip of some Stone Age longing for shamans who can exorcise our demons, deliver us from the wilderness and guarantee the success of the harvest or the hunt. Politicians smother us with impossible promises, and we’re eager to believe them. But what we need are politicians who stick to their responsibilities and swear to a political equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath: I will respect the privacy of the citizens. I will not pretend to be omniscient or infallible. I will not be ashamed to say, “I don’t know.” Above all, I will strive to do nothing to make things worse.
It warms cockles of our hearts when some politician professes to “care” about us. It ought to make us wary. When one of them vows to “transform” America, we should ask: Is the United States of America such a basket case that it needs to be transformed? Transformation according to what mandate? Transformation according to whose values? Advice to office-seekers: Speak to us as adults rather than helpless children who can’t manage our own affairs. Stop addressing us in that grotesque P.T. Barnum-evangelical tone of voice, which you seem to think is so inspiring.
I can understand how anyone can be against Obama or Romney, but what baffles me is how anyone can be “for” either one of them. If Obama loses, he’ll be replaced by another regime of bunglers with crackpot schemes that half the country finds abhorrent, guaranteeing another round of manic house-cleaning and revenge in four years. Don’t expect real reform from either one of them. Clint Eastwood uttered one immortal truth in his somewhat bizarre Republican Convention address: “We own the country.” Name a single politician who honors that truth. The salvation of the country lies in our hands. Somehow we must — and will — muddle on.