I get in trouble a lot when the discussion at home turns to politics and government. My wife is a pretty well-informed member of the voting public and I have been a current events and politics nut for going on 35 years. The typical discussion follows an agonizingly consistent pattern: She expresses her anger and all the reasons something should or should not happen, all based on what seems right, logical, or best for the country. Then so often comes the part where I tell her that all of “that” makes no difference because the decisions made by government are mostly based on politics, not reason or common sense. In America, the people argue the issues from right and wrong, patriotic vs. unpatriotic, fair to all vs. favoritism, payer vs. taker, citizen vs. non-citizen, free vs. unfree, etc.
The political class, however, regards this as naive and unsophisticated, the blathering of those who “don’t know how things really work.” To them it is the power game, both at the office-holding level and in the competition for position among themselves, which is the reality. Lying, strong-armed tactics, pork barrel bribery, midnight spending, personal privileges, and backroom corruption are all part of the game, and they admire those who do these things well. Within their ranks, it is most acceptable to act in a manner befitting a political aristocracy and to convey upon oneself the merit to belong in it. The rare politician who is driven by principle, and the one who really means the ethical statements he or she makes, is considered “a problem” to the leaders of their own party and a sop to the members of the other. So too the politician endeavoring to represent the wishes of his or her district against the directives of the party leadership.
In times past, a certain amount of moral corruption was considered acceptable if the politician got the big things right. Today, however, there is no longer any middle ground. The break between the political class and the citizenry in general became a chasm when politicians rigged the game so that incumbency was an almost complete guarantee of reelection. The divide was cut deeper when the major news media decided to view themselves players in the game rather than referees.
The people have never been more angry and afraid; nor has the federal government been more intent on doing whatever it takes to force their power over us at every level. Therein lies the question that will determine the direction America will take in the next ten years: who will win?