Sunday, September 19

Not quite politics as usual

I just read an article in which Bill Clinton asserts people should listen to the tea party. I thought I needed to clean my contacts or something because that just didn’t seem right. In an interview, Clinton said, "I think there are a lot of real people in this tea party movement who are saying something that everyone should hear, which is [that] it seems like everyone but average Americans are doing all right here." He went on to say that while banks and those who helped cause the financial crisis seem to have recovered, average Americans are still struggling to pay their mortgages, to put their kids through college, etc.

I've done a little reading about the tea party. I'm a lot confused by who they are and what they stand for. Like some other moderate Republicans, undoubtedly I'd be considered a RINO by the tea party folks, I'm not a fan of Glenn Beck. I'm confused by Sarah Palin and her intentions. While I appreciate the anger and frustration towards the existing government and I think the pig-headed obstinacy of the Republicans not to try to work with the Democrats at all on any level for any initiative, even one they might agree with, is ridiculously foolhardy and short-sighted. I think the Republican establishment had better wake up and realize that it's mostly "old" as in "outdated" and it's been a long time since it was "grand."

I've said before I don't know what the Republicans really stand for any more, but then I don't know what the Democrats stand for any more other than really big government and apparently thinking that most Americans are too stupid to take care of themselves or even understand how government works. To be fair, though, the Republicans often seem to think the same and, truth be told, most Americans don't know how government works.

So from that perspective I find myself somewhat aligned with the thinking of the tea party, that whole "throw all of the bums out!" sensibility. But I also have a high respect for institutional knowledge. Not institutional corruption, of course. And not the high-handed self-aggrandizement that seems to be necessary in DC. Nor the sense that there are ways things have to be done because that's the way it works in DC.

Today's political situation reminds me of three movies, though there are plenty of films with applicable messages. The first is The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979) with Alan Alda and Meryl Streep. Alda plays a liberal senator who has to compromise his values to make some deals that will further his career, and probably help him get re-elected. The second is Wag the Dog (1997) which shows spin doctoring at its worst as a Hollywood producer manufactures a war and manipulates the media. And the third is The Candidate (1962) with Robert Redford who plays an idealistic young lawyer who runs for Senate with no intention of winning, because he despises the compromises and necessity of deal-making, but wants to bring important issues to the voters. When it begins to look as though he might win, he begins to wrestle with his ambition and his conscience. It is, however, the story of a man who realizes he has sold out for something he isn't sure he even wants.

What does this have to do with the tea party? Nothing really. My point is that nothing about politics is "as usual" these days and I think that's a good thing. What I would love to see is everyone taking a giant step back to assess and re-assess what they stand for and what they really believe in. Theoretically, even politicians believe in public service to some extent, though it's absurdly hard to tell these days.

I think the Republicans have been lost for a while now and just about everything they say and do seems to be a knee-jerk reaction in opposition of anything a Democrat says or does. What would be really cool is if the Republicans would stop thinking about the Democrats and how many seats they have and just think about what it really means to be a Republican and what it really should mean to be a Republican and what it can mean to be a Republican when looking at the breadth of interpretations within the party.

That might be what grown-ups would do.

Maybe expecting that kind of behavior and thinking from politicians of any party persuasion is asking too much.

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