Friday, July 22, 2011

Politics or Human Nature?

As I sit at my desk and reflect on the politics going on all around me, I cannot help but think about the true nature of politics, democracy, and what it means to be a good citizen. Every time I turn on C-Span, or any of the mainstream media stations all I hear is the debt-ceiling, the Balanced Budget Amendment, and Cut Cap and Balance. It is both exciting and stressing at the same time. I am excited to be in the middle of it here in Washington D.C at a time when so many interesting things are happening, where I can at least feel part of it, but at the same time I am not sure if this is the right way to deal with the issues. I cannot deny that I am getting a little sick of all the politicking going on around here.

On one hand the talk is all about cutting spending and getting rid of high cost subsidies, and on the other hand it is about ending Bush Era Tax Cuts, closing existing tax loopholes, and raising taxes on the wealthy to generate revenue to balance the budget. Both the Democrats and the Republicans make excellent points. It seems like both sides have staked out their own ground and neither side is willing to compromise.

Then there are the angry telephone calls from constituents, complaining about not losing their social security, and health care benefits. Nobody wants to give up anything, and everybody wants to have their cake and eat it too. Isn’t it time to think about what is good for our country, good for America, rather than what is good for ourselves? Can’t we live by John Kennedy’s words of “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”—or were they just empty words?

But perhaps the most frustrating part of it all is how much each representative tries to reflect the wishes of their constituents. Almost every public meeting I have attended, they have talked about the pole numbers. Every lawmaker is checking the pulse of his or her constituents’ to understand their desires and wants. But is this what democracy all about? Aren’t the leaders here to effect change and lead? Do they need to hear from their constituents about every issue? Are they not allowed to make decisions independent of constituents and interest groups that are in the interest of every citizen in this country, rather than the interest of their small district, or is it just in the human nature to play politics all the time to see who can get what and how?

These are all very tough questions, and I believe that we need to start finding answers to them if we are to have progress in this country. No politician can keep everyone happy, so they need to stop trying. I cannot put it any better than Abraham Lincoln when he said, “You can keep some of the people happy most of the time, you can keep most of the people happy some of the time, but you can never keep all of the people happy all of the time.”

Democracy is all about getting our voices heard, but that also means compromising so that we can have a functioning government. The American people told our elected officials what to do when they elected them into office, and now it is time for those lawmakers to go and fulfill their promises that they made during the elections. It is time for our politicians to have the courage to make the right decisions, not the decisions that will keep them in office. Democracy does not mean that every decision has to be made by the electorate. If that is the case, then why elect officials in the first place? We can have every American citizen vote on everything electronically. We certainly have the information and the technology to do this. If America is to live up to its creed, and if we are to create hope in young people like myself, we need to change the way we do politics in this country. Democracy is all about tolerance, compromise, understanding, individualism, and independent decision making, and that is why I love being an American. At the end of the day, I believe we do have a chance of doing the right thing if we set our minds to it. As Winston Churchill said,” America will always do the right thing after it has tried all the wrong things first.” Well let’s hurry up and do that right thing! We do not have time, and our values, principles, credit ratings and future is on the line.

1 comment:

  1. Having lived in D.C. until very recently, I am not sure I can commensurate with your feelings of excitement at "being in the middle of it." From my experience, the proliferation of visual media sources, such as T.V. and the Internet allows almost anyone (except perhaps for people who work directly with Congress or the White House) in the U.S. to "take part" in the political process. At the same time, these mediums have diluted the experience. Americans can access political news, commentary, etc. anytime they want and can replay any event/vote. This democratizes the experience but also denudes it of any uniqueness.

    Speaking strictly from the perspective of a U.S. citizen who votes but is otherwise not active in politics, I lament the fact that politicians rely on emotion and a priori reasoning to guide their decisions. It would be far better if they used reason and empirical methods to help them determine the best policy.



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