Obama, The State of the Union and Career Politicians
I tend to shy away from politically focused posts as the feedback is generally overly intense, sometimes irrational and usually futile. It’s almost as bad as trying to discuss the perennially hot topic of religion. The discussion always begins amicably enough, but it inevitably seems to devolve into senseless argument. I think Oscar Wilde said it best: “Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing”.
After watching the recent State of the Union address (embedded below; please watch it if you have not…It’s worth it) I felt compelled to share a few thoughts, given that much of the focus of the speech is centered on the economy. A harsh reality is that politics and business are firmly joined at the hip, whether you want to believe that or not. A clear example of this would be the special bond between corporate entities and career politicians. How many times have you heard of “gray-area” reciprocities that have transpired over the past few decades alone? You know what I mean – transactions that just didn’t seem to pass the common sense test. Remember the cozy relationship between Halliburton and former Vice President Dick Cheney? Wiki “Political scandals of the United States,” and you’ll get a flavor of just how extensive the list is.
I know, I know … you’re probably thinking I’m heading down the path of “all politicians are criminals” stereotype. That’s really not my intention here, so please bear with me. We all know that political malfeasance is much more commonplace then it should be. When was the last time you had that following thought running through your head after news of a scandal broke: “Wow, I can’t believe he or she would do something like that”? It’s almost expected these days. The only questions are: “How egregious is the act?” and “Will the public ultimately accept the indiscretion for what it was?” It’s that simple; however, variables that dictate the public’s appetite for forgiveness is not. Blagojevich = Bad, Clinton = Not so bad or even good. Go figure.
Public scandal has always been easy for John Q. Public to judge. It doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong: Perception has a tendency to prevail in the end. What is difficult to judge is the inherently flawed underlying system. It’s especially challenging if there’s never been a baseline or historic trend for comparison. In an ideal world, our government would be composed of actual civil servants who genuinely care (at least in most cases) about the best interests of our nation. It would be a role seen as a calling, not a career. In such a systerm, where the public good takes precedent over personal ambition and a thirst for power, term limits would be unnecessary. It would make perfect sense to keep sincere, red-blooded patriots in the House or Senate for as long as possible. However, this ideal governance model has fostered the evolution of something sinister, but far less glamorous, than a juicy public scandal. The output is an obvious deep-rooted polarization that has done nothing but enable complacency and prevent progress.
A very close friend of mine captured the essence of my exact sentiment, which I’d like to share. The passion behind his words are almost palpable. Thanks for sharing Joe!
“…I found myself just becoming more and more frustrated as I watched the state of the union address. I wasn’t so much annoyed with the president as with the entire situation this country is in politically, fiscally and intellectually.
In fact I thought that it was a solid state of the union, and I believe the president nailed on the head why true change is almost impossible today. America is in a perpetual election cycle, the media feeds on this cycle and the average person is bored of it. Both parties rely almost fully on a fanatical base and relish the status quo.
It used to be that the political pendulum would swing from left to right, and as it reached its apex on each side political and national progress would be made. Today this just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore; we are mired in the middle, neither party wanting to upset their base while at the same time trying to pander to the middle.
I am not sure what the solution is, or even if there is one, however what I do think is that we need an imposed term limit on the house and senate of a single term, no re-elections period. I think that is the only way to get the career politicians out and get true civil servants back in, people who truly want to help this country, not rob it blind.
He said he won’t give up, but sadly I think the people are.”